SRC Testimony: Diane Payne

I am speaking today to Stand Up For The Truth!  This Commission took an unprecedented action in a deceitful manner and with the support of this whole body.  It was most disturbing that the newest member, Mrs. Neff, was in full cahoots with this plan since a lot of people viewed her appointment with hope.  That hope was dashed on Monday when Mrs. Neff joined Mrs. Simms as silenced speakers of truth.  Ms. Simms' audacious comment “We have to stop playing games with children”  would have been laughable except for the harm it causes. The largest players of a game are sitting right here in front of us and in Harrisburg, Mrs. Simms.

I am picking one truth to talk about today.  The truth that what the SRC did on Monday is only a piece of a bigger plan that has been in place for 13 years and is succeeding amazingly well.  That truth is close down public education and hand it over to private, corporate interests.  Accomplish that mission by asserting that public education is failing.

Doc. Hite was a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy.  This Academy is funded by billionaire Eli Broad, who is a member of the 1%.  Eli Broad is one of an influential group of billionaires who believe they can control the landscape of education for their own profit, benefit and ideology.  The method they use is simple.  Control the dialogue!!  Put out the sound bites of what sounds reasonable and wrap those sound bites, slogans and messages in myths and lies.  Get mainstream media to print it, politicians to support it (because they bankroll the politicians)…then implement policy.

Dr. Hite, this commission and a large number of our politicians are implementing the policies that support the ideology of the Broad Academy.

*Slash and burn public schools and open charters in the name of choice

*Attack and attempt to weaken unions

*Strangle budgets to help the illusion of schools failing and make it easier to promote your slash and burn policy

*Implement the business model of chaos and disruption

*Introduce high stakes testing and tie it to school and teacher evaluation and high school graduation

*Force Common Core Standards onto schools, standards that are mired in controversy and debate

*Enlist TFA recruits who enter the classroom with 5 weeks of training and who rarely stay in the profession for more than a few years in place of fully accredited, qualified, dedicated teachers

Here’s the thing about all of these policies - they are built on the premise that public schools are failing....our public schools are not failing!!  Zip codes are failing.  This commission does not use evidence or research…here are just a few respected authors that refute your policies with evidence and research.  But, hey, that is not the dialogue that will allow you to pillage and plunder our schools and neighborhoods. Our urban schools are a reflection of the larger problems in our society and deserve unfailing support in every sense of the word and honest dialogue about ways to improve that are carried on with educators and community members AT THE TABLE. 


SRC Testimony: Jesse Gottschalk

On Thursday, October 16th, ten members of the Caucus testified before the SRC. This week we will be posting some of their testimonies in written form.



My name is Jesse Gottschalk, and I am a 3rd grade teacher at Henry Lea Elementary, a PFT member, and a member of the Caucus of Working Educators.


And when I tell people that I’m a teacher in a Philadelphia public school, people respond with wide eyes. They treat it like such an immense challenge and sacrifice, that I start to wonder. What does it mean that one of the most important careers in the world is now considered so impossible in this city that people think you have to be some kind of martyr to do this?


And the sad part is, I can’t say they’re wrong. In order to do my job, I’ve already spent $1,000 out of pocket on this school year, and I consider it an easy day if I work for less than 10 hours. I’ve not had a lot of easy days. And meeting teachers across the District, I see that that is not an exception, that this kind of work is the norm, because with as little support as we get, it becomes impossible to do our jobs without that level of commitment. And I’m a new teacher, so I haven’t had to deal with frozen wages or unsupported graduate expenses like my colleagues.


We all say that our schools are in crisis. We are in crisis. And to the SRC, I say that I know that you did not create this crisis. We all know that. But as teachers, we say that you should be standing beside us. And to take the unprecedented step of backing out of negotiations…cancelling our contract…in a secret meeting? And then to stand by while your allies go on the airwaves – and you yourselves join them! – to call us the enemy? Saying we are not sharing in the sacrifice? It’s shameful. It’s tragic.


Furthermore – setting aside the fact that our Union has already said it is willing to negotiate on benefits, may I just say: Dr. Hite called this "sharing in the sacrifice as we’re trying to navigate tough fiscal times," but let me be clear. This is not just about “tough fiscal times.” Teachers unions are perhaps the most publicly vilified professional group in the country -- any sacrifices made in "tough fiscal times" will NOT be restored when times get better. And we all know this to be true.


One of the most profound honors of being a teacher is getting to work alongside colleagues who are some of the most selfless, dedicated, intelligent people I have ever met. Teachers sacrifice every day to keep our contracts with our students. But our contract with you can be erased – just like that? What message does that send to our students? What message does that send about our city? I’m ashamed of this body’s actions. How can YOU not be?


