Working Educators Get Out The Vote!

Screenshot_2015-05-11_at_8.50.56_PM.pngWith the Democratic Party primary election approaching fast on May 19th, Philly educators are working with their communities to help elect candidates who support pubic education. We wanted to share two examples of this with you. If you are able, we'd like you to be a part of these events. We also hope these will spark ideas about how you will plan to get out the vote in your own school neighborhoods.

The final full week of the campaign is the last chance to spend quality time talking to voters before heading into a full on Get Out the Vote operation in the last weekend before Election Day on May 19th. This is an important time to canvass, give out information, or hold neighborhood meetings to support the candidates. The school community at Stephen Girard Elementary is planning to do all three.

Caucus Member Tom Hladczuk has been working on canvassing plans with his colleagues at Girard Elementary. Those colleagues include Girard volunteer and Action United activist Wilma Frazier. Wilma reached out to her pastor at St. Barnabas church, Allen Jenkins Jr. to take part in the planning. The results were three events on three consecutive days:

  • On Monday, May 11th starting at 3:30, the Girard school community will canvass the neighborhood for James Kenney and Helen Gym. 
  • On Tuesday morning, Girard staff will be out in the neighborhood before school handing out flyers to community members inviting them to a meeting at St. Barnabas the next day.
  • Pastor Jenkins is also inviting his congregants to the meeting, where community stakeholders will discuss why James Kenney and Helen Gym are the two best candidates for their school and neighborhood and how everyone can help them win. If you'd like to attend the meeting, come to St. Barnabas Church at 1814 Wharton St. on Wednesday, May 13th, at 6 PM!

The final days of the election must be focused on Get Out the Vote operations. There are two goals. First, let as many people as possible know that election day is upon us. Second, check in with everyone you can and make sure they're voting!

WE member Tom Quinn designed a flyer for our endorsed candidates. We'll tackle the first goal by canvassing one of the largest events that weekend, the Italian Market Festival. We'll meet at noon on Sunday, May 17th. Point people will give out stacks of flyers to volunteers at 9th & Christian and 9th & Washington. We'll flyer the whole crowd and eat some incredible food afterwards. WE members and friends will also distribute the flyer in our school and home neighborhoods, as well as farmers' markets, stores, and other popular areas before Election Day. We encourage you to download the flyer, make copies, and help us spread the word!

The second goal, getting people out to vote, can best  be achieved by working with the campaigns and their GOTV operations. Our four endorsed candidates have all run terrific campaigns. They have detailed records and plans on who to reach out to, but they can't do all that they want to without much needed volunteers. Follow the links below to offer your help. There has been a lot of money thrown around in this race, but far more valuable than all those commercials are dedicated people who are motivated to make change happen. Talk with your colleagues, work with your community, reach out to the campaigns, and let's GET OUT THE VOTE! 

Volunteer for PFT Canvasses and Phone Banks

Volunteer for Jim Kenney

Volunteer for Helen Gym

Volunteer for Sherrie Cohen

Volunteer for Derek Green

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Help Select This Summer's Book Club Texts!

We are excited to announce a list of texts that WE and TAG members have suggested for the 2015 Summer Reading Series - but we need your help! 

Please select your top THREE choices in the survey below so we can take the next step in generating a final list of groups and facilitators. The poll will close on Wednesday, May 13th at 5pm. If you're interested in helping to facilitate one of these book groups, email contact@workingeducators.org for more info.

This year, groups will be reading through the lenses of organizing and racial justice as we work together to continue to build a movement together. Last year, nearly 100 people from across the city participated in ten different book clubs to explore how teachers and activists are building a movement for quality public education.

The final selections will be announced at the Caucus of Working Educators 1-Year Anniversary Party on Friday, May 15 at 7:00 pm. See you there!

Fill out the survey in this blog post below the picture, or at this link: http://goo.gl/forms/Wh1LFZKPzN
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Celebrate with Working Educators on May 15th!

