Our union is 11,000 members strong, and the ultimate power of the PFT comes from those individuals. Below are nine candidates who have distinguished themselves as leaders among the rank and file, working to empower and support their colleagues in every way they can. They bring determination, experience, and vision to their work.
President - Amy Roat
Amy has been teaching middle school English Language Learners for nine years at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences (FSAS) in North Philadelphia. For fifteen years prior, Amy taught elementary grades throughout Philadelphia and in the Rochester City School District in New York State. She is a graduate of Manhattan College and holds two master’s degrees: an M.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. in Urban Education from Temple University. Amy has been fostering solidarity as the PFT Building Representative at FSAS for the past three years and served on the Building Committee for three years before that. Amy is also a proud member of Opt Out Philly. Drawing on a family history of unionism and political activism, Amy combines fierce determination with equanimity. She has repeatedly demonstrated her ability to communicate with families, fellow PFT members, and the press in a clear and forthright way.
Vice President - Yaasiyn Muhammad
Yaasiyn is a product of the School District of Philadelphia. He graduated from Martin Luther King High School in 2004, and from Temple University with both his B.A. and M.A. degrees in 2009. First hired at Northeast High School, Yaasiyn lost that position during the district layoffs in 2012 and now teaches at Central High School. As an African American History teacher, Yaasiyn's passion for justice and equality translate into the lessons he delivers his students. Those lessons have focused on the overarching themes of social justice, and this focus has carried over into his work outside of the classroom as well. Yaasiyn has displayed a keen ability to hold tough conversations with teachers across the city. Combined with his demonstrated strengths as an organizer, Yaasiyn's work has expanded the capacity of the Caucus to effectively articulate the mission of social justice unionism.
Special Vice President, Elementary Schools - Peggy Savage
Peggy is a fifth grade classroom teacher at Richmond Elementary School. She has been an educator for 33 years, with 31 years in the School District of Philadelphia. Peggy served as PFT Building Representative for over twenty years, and recently “retired” into the role of Political Liaison at her school. Peggy is a Need in Deed first year teacher, an NAACP Science & Math judge, an alumna of and teaching consultant for the Philadelphia Writing Project, a Lead Teacher for Senator Vincent Hughes' S.O.S Summer Literacy Program, a member of the Philadelphia Teachers Convening Steering Committee, a judge for the Temple Upward Bound Math & Science Symposium, and a Co-Founder of the Girls on Fire summer writing program. She holds a B.A. from Mansfield State University and an Master’s from La Salle University.
Special Vice President, Middle Schools - Kelley Collings
Kelley has been a Philadelphia public school teacher for fifteen years. She currently teaches Math at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences and has also taught at Hunter Elementary. Prior to becoming a teacher, she was a community and parent organizer for over a decade in cities across the country, including New York, Dallas, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. She and her colleagues at Feltonville School of Arts & Sciences helped fuel the local movement against high-stakes testing in Philadelphia this spring when they publicly organized 40% of the families at their school to opt out of testing. She holds a B.A. from Colgate University, an M.S. from St. Joseph’s University, and an M.Ed. from Arcadia University. Kelley is a founding member and current Co-Chair of the Caucus of Working Educators of the PFT, as well as a leader of the Teacher Action Group of Philadelphia.
Special Vice President, High Schools - Ismael Jimenez
Ismael is a dedicated educator, who for the last ten years has worked with children in both preschool and high school settings. Born in Philadelphia and a graduate of Temple University, Ismael spent time working at a child care program serving children living in transitional housing, and then became a social studies teacher in the School District of Philadelphia in 2009. He taught at Germantown High School until it closed in 2013, and currently teaches African American History at Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School. Ismael has been an active Building Committee member for every year he has worked in an SDP school. He has also facilitated several district-sponsored professional development sessions on issues ranging from structural racism to bridging the knowledge gap of students between high school and postsecondary institutions. Ismael's teaching and activism are rooted in the theoretical framework developed by Paulo Freire, which emphasizes the role that education plays in the transformation of the world.
