Testimony of Rachel Boschen to the BOE,February 27, 2020

My name is Rachel Boschen and I’m a third grade teacher at McClure Elementary. I am here tonight to speak on Action Item 48, specifically the amendment to the McClure Academic Calendar.

As the board is well aware, our school was closed twice due to damaged asbestos. While our school staff requested relocation early and often throughout our month-long crisis, these calls went unanswered and the School District of Philadelphia chose not to create a contingency plan to relocate our students. The effect of this negligence on the district’s part is that our students missed out on 15 days of instruction. While I wholeheartedly agree that our students deserve this instruction, I do not believe that the teachers and staff of McClure should be punished by being forced to work over our scheduled spring break.

The dangerous and unhealthy conditions at McClure were found by the school staff, who know our building better than anyone – we basically live there. I have grave concerns about the future of similarly hazardous conditions being reported by other teachers in other schools, if there is a fear that they will lose vacations if the district fails to create a relocation plan for their community. We cannot allow the fear that others might be put in the same situation in which McClure finds ourselves today to inhibit the reporting of hazards in our schools.

Our staff has remained solutions oriented, having meetings with district officials and offering alternatives and suggestions. In return, we were fed false information about the waiver requested, and then repeatedly pushed to the side for over a week when we have followed up. When we finally did get an answer, none of our suggestions or alternatives were addressed, instead we were simply told that the district has decided to move forward with their initial plan. We keep hearing that the district is working to rebuild trust – yet every action taken proves quite the opposite.

But honestly, this problem is so much bigger than this schedule change, bigger than McClure. Framed within the larger conversation of teacher recruitment and retention, the lack of respect the district has shown for school staff is astounding – how can we ever expect to attract and hold on to amazing teachers when we treat them as if they don’t matter?

The School District of Philadelphia relies on us, the teachers and the staff. Without us, the people who educate and care for our students day in and day out, nothing else matters, it all falls apart. Yet we are not treated like the integral foundation of the district that we are, instead we are treated as second class citizens with no voice, no say so, and no power. And if and when we do find our voices, and stand up for the well being of ourselves and our students – as the staff at McClure has done throughout this crisis – we are punished, lied to, ignored, and manipulated. And our only recourse, our only chance at being granted the respect and dignity that we deserve, is to turn to you – the school board and request to be treated fairly.

I urge the school board to stand on the side of respect for our educators and staff. To stand with us in saying that blameless people should not be punished for the mistakes of those in power. I urge you to vote no to the ratification of amendments to the McClure calendar.