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Everyone knows that educators are the best partiers. Thanks to inspiring educators like you, it's been an incredible first year, and we're excited to party together. As a member-led organization, this year we have:

On May 15th, join us to celebrate the One-Year Anniversary of WE with:

✭Great food & drink specials!

✭Live music and a DJ!

✭Kids Fun and Crafts area!

✭Fun for the Whole Family!

✭Catering and entertainment provided by educators and supporters!

Bring your friends, colleagues, kids, significant others, neighbors, and all other friends of public education. Everyone is welcome, whether you're a longtime WE member, interested in learning more, or just want to party!

Want to help spread the word? Download the flyer to hang in your school or give to your coworkers.

RSVP online here

WHEN
May 15, 2015 at 7pm - 11pm
WHERE
Local 22 Union Hall & bar
415 N 5th St (right above Callowhill)
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Parking available at venue!

Free to enter, but donations highly appreciated to cover costs! Donate ahead of time here, or at the door on Friday.

Music by:
-The Jackroses (Rock/Folk)
featuring WE Member Chris from Bartram H.S.!
https://thejackroses.bandcamp.com/
~
-Tamara Anderson (Singer/Performer)
Parent, community activist, and WE Steering Committee Member!
~
-Little Strike (Electronic/Alternative)
https://littlestrike.bandcamp.com/
~
-Jason Cohn (Acoustic/Indie)
http://jasoncohnmusic.bandcamp.com/
~
-Carter Woodz (Hip Hop)
Local Philosophy Professor and Member of the Hip-Hop ItAG!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFy3qFB8eSo

Food by:
-Rochelle's Soul Food from Taggart Elementary 

Drink specials:
-$1 domestic draft.
-$2 well drinks and domestic bottles

Children's Area:
-Arts & Crafts
-Board Games
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May Day 2015: Forming Bonds of Solidarity

We have said that WE cannot win the struggles we are currently waging for the future of our schools without forging bonds of solidarity with unions across the city. This Friday, join caucus members to enjoy music, food, and conversation with union members and activists from across the city-- don't forget to wear your WE shirt!

MAYDAY Rally and Festival

Friday, May 1st, 3 to 6PM

Clark Park: 43rd and Baltimore 

School nurse and WE steering committee member Eileen Duffey explains why she'll be there:

May day, the international celebration of workers is recognized here in Philadelphia in a joyous gathering including many local activists we've seen at rallies this year. It's a great opportunity to celebrate with union supporters from across the city and to honor this year's recipients of the Aggie Moran award which is given each year the May Day event. Aggie devoted her life to furthering the cause of unions and justice.

When the school nurses rallied for 22 weeks in 2012, the May Day organizers joined our rallies in solidarity. They later publicly recognized the nurses as recipients of the Aggie Moran award. In 2013 the SRC 19, a group of teachers and citizens who exercised civil disobedience when 23 public schools were shuttered, were honored at the May Day rally.

The May Day celebration is a great way to be supportive, see friends, make new friends and allies in our mutual struggles, and still be home in time to enjoy your weekend. Hope to see you there.

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What's so different about Tuesday?

Most people’s eyes glaze over when they hear “meeting”-- or even worse, “membership meeting.” 

And for good reason: meetings tend to be associated with people shouting at each other, directives from disconnected leaders, buzzwords with no action, and feeling cut out of any meaningful decision-making.

So what's different about Tuesday's meeting?

For one thing, it's a place where educators, parents, and allies come together as equals to share the issues we face in public education and strategize together for how to solve them.

It's also a place where we will be having an open, transparent discussion about caucus leadership, as well as what fights to tackle next in order to strengthen and energize the rank and file of our union. Because WE ARE THE UNION.

Sound difficult? It might be.

Sound interesting? It will be!

We hope that you will join us this Tuesday to talk openly about the work we need to do to build our union, share skills and ideas for upcoming battles, and be inspired by some of the amazing work our community is already engaged in. 

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Spring Membership Mobilizing Meeting: Tuesday, April 21st

Old First Reformed UCC

151 N 4th St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

(Childcare and parking provided- see below for more info)

 

4-4:30: Snacks and mobilizing (plug into WE members' work)

4:30-6: Membership Meeting

 

Special break-out groups:

-Elections: Discuss WE endorsements for City Council, the endorsement process, and how we can win these races.