Recording Secretary - Eileen Duffey
Eileen is a fearless, relentless advocate for public schools. As a 21-year veteran school nurse, she currently works at Academy at Palumbo and Stearne Elementary, and has previously worked at Meredith, Nebinger, and Furness. She earned her B.A. and M.A. from St. Joeseph’s University, and her nursing degree from Hahnemann. She is a proud member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, and co-produced the video "Our Schools Are Not for Sale," which won the nationally-recognized Home Town Media Award. In 2011, she successfully organized and led a 22-week rally which brought national attention to Philadelphia’s layoffs of school nurses. Since then, Eileen has continued to pressure the District to resist outsourcing the work of certified school nurses. She strengthens her organizing work by cultivating relationships with church communities, educational leaders, city councilpersons, and grassroots activists. She is a member of POWER through her church.
Associate Secretary - Tasha Russell
Tasha has been teaching in the school district for 20 years. She currently teaches at Wagner Middle School, and has also taught at Kinsey Elementary, Stetson Middle School, Lowell Elementary, and Roosevelt Middle School. She holds certifications in Physically and Mentally Handicapped, BCIT (Technology), and Educational Administration. She is a longtime Teaching Consultant with the Philadelphia Writing Project, as well as Teachers Lead Philly fellow. She earned her B.A. at Penn State and is currently completing her Ed.D. in Educational Technology at the University of Phoenix.
Treasurer - Pamela Roy
Pamela has taught students in the School District of Philadelphia for nine years, at Hopkinson, Edwin Vare, Roberto Clemente, and currently at Mifflin Elementary. She holds a B.A. from Bard College and an M.S. from Michigan State, and is certified in Elementary Education, Middle Years Science, and Biology. Besides the caucus, she is a Public Youth Forum Debate coach in the middle school league, a Need in Deed experienced network member, a member of Philly Core Leaders, and a board member for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of Americans for Democratic Action. Her graduate degree in science, attention to detail, and love of organization, spreadsheets, and analysis give her the skills to deal with the minutiae involved in handling and safeguarding our collective resources.
Legislative Representative - George Bezanis
George has been teaching since 2001, and joined the School District of Philadelphia nine years ago as a Social Studies teacher at Central High School, where he also serves as a PFT Building Representative. He holds a B.A. from Penn State Honors and an M.Ed. from Holy Family University. As both a teacher and the proud father of two Philadelphia public school students, he believes that fair and equitable public education--no matter what race, ethnicity, zip code, or socioeconomic class a child happens to be born into--is the building block of American democracy. Not afraid to speak truth to power, George has given several standout speeches to the School Reform Commission. Apart from being a proud public school parent and teacher, he is also an elected Democratic Committee person in the 63rd Ward and President of the Fox Chase Homeowners Association.
On October 15, members of Working Educators filled the SRC meeting along with many of our friends in the Philly Education community. On Thursday, November 19th, we will do it again!
We do not show up to SRC meetings with the expectation to change their minds, but join with fellow education advocates to stand up for the truly democratic, community process Philly schools deserve. As the saying goes, the people united will never be defeated. On November 19th, help us flood the SRC meeting with public education supporting teachers and families! Let's show them what a REAL public meeting looks like!
Thanks to all who attended our Second Annual Convention last Saturday! We introduced our slate of candidates for Executive Office, as well as unveiled our platform, which reflects the opinions and priorities of the many educators who turned out for our city-wide listening sessions.
We'll be introducing you to the candidates over the next week. As for our platform, below is a partial summary of how our work would transform the PFT. If you'd like to check out our complete platform, see this document. Our platform is not a laundry list of campaign promises -- it is a template for how to improve how our union operates. We'll be highlighting additional sections of it in the coming weeks.
Want to share this with fellow educators? Click here to download a printable PDF version.
7 Ways Your Vote for Working Educators Will Mean Positive Change for the PFT
1. You will have a central office and staffers that listen and respond. We will send and receive direct phone calls and email.
2. Your Building Representative will become an expert. Veteran reps will help train newer reps, and we will use regional meetings to hear about member needs.
3. You will have a chance to read and understand your contract before voting. You deserve to know exactly what you are voting on.
4. When an event is coming up, you will know about it. Working Educators will share information earlier and through more channels -- both in person and online.
5. Your union will fight for you on all fronts. Court victories are great, but not enough. Working Educators will keep up the PFT’s legal fight, and also expand our alliances with parents, community groups, politicians, and other unions — so that the entire city on is on our side.
6. You will have a union that supports you as a professional educator, not just an employee. You know what works best for your students. We will protect your profession and fight for the resources you need.
7. You will belong to a PFT that builds power by involving ALL members. We’re the largest union in Philly. Our numbers are our strength!