SRC Testimony: Tamara Anderson

On Thursday, October 16th, ten members of the Caucus testified before the SRC. This week we will be posting some of their testimonies in written form.

I am a parent of an 8th grader and a community member of the Caucus of Working Educators, Alliance of Philadelphia Public Schools and Opt-Out Philly. I am very aware that the budget crisis in Philadelphia is a symptom of no full fair funding formula and years of fewer and fewer dollars being sent to this county and the entire state. Then I heard the news last Monday, that the SRC unanimously voted in favor of a cancelled contract without any input from the PFT and hid the announcement for the meeting in a clandestine manner in the back of a newspaper. And I realized that the problems of funding public education is not just a Harrisburg problem, it is right here at 440 North Broad Street too.

This latest and lowest act is a blow to our morale, our dignity, and overall trust. The last time I checked every union in this city (no matter the outcome) was given the opportunity to talk, haggle, and talk some more until a consensus was met. And if this can happen in one of the largest school districts in the country than it can happen anywhere, and it will become a place that repels new talent and will further the divide that discourages teachers of color from joining the work force. And since fairness and legality has been thrown out of the window altogether they may not even have to be recruited and hired in the first place, but I digress.

This house has been burning for a very long time. But, Monday symbolized the complete ashes and ruin that public education has been eroded to by corporate interests, racists and unequal policies, and simple stupidity.

Fortunately for the children of Philadelphia there is a phoenix attempting to rise from the ashes in the form of its citizens. Citizens who are no longer willing to be bamboozled and led astray. Citizens who are willing to fight and return this city back to an even better place by reforming and reinstating democratically elected local control. Citizens who are willing to see this entity erased!


Convention Keynoter Speaks out about Philadelphia

yohuru-williams-200.jpgOn Saturday, November 8th, The Caucus of Working Educators will be hosting their first annual convention.

One of the many reasons to join us on that day: keynote speaker Yohuru Williams, who recently wrote about the situation in Philadelphia for the LA Progressive. Here's a taste of his analysis:

In spite of Commonwealth Foundation and various other entities efforts to paint teachers as the bad guys, a poll conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts in September of 2013 found that 31 percent of residents placed responsibility for the crisis in the Philadelphia School District on the Republican-controlled state legislature and Governor. Another 31 percent blamed the Democratic Mayor and City Council and 21 percent blamed school administrators and the state-controlled State Reform Commission. Only 11 percent of those surveyed held the union or teachers responsible.

This is ultimately why the Commonwealth Foundation likely felt the need to hire counter protesters. The fact that they were willing to go to this extreme was of little surprise to Philadelphia teachers. They know that much of the drama in the city has been orchestrated by shadowy behind-the-scenes organizations, with popular sounding names, but funded by billionaires who have been very clear about the agenda to destroy the teachers union on their road to dismantling the public schools. Their broad reach extends through state and local politics and knows no party bounds. Both Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, have received support from them — apparently in exchange for supporting the corporate education reform agenda including privatization of schools in the city of Brotherly Love.


SRC Testimony: Amy Roat

On Thursday, October 16th, ten members of the Caucus testified before the SRC. This week we will be posting some of their testimonies in written form.

My name is Amy-Nicole Roat. I am a citizen of Philadelphia. I am a member of the PFT. I am a member of the Caucus of Working Educators. I am a teacher.

My father was a firefighter and my mother was a teacher. When I was in college and sat down with my parents to discuss my decision to become a teacher, they could not have more proud. My father reminded me that while I would not have material wealth, I would have the great reward of helping others. I would have to work very hard and in return I would have a predictable income, decent benefits, and the respect of my community. Eventually, after contributing with every paycheck, I would even have a pension to rely on in my retirement. Now this story isn’t unique – most civil servants will tell a story similar to mine.

For many years, the members of this commission have done everything in their power to undermine every single aspect of our humble, yet noble plans. You have systematically undermined our trust and the trust of the public by erasing our contract.  You have also raised the ire of every union member in this city. 

My greatest fear, however, is not for my future; it is for the future of Philadelphia’s children and families.  Not many parents in this day would encourage their child to be a teacher. The steps you have taken have seriously hampered the potential to attract quality teachers in this city. One can hardly pick up a paper without reading of the plight of the students and PFT members. Rather than a seasoned teacher corps, we may be lucky in the near future to have glorified temp workers that burn out every two or three years.  I know that most people in this city will see your cynical vote for what it was – a deliberate move to bust our union and further erode the education of the kids in this city.  Know this: we will not rest until we have undone your heinous deed.