-Opt Out Movement: How has testing affected your students and school? How can teachers and parents work together to fight back against abusive tests?

-Reclaiming our Professional Practices: Push back against increasingly absurd evaluations and discuss empowering alternatives and pedagogies.

 

Some of the work you can learn about and get engaged with:

-Mayoral and Council Races

-Opt Out

-Organizing Skills Training

-Teacher Evaluations

-Pre-Service Teacher Campaign

-Parent Organizing Committee

-Monthly Discussion Group

-NEW: Charter Teachers Committee

-NEW: Monthly WE Newsletter!

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Report from the SRC Meeting: "Continued Violation"

This report is from PFT Retiree and Caucus Member Diane Payne.

I went to the SRC meeting on Thursday, April 16th with my prepared speech, complete with examples on their continued violation of the Sunshine Act. No democracy anywhere evident in SRC proceedings. Kensington Urban High School was there in force to speak out against the school district's proposed closing of their school. In addition, resolution #10 was to suspend the school code which spells out a 3 month process in favor of a shortened 45 day process.

Students, parents, teachers, community members all spoke against both the closing and the suspension of the school code. However once again, the SRC locked arms and in complete disregard of the affected stakeholders voted unanimously to go right ahead and suspend the code in favor of a fast track to closing. (Not to mention their plans to move forward with privatizing substitute service and the convoluted Gallery tax deal.)

Another observation, at the beginning of the meeting, Chairwoman Neff informed the audience that they would be instituting a more transparent way of handling resolutions by posting them 3 weeks in advance instead of 24 hours in advance. Public voice is to be included, etc. etc. Funny that the Sunshine Act law suit is still outstanding. I wonder if they are just trying to save face because they still certainly aren't giving even a pretend nod to public engagement.

Finally, members of the Kensington School community became somewhat rowdy as the vote neared and even cursed -- the frustration of the continually silenced. They filed out after the vote and Commissioner Jimenez had the nerve to offer a "public apology" for their behavior. The arrogance of this out-of-touch-body is mind boggling. The SRC should be apologizing to them for a laundry list of harm.

The SRC meets the third Thursday every month at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium of 440 N. Broad Street. Next month, they will institute their new resolution process.  So, the list of resolutions should be posted on the website May 1st for the May 21st meeting.  To register to speak, you call 215-400-4180 by 4:30 p.m. the day before the hearing.  Also, the SRC is traveling around the city to hold "community budget meetings."  That list is also posted on the district website.  The next one is April 22nd at Bartram High School.

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Endorsements for Council At-Large

The Caucus of Working Educators is proud to endorse Sherrie Cohen, Derek Green, and Helen Gym for City Council At-Large.
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Sherrie Cohen

Caucus member Sherrie Cohen has been a very supportive and approachable presence at many WE (and TAG) events. Sherrie's parents were icons in fighting for social justice in Philly and Sherrie honors them each day. Sherrie's work as an attorney representing vulnerable tenants against exploitation from landlords has prepared her well for her legislative plans to foster development without displacement and keep families in their neighborhoods. She has a strong record of fighting for essential public services and spaces for our families, a highlight being when she successfully kept the city from closing 11 Free Libraries. As she showed on countless occasions including marching on 4/15, Sherrie has been a dedicated advocate for a living wage for all workers. Sherrie is the first out and proud LGBT candidate to be endorsed by the Democratic Party in Philadelphia. We are thrilled to help Sherrie make history and take the next step in her lifelong fight for equality for all this November.

Derek Green

As the former aide and special counsel to longtime City Councilwoman Marian Tasco, Derek Green gained a lot of valuable experience working in City Hall. Derek is seeking a spot on Council to fight for the rights and careers of hardworking lifelong teachers like his retired mother Anita. Derek also experienced first hand how much our students need and deserve by teaching part time at Olney High while attending Temple Law School. Through raising their autistic son Julian with his wife Sheila, Derek has been very interested and invested in helping our students with special needs. Derek has been an important part of many civic associations and looks to continue that advocacy work by making the crucial issues around the Black Lives Matter movement a big part of his work at City Hall. We were very impressed by Derek's commitment to many issues that mattered to us most and the wide range of support his campaign is building across the city. Derek is more than ready to make an important contribution to City Council and we look forward to helping him get there. 

