Testimony of Robin Lowry to the BOE, January 17, 2019

Building Conditions, Vacancies, and Doing Our Best By Students

I am a Health and PE teacher at Edison High School with 25 years in and just spent my day in a 62 degree gymnasium.  Some classrooms are 85 degrees. At least in the gym it’s an incentive to workout. When we come back on Tuesday it will be in the 50’s for the first two days.

Teachers are rising up for the learning conditions of students because our working conditions are students’ learning conditions.  School buildings need to be safe and functional. If teachers didn’t complain, ask, and beg for improvements these conditions would be ignored.  We notice the mold, the mice, the roaches, the exposed insulation, the broken water fountains, the unsafe play areas. We celebrate when there are paper products in the bathroom and maybe even soap- that’s how oppressive it is.

It’s the little things that demonstrate neglect of students’ learning environment – every classroom in the district has a wall clock, but have you ever seen one that works?   Our gymnasium floor was finally refinished but done so poorly that if I put tape on the floor to mark lines the finish comes up.

But, vacancies. Edison has been understaffed for the 3 years I’ve been there. We started this year with vacancies. We have 6 positions filled by long term subs. With absences due to illness or other reasons people miss work, school trips, and trainings, add more. At any time a school may have several subs in a building. We used to get retired teachers who knew how to teach, develop relationships, remember names, control a classroom, didn’t fall for the wiliness of teens.  The subs now bring books to read and sit huddled reading. I’ve had PE subs sit in the gym office -I have to tell them to get out into the gym!

In the Acceleration Network teachers get additional PD. Are Kelly Services getting that training.  Students complain subs aren’t doing anything.  They get the District’s default grade of a “D” if they have a sub who gives them no work, does not teach the content and doesn’t know their name.  Then students are tested in these subjects and schools are penalized for not Accelerating students. And school climate suffers.

The Proposal for the renewal of the contract with Magnum Integrated Marketing should be rejected. Why should we have to recruit teachers when we have many college programs in the area? Shouldn’t the students in those programs know to apply to the district?  After all, Philly’s hip. Wouldn’t good working conditions in healthy buildings, with support and respect and resources to ensure student success be the best recruiting tool?

Magnum Integrated’s website touts their work in the gaming and casino industries!  Under the Industries it serves the “Education” tab says “We can reach your student acquisition goals or meet your teach recruitment objectives.”  That’s their typo, but what does “student acquisition goals” mean in a PUBLIC school system?  According to the Proposal the district wants to ”avail itself of Magnum’s strong client references and capability to devise and implement a successful market strategy.” (This is the District’s typo.)  Who are the clients? Wouldn’t they be students say in Temple’s Education school?

Students are being shortchanged in every way and yet you spend money on marketing and recruiting. If you want to hire and retain excellent teachers for our Public School System then you should demonstrate respect for teachers and listen when we tell you about conditions in which our students learn. And look for teachers in our local universities – that’s free.

Robin Lowry, Ph.D.

Health and Physical Education

Edison High School