On November 10 fast food workers in Philadelphia and across the nation will hold strikes and rallies to support the effort to establish a $15 minimum wage and expand the right of workers to unionize. In Philadelphia, educators will be there in solidarity.
This event, one year before the 2016 general election, begins a year of organizing and voter registration efforts meant to ensure that candidates hear the voice of workers and their families. This campaign also seeks to ensure that elected officials support policies that promote economic justice, including a livable and sustainable wage.
The Caucus of Working Educators stands in solidarity with these workers and organizers in their fight. As part of our Racial Justice Statement, we recognize economic justice as an essential part of supporting our students and eliminating structural racism in education.
As workers we know that in order to build a just economy we must support each other and stand together. As educators we know that too many of our students and too many of their families find it harder to achieve their goals and reach their potential because of economic inequality. As working educators we know that schools and society can not be improved in isolation from each other, but must be rebuilt together by the community.
On Tuesday Fight for 15 will take another step in that effort. In the year ahead we look forward to working alongside them to promote racial, economic, and social justice for all of Philadelphia’s students and their families.
Please join us as educators and workers on Tuesday for the Fight for $15 National Day of Action:
To all members of the PFT:
In September, the Caucus of Working Educators announced that we are running a slate of candidates for PFT leadership in the 2016 internal PFT election. Many PFT members don’t know anything about our electoral process, because they’ve never had a chance to vote in one--the current Collective Bargaining Team (CB Team) leadership has held office unopposed since 2004.
We want a democratic, transparent election process for all candidates and members. Unfortunately, as a union we are not there yet. Here are a few contested parts of the election process that every PFT member needs to know about:
The PFT Executive Board sets the timeline and procedures for the election, and have thus far refused to make the arrangements, despite repeated requests from the Caucus over the last two months. All we know is that, according to the PFT Constitution, the election must happen between January and April of 2016. Although there has been some hint by PFT employees that the timeline will mirror the ceremonial election process of 2012 (where the CB leadership cast a ballot for themselves on an “election day” in February), no official word has been given. Why is the current leadership refusing to start up the process? All PFT members deserve to know the timeline and procedures for the upcoming election--and they deserve to know it now.
PFT Employees are not allowed to campaign for the CB Team while they are “on the clock” for their paid PFT jobs, nor may they fund any part of the CB campaign out of the PFT’s pocket. However, any group within the union is free to meet in schools to discuss matters relevant to them. The PFT cannot prohibit caucus members from congregating, just as the caucus would never attempt to prohibit CB team members from meeting once their official PFT work day was over.
This is also true for distributing materials to mailboxes. According to our contract with the School District of Philadelphia, any PFT member who wishes to distribute materials about union business has the right to do so. The Caucus of Working Educators is a part of the PFT.
PFT members and the Philadelphia Public school community have been suffering through many years of the undemocratic actions of the School Reform Commission. This PFT internal election can and must set an example for how democratic elections can empower and energize a community. That can only happen when members are allowed to freely engage with each other and exchange ideas openly. Any attempt to silence, alienate, or misinform our membership weakens our collective power.
All of us in the PFT must build on the incredible city and state electoral victories we all shared in on Tuesday by giving all of our members a voice in discussing, debating, and deciding the future of our union.
The Election Committee of the Caucus of Working Educators
The WE Convention on Nov 14th: Organizing Skills, Union Lessons, and Announcing our 2016 Election Slate and Platform!
Without a doubt, this is probably the most exciting time in WE's brief history:
- In September we announced our Leadership Bid and Listening Campaign; and have been covered by most major papers in the city. (The Notebook here and here, The Tribune here and here, The Daily News, City Paper, Raging Chicken Press here and here).
- Through the listening campaign, we've heard from educators from every part of the city about what they love about their jobs, the obstacles they face, and their ideas for how we can strengthen our union.
- All that data is currently being compiled into a platform that truly represents the democratic power of educators in Philadelphia.
And on November 14th, The Caucus of Working Educators will host our Annual Convention. We invite every educator and education advocate to join us for a day of skill-building, workshops from education and union experts from across the country, and...kicking off our official 2016 election platform and slate!
151 N 4 St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Lunch, childcare, and parking provided free of charge.
Even if you can't make the convention, join us around the corner from 3:30-5:30pm for a Convention Afterparty and "Meet the Slate" Fundraiser at Second Story Brewery.
