The Caucus gives me hope…(Part 2)

Part of the #WEarePFT video series from the Caucus of Working Educators

A new video released every day in Jan 2016 leading up to the PFT elections in Feb!

Ballots are mailed home on Feb.4. 
Mail your completed ballot to AAA by Feb.19 to make sure your vote is counted!
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The Caucus gives me hope…(Part 1)

Part of the #WEarePFT video series from the Caucus of Working Educators

A new video released every day in Jan 2016 leading up to the PFT elections in Feb!

 Ballots are mailed home on Feb.4. 
Mail your completed ballot to AAA by Feb.19 to make sure your vote is counted!
Share

WE are...

Part of the #WEarePFT video series from the Caucus of Working Educators

A new video released every day in Jan 2016 leading up to the PFT elections in Feb!

 Ballots are mailed home on Feb.4. 
Mail your completed ballot to AAA by Feb.19 to make sure your vote is counted!
Share

What WE Want to See: Negotiating the Next PFT Contract

Part 1 of a 9-part series of position papers on the substantive steps Working Educators would like to take strengthen the PFT and fight for the schools we deserve. Click here to read all 9 position papers. If you have any questions or comments, please email contact@workingeducators.org. And don't forget to vote on Feb 4th!

At the heart of the Caucus of Working Educators is our drive to represent you, our fellow PFT members, at the negotiating table for an equitable and strong contract from the School District of Philadelphia. We share your frustration with working under a status quo contract for far too long. We recognize the disrespect shown to our union by the district’s attempts to impose contract terms. We join our voices to yours in fear that our deteriorating work conditions might somehow become permanent.

Many members have been concerned about both the lack of momentum in the contract talks, and the lack of transparency regarding the collective bargaining process. We believe that there are substantive steps that our entire union can take to address these concerns raised by teachers across the district.

Our Caucus recognizes that legal decisions and electoral politics play a major role in the collective bargaining process, affecting how and when the PFT negotiates and what compromises we might be forced to consider. However, the Caucus of Working Educators believes that a union’s success at negotiating does not originate with the courts, the legislature, or even the negotiators at the bargaining table. The key to our strength at the negotiating table lies with the power of our collective membership. Building that power requires a newfound commitment to member education and organizing, so that our 11,000 members are ready to mobilize behind their contract demands.

Too many of our colleagues are tired of waiting for a substantive update of where things stand, and too few have any idea what proposals are on the table. We believe that the membership should be engaged throughout the process—making sure that the negotiators are truly representing the priorities of the rank and file, and making sure that members are educated on the various issues being considered.

We will gain the best possible contract when we work to educate and empower our members, make renewed outreach to win public support, and provide meaningful opportunities for union membership to guide its leadership and to compel our district to an appropriate, fair, and moral result.

What WE propose:

• Cultivate timely interactions with and feedback from membership to focus the negotiating team on union demands for our next contract.

• Retain legal counsel, intimately involved with current contract negotiations, to continue to work alongside the Executive Board on behalf of PFT members.

• Complement our use of the legal system to defend against illegal overreaches with a proactive and multifaceted strategy—including internal organizing, stronger community partnerships, and carefully orchestrated actions—to keep the public on the side of educators in the political struggle that surrounds contract negotiations.

Click here to download a shareable PDF version.

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What WE Want to See in Philadelphia Public Schools

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Over the last three months, the Caucus of Working Educators has met thousands of PFT members around the city. That process all started with a listening campaign, wit a couple of central questions: what would make your life better as an educator? and what could the PFT be doing to help with that?

The first result of that work was our Campaign Platform. Now, we're pleased to present nine position papers on the following topics:

  • Negotiating the Next PFT Contract
  • The PFT and our Political Alliances
  • Rank and File Communications and Empowerment
  • Disbanding the SRC and Replacing Superintendent Hite
  • Transforming What it Means to be a Union Member
  • Community Involvement and Team Building
  • Standardized Testing and School Performance Metrics
  • School Climate and Safety
  • Fighting for Services for Students with Special Needs

We'll be featuring this content on our website over the next couple of weeks, but you can read the complete packet of position papers here

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Thinking Hard about Community Schools

In recent months, people in Philadelphia have been hearing a lot about “community schools.” Both Jim Kenney and Darrell Clarke have made public commitments to this reform, which would potentially transform public schools into neighborhood hubs by expanding community partnerships and bringing in external providers for services important to students and families. Creating community schools has become a growing strategy nationwide, with major recent commitments to these schools in cities like New York and Baltimore.