Helen Gym

A former public school teacher at Lowell Elementary, Helen Gym has continued to honor the work of her colleagues and the parents of her students through her own work on behalf of families in Philadelphia. An incredible communicator, there is no candidate running for any office in this primary who can make a more dynamic case for what our students and families must have than Helen. She has a deep appreciation for what public spaces like schools, libraries, parks, and Rec centers did for her growing up. As she has raised her own children in our public schools, she has been one of our city's greatest champions in fighting back against the chronic neglect of the public spaces and the absence of vital resources our students deserve. Through her tremendous organizing work with Asian Americans United and Parents United for Public Education, Helen has been an inspiring example of what coordinated, cooperative activism within our communities can do to energize and revitalize our city. We know there would be no greater advocate for our families in City Hall than Helen Gym.

----

Caucus members have been very interested in the City Council primary election this year. We heard from the at-large candidates at our PFT political forum and had additional questions we wanted to personally ask the candidates. WE's Political Secretary Luigi Borda invited several of them to the first of our monthly "Teacher's Lounge" happy hours. The candidates who could be there participated in wide ranging interviews with members of the WE political committee (consisting of active and retired educators, along with parents) and spent a lot of time in between talking with the crowd of public education supporters. After much deliberation, the Political Committee decided on these three candidates.

Stay tuned for news about future events, especially as caucus members and supporters of our candidates prepare for a massive canvass of this year's Broad Street Run! 

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Joyful Solidarity with Fight for 15 on 4/15

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This Wednesday, join the Education Contingent at 4:00pm on the SE Corner of 30th and Market to march for a just economic system for all Philadelphians. Palumbo H.S. teacher Anissa Weinraub explains why we will be there in "joyful solidarity":

From my vantage as a teacher in the Philadelphia public schools, the Fight for 15 campaigners are not just fierce workers organizing for a better employment situation; rather, they are whole people -- the families of my students, the residents of my school community, the former graduates of my classroom.  And I am going to show up this Wednesday, April 15, to join with thousands of Philadelphians and march in support of the Fight For 15.    

You should be there too.
 
If you've ever taught a student who didn't have secure housing, enough food to eat, or regular health care because their family didn't have the money -- you should be there.
 
If you've ever had to wake up a groggy student in class who was up late working a low paying service job to help out with the bills in their family -- you should be there.
 
If you've ever had a student tell you they didn't do their homework or couldn't participate in an afterschool club because they have to take care of their younger siblings while their parents are out at their 2nd or 3rd jobs just to scrape by -- you should be there.
 
And more broadly:
If you've ever benefitted by having union protection and/or a collectively bargained contract -- you should be there.
 
If you've ever done the math and realize that a family just cannot survive on $7.25/hour -- you should be there. 
 
If you've joined in the recent protests and movement work directed toward racial justice, demanding that Black Lives Matter -- you should be there.
 
I am humbled and inspired by the courageousness of this action -- not simply to strike on Wednesday -- but to insist that we, as workers, as a city, as a whole society, can join in collective action to push back against a deeply inequitable economic system and instead build toward a changed future that prioritizes people over profit.  
 
Things will kick off at the McDonald's on Broad and Arch at 3pm, and will then march through the city toward 30th Street Station.  The Caucus of Working Educators will have an educator solidarity meet-up spot at 4pm at the SE corner of 30th and Market. 

Read the whole blog post here. See you on Wednesday!

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URGENT: Attention Parents, There's Still Time to Refuse the PSSA!

Great news! This Friday (4/10), a directive was sent to Philadelphia testing coordinators stating that any student with a letter from their parent will be able to opt out of the PSSA-- regardless of whether they've reviewed the test.