In all honesty, I cannot say that I was surprised by last week’s ambush – I didn’t know what or when, but I knew you - Green, Hite, Jimenez, and Simms were planning to harm us.  My only surprise was that Neff joined you.  Neff, you were one of us and you betrayed us.  It will never be forgiven and never be forgotten.  You will forever be a shameful footnote when history records that students and parents, the PFT and its many other allies, fought back against you, and won. We won’t let you erase our careers and our union.


Show the world how WE keep our contract with students

In a new project started by writer and WE member Marta Rose, writers from around the world are teaming up with Philly teachers to show the world how WE keep our contracts with students every day-- at the same time as the SRC is breaking their contract with teachers and schools.

Check out an excerpt below featuring school nurse Eileen Duffey, and go to KeepingTheContract.Org to be inspired by many more stories of teachers keeping their contract with the students and families of Philadelphia. 


Eileen Duffey, School Nurse

Eileen Duffey (r) with poet Daisy Fried

Eileen Duffey (r) with poet Daisy Fried

Eileen Duffey

by Daisy Fried

“People think school nurses slap on bandaids,” says Eileen Duffey, the three-day-a-week nurse for over 900 students at The Academy at Palumbo, a South Philadelphia high school, and two-day-a-week nurse for more than 500 kids at Allen M. Stearne Elementary School in Frankford. In fact, Duffey, who’s been a Certified School Nurse for 20 years, does give out bandaids. And sometimes deodorant and mouthwash, and safety pins and duct tape, if a kid’s clothes tear, items she supplies herself, not with district funds. “Because when you’re a teenager, your day is ruined if somebody says ‘ew, I smell something, is that you?’” My job is to get kids back to class. And I’d rather have a teen come sit in my office for 20 minutes because life sucks, so they can salvage the rest of the day, instead of going truant.”

But that’s only part of the job.

The goal of school health programs according to the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) is to “meet the needs of the whole child and support school achievement.” This gets complicated when, according to NASN, 16% of the nation’s 52 million school kids have chronic physical, emotional or other health problems, and schools have become the only source of health care for many children and adolescents. Asthma, diabetes and autism are among disorders for which diagnoses have risen sharply in children in the last decade.

The maximum nurse to student ratio allowed by law is 1:1500. But NASN recommends a ratio of 1:750—and that’s for kids with non-complex health needs. Duffey watches over more than 1400 kids. Low-income kids have more health problems and less access to medical care outside of school. 97% of Stearne kids and 75% of Academy teens are classified as “economically disadvantaged” by the School District of Philadelphia.

Kids with chronic health problems need emergency as well as routine daily plans. If a child has diabetes, says Duffey, “you have to communicate with a lot more people than you’d think—administrators, classroom and phys ed teachers, a CHOP Endocrine nurse, sometimes the Department of Human Services—while also making sure the child is following any protocols necessary.” When a child of undocumented immigrants (who is legally entitled to public education in the U.S.), who has no health insurance, is diagnosed with a serious hereditary heart problem, Duffey talks to doctors to figure out how the child can get the expensive medicine the child needs. She maneuvers through red tape to plan for the possibility of an ER visit during school hours. And she needs to get other people at the school, from the principal on down, in on the protocols, so that when Duffey’s away on her other assignment, the child gets essential care. “I trust myself as a professional to manage that—as long as I’m there,” says Duffey. “After all, I don’t have to oversee the PSATs and 50 other things that a principal might. I am a medical person—the only medical person. This job cannot be done well on the cheap and it cannot be done well at current staffing levels.”

Read more

SRC Testimony: Eileen Duffey

On Thursday, October 16th, ten members of the Caucus testified before the SRC. This week we will be posting some of their testimonies in written form.

Good evening.

I am coming up on three years on not having missed an SRC meeting. I am a volunteer citizen I do this at the end of my work day and I have learned an awful lot about citizenship. I have learned an awful lot about things that are disconcerting. I have to spend a lot of effort and energy to keep myself from becoming very cynical with regards to what we  are in the midst of.

I had a few remarks prepared, but some of my colleagues in the Caucus of Working Educators and other citizens tonight have done better than I could do myself. I have just one burning question that came up when I was sitting in the audience tonight and that is: “Why does Mark Gleason even have to sign up to speak at an SRC meeting?”

Mark Gleason runs the Great School Compact. He is the person who is essentially running this school district behind closed doors in meetings that most of the people here are not invited to attend.

Why is Mark Gleason’s presence even necessary? Seeing him only reminds us that the best kept secret in Philadelphia is that Mark Gleason, the SRC members in front of me, Dr. Hite, the governor, the mayor, and to some extent the media have been involved in a full court press effort to destroy this district from within and without, leaving a few dozen of us spending every moment of our waking hours, with zero compensation--people at the grassroots level--trying to hold up this public school district--trying to get a vision of a real school district that people who live in this city would want to send their children to.