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While the pledges of our next Mayor and our City Council Speaker have garnered big news, they come in the context of years of advocacy by the organizing coalition PCAPS, which has pushed to bring community schools to Philadelphia, beginning with a pilot in at least 25 schools. Community schools have also been in the news recently as PCAPS and school community members have campaigned to have Huey, Cooke, and Wister elementary schools become community schools, as an alternative to the School District’s proposed charterization plan.

With this rapidly developing movement towards a new school model, the Caucus of Working Educators has a few questions for students, families, and PFT members to consider:

  • How will new services provided at a community school be funded and supported? Many previous initiatives organized by the school district have been lauded as “the solution,” only to fall to pieces when the funding or political support dried up. Moreover, we must make sure that any new funding will come free from special interest strings.

  • Who will be responsible for oversight of community schools? Community schools are a strategy for connecting resources and services to student needs -- they are not a one-size-fits-all model that can be applied in the same way to every school. Decisionmaking for these schools should reflect that. In the field of education, we always have to be mindful of the ways that powerful interests can hijack “reform” models to advance their own interests (be they cost-saving politicians or curriculum-peddling corporations). Individual schools must have their own decisionmaking abilities, and power should be wielded by the stakeholders at that particular school. 

  • Will any educator positions at these schools be outsourced? Some community schools models replace longtime educators with part-time employees who provide  learning support, health and psychological services, giving students a lesser version of the expert resources they previously had access to.

  • Will positions lost to the “Doomsday Budgets” be restored? After years of cutbacks, it has become unacceptably common in Philadelphia schools to lack a full-time nurse, counselor, and librarian. Contracting with external providers must not be used to allow policymakers to avoid returning to a budget that restores certified, full-time school professionals to every school.

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If implemented well, the community school model could provide students with the comprehensive support they need for academic success, while addressing critical needs of students and families. If implemented poorly, however, the model could actually undermine the stability and sustainability of what schools currently offer Philadelphia’s children.

The PCAPS Community Schools Task Force, which includes members of the Caucus of Working Educators, will soon release a platform setting out specifics for what a community school should look like. As we approach the inauguration of Mayor Kenney, it is crucial that educators are asking the hard questions to make sure any new model for our schools does right by our city and our children.

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Feb 4: Check the mail for your PFT ballot, then VOTE!

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Today, procedures for the 2016 Philadelphia Federation of Teachers election were released publicly.

Now it’s official: the Caucus of Working Educators will be running a full slate in the upcoming elections -- including PFT Executive Officers, Executive Board, and PA AFT and national AFT convention delegates. WE are excited for this election and the opportunity to involve every one of our 11,500 members in the work of strengthening our union and fighting for our profession and public education.

Whether this is the first time you’re hearing about the election, or you’ve been following the headlines since we announced our intent to run in September, here’s all the info you need:

  1. You will be voting for 36 Positions: 9 Executive Officers, and 27 Executive Board Members.

  2. You will also vote for 100 Philadelphia delegates to the national AFT convention in Minneapolis in 2016, and 100 delegates to the PA AFT Convention in 2017 (location TBA).

  3. The election will be held via mail-in ballot. Ballots will be mailed to the homes of every PFT member on February 4th, and they need to arrive at the office of the American Arbitration Association by Tuesday, February 23rd.

    1. To check your address:

      • Go to PhilaSD.org and log in.
      • Choose Employee Payroll Information. Then select Employee Information.
        • Check to make sure your address, job title, and union are correct.

      If your information is not correct, you need to act immediately:

      1. Download and complete the Employee Change of Residential Address form (Available hereor on the SDP Payroll Department website "Forms" page).
      2. Photocopy your School District or Government Issued Identification.
      3. Fax (don't mail) the form and your ID to the Payroll Department: 215–400–4491
      4. Confirm that the Payroll has processed your form by calling their office: 215-400-4490 Call them before January 22nd!
    2. Ballots will be sent out by the AAA via US Mail on February 4thIf you do not receive your ballot, immediately call the AAA: 215-731-2280
  4. Each slate will be able to send mailings to the addresses of every voting PFT member leading up to the election (but don’t wait around - help distribute WE flyers at your school today!)

  5. A nomination and election committee will be formed with up to 5 members from each slate to oversee the election.

  6. On February 24th at 9:00am, ballots will be counted by the American Arbitration Association, with members of each slate present as observers.

  7. For the full official election procedures, download and share this PDF document.

 

So, are you ready to help Working Educators transform and re-energize our union to fight for the schools Philadelphia deserves? Here’s how you can help:

-Make sure your colleagues and friends know there’s an election coming up (you’d be surprised how many PFT members have no idea!).