WE are working to build a member-driven, democratic union that can defend and transform public education-- but we need your ideas and passion to make it possible. Join us for the whole day or any part of it (make sure you get some lunch, too). Even if you can't make it, please forward this info to a Philadelphia educator you know that might be interested.
9:30-10:00am- Breakfast and Registration
10:00-10:45am- Opening Plenary: “Race, class and the future of our union”, Brian Jones (NyCORE/MORE)
- Organizing to Win: How to Have Effective Conversations that Move People to Action
- #WEarethePFT: Carrying our Message through Social Media and Beyond
- Internal Union Elections: Know Your Rights
12:00-1:00pm: Lunch (catered by school employees from Taggart Elementary)
1:00-2:15pm- Workshop Session 2
- Organizing to Win: How to Have Effective Conversations that Move People to Action
- Lessons from Recent Labor Victories: Open Negotiations, Hunger Strikes, Charter Protests, and more
- It Takes More Than a Strong Caucus: Grassroots Fundraising for Our Election Campaign
2:15-3:30pm- Closing Plenary: Announcing our 2016 Leadership Slate and Election Platform!
Have you been hearing about WE? Want to learn more about what it means to build a member driven, democratic union? Want to share what YOU want to see in our schools, union, and city?
Since we kicked off our Listening Campaign and Leadership Bid in September, we've hosted listening campaigns in schools, communities, and neighborhoods across the city. Next week, we'll be announcing the official platform and slate at our Annual Convention.
This Friday, November 6th, make sure YOUR voice is part of our platform by celebrating with us at one of FIVE listening campaign happy hours:
-Northeast Philly: Nick's Roast Beef NE (2210 Cottman Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19149). Hosted by teachers from Central, Greenberg, U School, and Wilson.
-North Philly: Tierra Colombiana (4535 N 5th St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19140). Hosted by teachers from Feltonville Arts and Sciences, Saul, Potter Thomas, and Kensington CAPA.
-South Philly: Triangle Tavern (1338 S 10th St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19147). Hosted by teachers from Taggart, Southwark, Furness, and Palumbo.
-West Philly: Dock Street Brewery (701 S 50th St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19143). Hosted by teachers from Workshop School, Mitchell, Robeson, SLA Beeber, Overbrook, and Morton.
-Counselor Listening Campaign: Manayunk Brewery (4120 Main St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19127). Hosted by Counselors from Central and Masterman.
Dear Working Educators,
Here's your weekly update:
- If you haven't figured out your complete voting plan for tomorrow yet, check out our list of endorsements, the PFT Votes website, and the Committee of Seventy commentary on the ballot questions. And don't forget to vote for Kristin Combs City Council At-Large, so that 4+1+6!
- Have you ever attended one of Teacher Action Group's Inquiry To Action Groups (ITAGs)? You should consider facilitating your own. The meeting to get more information is this Thursday, November 5th, 6PM at SLA.
- Presenting the Racial Justice Statement of the Caucus of Working Educators.
- Another Friday, another round of Regional Listening Campaign Happy Hours! Join us this Friday at Nick's Roast Beef in the Northeast (4PM, 2210 Cottman Ave), or at Dock Street Brewery in the West (4PM, 701 S. 50th Street) OR, if you're a Counselor, at the Counselor-specific happy hour at Manayunk Brewery (4PM, 4120 Main Street). We look forward to meeting you!
And now, your rapidly approaching chance to find out what we're really all about:
Saturday, November 14th // 9:30 AM - 3:30 PM
Old First Reformed UCC / 151 N. 4th Street, Philadelphia
Share organizing strategies with other educators and union members in interactive workshops, hear the results of hundreds of listening campaign conversations from every school in the city, and help decide the future of WE.
At this event we will be introducing our full slate running for PFT leadership positions. Be there and become a part of the movement!
Don't forget to sign up to get our Weekly Updates in your email at workingeducators.org/joinus!
The Caucus of Working Educators believes that purposeful action needs to be taken in order to eliminate the adverse outcomes derived from perpetual structural racism evident in public education.
- WE want public school based policies that resist the criminalization of students of color.
- WE want curriculum and pedagogy that recognizes the collective contribution of all groups to modern society.
- WE want a full and fair funding formula that can provide for all of the needs of our students and schools.
- WE want standardized testing to end and no longer be used as the criteria to shutter schools since these tactics adversely affect low income, Black, and Latino communities.
- WE want to attract, develop, and retain more teachers of color.