We are all onto you and, I think increasingly you won’t be a best-kept secret because we are committed to getting this word out.

And speaking of not backing down -- Ms. Simms, you haven’t seen anything yet.


In Response to Sylvia Simms

As educators, we know that "high expectations" is more than just a slogan -- it's a necessity. If we want our students to succeed and go on to great things, we need to show them every day that we believe in them, and give them the encouragement they deserve.

For this reason, we are appalled by the actions of SRC Commissioner Sylvia Simms, who responded to nonviolent student activists with a verbal assault -- telling students that "You belong in jail," and "You must go to failing schools."

We believe that respect for students must begin at the top. We are ashamed of the actions of SRC Commissioner Simms, whose actions dishonor her role overseeing our schools.

To us, this incident reinforces our call for a publicly accountable School District. Her refusal to apologize only strengthens our call to eliminate the SRC.


SRC Testimony: Kristin Luebbert

On Thursday, October 16th, ten members of the Caucus testified before the SRC. This week we will be posting some of their testimonies in written form.


Good Evening Dr. Hite, Mr. Green, and Commissioners,


My name is Kristin Luebbert. I am a proud citizen of this great city, a member of the PFT, and a member of the Caucus of Working Educators.


I would like to speak tonight on the equity of shared sacrifice. This has been your go-to phrase as you excoriate teachers and other school workers for daring to expect “leaders” to uphold the law and the constitution of this nation by honoring a contract that was fairly and legally negotiated and agreed to.


So, let’s talk about “shared sacrifice”.  About a year ago, you, Dr. Hite, took a ten percent pay cut (though you still make six figures) and asked your leadership team to do the same.  Last we heard, no one on the leadership team had actually agreed to what you, their boss, asked of them.  If that has changed recently, please feel free to correct me now.


So, since “negotiations” on this matter with your leadership team seem to have stalled (the same rationale you used to cancel the PFT contract), I am asking if you and the SRC are willing to unilaterally cancel the contracts of the leadership team and impose the 10% pay cut upon them.


If not, why not?  Why should the shared sacrifice of in-school employees be greater than that of that of the leadership team?


It is time to give control of OUR schools back to the citizens of Philadelphia. It is time for leaders to act honorably and live up to their agreement. Teachers, counselors, nurses, classroom assistants, secretaries, NTAs and all school workers honor our contract with kids and families every day.  If the leaders of this district cannot honor theirs, it is time to erase the SRC.


Consider this your personal invitation...

We are almost ready for tomorrow's rally! Check out the big builds we made tonight on Facebook -- and also check out our sample signs if you need inspiration for your own.


But now we have to ask: Are you doing your part to turn out the community?

At too many rallies, the only people in attendance are PFT Members. But this time around, that won't be the case -- students, family, community stakeholders, and a slew of other unions have already agreed to take part.

So, what about your friends and family? If they care about you, then they care about the future of public education, and they need to participate in tomorrow's action in some shape or form.

We know that this kind of ask can be hard, so we're providing a script to help you do it. Use as much or as little of it as you like. Just make sure that you don't keep our situation a secret. We need all of Philadelphia in this fight with us!

Oh, and if you're not a PFT member, consider this your personal invitation from the caucus to come out and support us tomorrow!

Dear _______,

As you may have picked up from my Facebook feed, my teachers contract was canceled last Monday in a stealth meeting held by the school district. The school district is now attempting to force health care payments on its employees, claiming that we are the only stakeholders in Philadelphia who haven't "sacrificed" to help our underfunded district. 

Without going into an exhaustive labor history, canceling a collective contract like ours is both illegal and crazy, to the point where ALL Philly unions are considering going on a general strike in support of teachers.

You all know I love my job. You all also know how hard I work. So you should also know that the district is not really doing this to save themselves some money -- they are doing this to screw over my union,scapegoat teachers, and possibly help Corbett rally his base of conservative voters by making Philadelphia teachers look greedy

To those ends, I have a big ask: 

Join me tomorrow at 4PM to rally in front of the school district office at 440 North Broad Street.
There's gonna be many unions, and teachers hosting grade-ins, and GIANT PENCILS built by Spiral Q, and multiple unions, and students being badass. Get all the details on the Facebook invite.


Now, I know this is last minute ask and a lot of people have work -- so if you can't make it, I have a much easier small ask: 

Post a #solidaritywithteachers
 photo on social media any time tomorrow, but especially between 4 and 6 PM.

Twitter or FB, doesn't matter, you can totally tag me as the reason you're doing it, just make sure you include the proper hashtags: #solidaritywithteachers and #phled. 

I'm attaching a couple of photos as examples. Take one with your partner! Take one with your office! Take one standing on your head! 

But if you are serious the future of Philly, you need to be in on this.