-Invite members of the WE Slate to host a “Who are WE?” session for your colleagues at your school or a nearby location.

-Distribute buttons, stickers, pens or t-shirts in your school, and make sure to take a #WEWednesdays photo with everyone.

-Help hand out WE flyers at schools in your school, neighborhood, or by your workplace. Contact us for materials and needed locations.

-Support us and become part of the campaign by joining as a member or supporting member (for non-PFT members)!

-Donate to our fundraising campaign to pay for flyers, supplies, and events.

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Shout Out Philly's Amazing Educators for #WETeach Tuesdays!

Teaching is one of the noblest professions and represents that selfless sacrifice that men and women are willing to make to provide for the betterment of America’s youth. But between punitive education 'reform' policies, the starvation of public education, and the myth of 'failing' urban schools and their 'bad teachers', teachers don't get much credit these days.

The Caucus of Working Educators feels that it's about time the many great teachers across the city are acknowledged! We are asking educators across the city to begin posting #WETeach Tuesday posts on FB and Twitter on Tuesday that highlight the powerful educators we work with every day.

The ideal post is a short (1-3 sentences) write up expressing what makes their highlighted teacher a great teacher. Don't forget to include an image as well (see example below).

This acknowledgement of educators strengthens our power as a union by focusing on the one-to-one relationships that give us strength as a union and allow us to fight for our students in our buildings, neighborhoods, and city. It also provides an opportunity to overturn the myth of the “bad teacher,” by highlighting the great work and professionalism that we all engage in everyday.

Ready to get started? Here's an example of a #WETeach post:

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Let's Take Back Our Professional Development!

WE and Teacher Action Group are among the educators working to reclaim professional opportunities across the city in the new year. We all know the best PDs are designed and facilitated by our own staff and the school district must stop outsourcing ourCHScollab1.png PD to opportunist corporate consultants like Mastery and Danielson. So if you want to escape from another "data-driven" school district PD day, you are invited to register for meaningful workshops at this year's three Philly Collaborations of Educators at Science Leadership Academy, McCall Elementary, and Central High School. These events depend on our collective energy and participation so propose a workshop! See below for these and many other opportunities to reclaim PD and return the professionalism to our profession!

  • January 23 - Biology PD for middle and high school teachers.
  • January 29-31 - EduCon - Register for Conversations here and create a Meetup with colleagues.

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Response to Superintendent Hite's Contract Renewal

The Caucus of Working Educators of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers does not support the School Reform Commission’s proposal to renew Superintendent Hite’s contract for an additional 5 years, while there are still more than two years remaining in his current one.

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The SRC should not decide to renew the superintendent’s contract without the data and observations of an appropriate evaluation. The School District of Philadelphia cannot afford another financial misstep.  Let us not forget the lesson from 2011, when the SRC extended then-Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s contract for one year. That very same year, the SRC fired Ackerman and bought out her contract for $905,000.

The reported reasoning for this decision includes the district’s need for stability, as opposed to evaluating Hite’s actual accomplishments. His record includes more school takeovers, privatization, layoffs, and outsourcing of union jobs that has resulted in more turmoil and instability, not less.

Philadelphia Public School students, families, and staff deserve to be a part of this decision in an actively engaged format. This decision should include actual voices, opinions, and data from the community at large, rather than another unilateral decision that looks and feels like the business as usual. The SRC should invite the community to a series of round-table discussions and actively utilize the conversations to make a more informed and shared decision in regard to Hite’s extended contract.

The SRC should use those conversations to re-evaluate the qualifications that our superintendent should possess. The School District of Philadelphia deserves a superintendent that:

  • has no affiliations with the Broad Foundation

  • is experienced with community engagement

  • demonstrated teaching and leadership experience within the School District of Philadelphia

  • demonstrates a willingness to work with all major stakeholders

  • demonstrates a commitment to public education

  • demonstrates the desire to work in conjunction with rank and file members towards a fair and equitable contract, and

  • demonstrates a passion to provide a top-notch education to all children regardless of zip code, race, ethnicity, sexuality or socioeconomic status by fighting for all of the resources lost in the last four years to be returned to each and every school.

This new proposal binds the SDP to Superintendent Hite’s leadership until August 31, 2022. Given the current situation, an early decision to renew the superintendent’s contract is not a sound decision. The district is in the midst of a budgetary crisis. The credit rating and the overall morale of the School District of Philadelphia is at its lowest. Major decisions continue to be made with zero input from the staff and families of our children. If any of these conditions cause the SRC to reconsider its decision and terminate Hite’s contract early, it could cost the district at least $300,000 per year.

If you do the math, our students simply cannot afford this decision.

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