WE are aware of the barriers that all of our students and families face that limit their chances and opportunities to achieve academic success and a positive sustainable quality of life. WE support all organizations and collective work that are against stop and frisk policies, support the fight for fair and safe housing, support a living and sustainable wage for all citizens, and the right for all to have access to affordable and equitable healthcare.
The Caucus of Working Educators believes that this Racial Justice Statement promotes equity, human life, educational and social justice, and will develop the necessary knowledge and actions necessary to eliminate the barriers created by prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination and bias in Philadelphia and beyond.
Dear Mr. Mckesson,
As the social justice caucus within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, we were surprised to see that you are coming to Philadelphia to speak alongside leaders of Teach for America (TFA). The Caucus of Working Educators (WE) is committed to racial justice in our schools and society, and we stand in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
We see Teach for America as working in opposition to the goals of publicly funded education for all students in Philadelphia and to the goal of increasing the number of teachers of color and teachers who are committed to building relationships with communities over the long term, which we see as an integral component of culturally responsive teaching. We view the hiring of cadres of racial, cultural, and geographical outsiders with very little teaching preparation as part of a larger neoliberal effort to privatize education and replace unionized teachers (many of whom are teachers of color) with young, inexperienced teachers (most of whom are white and do not intend to stay in the teaching profession and commit to the long-term improvement of their teaching practice).
This practice of displacing African American teachers, in particular, is already underway. While Philadelphia’s teaching force increased by 13 percent from 2001-2011, the percentage of Black teachers dropped by 19 percent. This has contributed to Philadelphia having the greatest disparity between the race and ethnicity of the student body and those who teach them. Only 31 percent of Philadelphia teachers are of color compared to 86 percent of the student body they are teaching. This is unacceptable.
TFA has ties and parallels with the charter school movement, which we see as undercutting public education. The mass charterization of public neighborhood schools has led to the outsourcing of public school management to private operators. Just weeks ago Philadelphia Public Schools announced yet another wave of school closures and conversions of public schools into charter schools affecting upwards of 5000 students. This is in addition to the 23 public schools that were closed in Philadelphia in 2013.
The decision to turn a district school into a charter is often made by the highest levels of administration without consulting with the school community, including parents, teachers, students, and leaders. Your support of Teach for America represents a support of these same kinds of outsourced and contracted paradigms for educating our children. Rather than hiring experienced professionals that will stay in the profession for a long period of time, Teach for America hires individuals with little or no experience in classroom settings via external channels such as private universities and corporately sponsored recruitment. Teach for America and charter schools both represent a failure of public leadership to lead and create change in our public schools, and prioritize outsourcing teaching and school governance over public responsibility to realize every student’s right to a fully funded, culturally relevant, education in their neighborhood.
Instead, TFA contributes to the dangerous and misleading discourse that claims poverty and structural inequality have little to no impact on educational outcomes. This irresponsible explanation provides Democrats and Republicans alike with a pretext to continue vicious budget cuts to public services and institutions under the guise that “personal responsibility” and “grit” are the main factors in determining a child’s success or failure.
We live and work in state that has the largest funding disparity between wealthy and poor districts and in a city whose externally appointed school governance commission is proposing to continue to close down schools that primarily serve low-income African American families. In Philadelphia where 79 percent of the city’s students are Black and Latino, $9,299 is spent per pupil compared to the $17, 261 spent just across the city line in Lower Merion where 91 percent of the students are white. This is the civil rights crisis of our generation.
In this context, we believe that it is essential that those who are committed to racial justice take a critical stance against organizations that aim to further privatize education and/or replace fully prepared unionized teachers with underprepared novices who are likely to leave the teaching profession in two to three years.
The Black Lives Matter movement has served as an inspiration and instruction on how to confront racism and inequality throughout our country. Part of that inspiration is the way that the movement has looked at the connections between police violence and racism and other inequalities faced by African Americans. We consider the attacks on public education to be a part of the “state-sanctioned violence” that the movement has done so much to highlight over the last year. We do not believe that the white billionaires that bankroll Teach for America and the corporate education “reform” movement are any more interested in the education of poor and working class Black and Latino children than we believe they are interested in ending police violence in Black and Brown communities. If they were, these crises would no longer exist.
We are glad that you are visiting Philadelphia, and we hope that you will use your platform to engage in a critical dialogue about whether TFA supports – or as we believe undercuts – the goals of a fully funded education for every student in Philadelphia with teachers who know their community and are committed to staying for the long haul.
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