This means ANYONE can opt out of the test still*. Here's how:

Submit the following letter in writing (hand-written is fine), changing the names to suit your child and school.

Date: ______________________ 

To: _______________________ (principal's name)

From: _____________________ (parent/guardian's name)

Re: PSSA Test Refusal

As parent/guardian of _________________ (student's name) who is currently enrolled at ____________________ (school name) in the Philadelphia School District, I have serious concerns regarding the overuse and misuse of high-stakes standardized testing and its negative impact on the education my child is receiving. Therefore, my child ______________________ (student name) is under my directive as his/her parent NOT to take any PSSA assessment this school year.

I am writing to state that you must respect my legal parental rights. Do not place my child into the testing environment and do not present him/her with an assessment. My child will be considered to have refused the assessment, and you shall code his/her test as "other" as specified on page 9 of the PSSA Testing Coordinator's Handbook.

If my child has begun the PSSA, it is my wish that they complete that initial section, and that my refusal apply to all remaining sections of the PSSA not yet started. All remaining sections of the assessment shall be marked "other" for my child.

Sincerely,

_______________________ (parental signature)

cc: Superintendent Hite (hite@philasd.org)

* Please note if your child has begun a section of the PSSA (for example reading, which is the first section), you are not able to opt them out of that section.  You are, however, able to opt them out of the next sections (for example math and science).

 

Here is the directive that was sent to all testing coordinators in the School District of Philadelphia on Friday afternoon:

Every student that has submitted a written opt-out request for religious OR non-religious reasons is excused from the test.If the parent put in a religious request for exemption and reviewed the test, testing coordinators have been instructed to mark the religious exemption bubble.
If the parent put in a non-religious request or if they didn't review the test, testing coordinators are to to mark the "other" bubble.
And if you're still not sure about opting out, parent and opt-out advocate Tonya Bah (pictured below) offers this advice:
Albert Einstein wrote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The question I have for you at this point of our journey together is, “What is your genius?”

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(Above: Parent Tonya Bah educates families near Broad and Olney; Below: Parent Shakeda Gaines shows off her new Opt Out car decorations.)

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Site Selection Committees Explained

Early next week, the School District of Philadelphia will publish its vacancy list of available positions for the 2015-2016 School year. All vacancies will be filled by the site-selection process. Does your school have its Staff Selection Committee ready to go? Do you know how the teacher members of the committee were chosen? Do you know what procedures the committee must follow for interviews and hiring?

All these issues are addressed in the School District’s contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

For some frequently asked questions and the answers, please see the following:

 

1. Who can be on the staff selection committee at my school?

In elementary and middle schools the committee has five members—three teachers from the school, a parent from the school, and the principal. In high schools the committee has six members— three teachers from the school, a parent from the school, a student, and the principal.

2. Who chooses the teacher, parent, and student members and how are they chosen?

If your school has a School Council, that council chooses the teachers for the committee. IF your school DOES NOT have this council, the PFT Building Committee in conjunction with the principal chooses the teacher members. The Home & School Association (HSA) chooses the parent member, and the principal chooses the student member (in high schools).

***Principals should ask the staff who is interested in serving on the committee, and then have the SAC or Building Committee choose from the interested teachers. Teachers volunteer for this, there is no renumeration.

3. How are interviews conducted?

ALL candidates for positions in the school must be interviewed by the same committee and asked the same set of questions. The Principal, in consultation with the Staff Selection Committee, shall establish appropriate, objective criteria and procedures to identify candidates for filling vacancies.

4. What if the principal and the committee cannot agree on whom to hire?

In the event that the Committee fails to reach consensus, the Principal shall make the selection from among the three (3) most qualified applicants as ranked by the staff selection committee.

All these procedures are delineated in the PFT Contract (pages 72-73):

 

http://www.pft.org/page.aspx?pgid=102

Rules and procedures for establishing and running a School Advisory Council (SAC):

http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/uploads/N6/2w/N62weM7xPu2rNe7JrSazbw/SchoolAdvisoryCouncilGuide-Rev3.pdf

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