Community Power Survey: 3-5 Minutes to Build Grassroots Power!

There's never been a more exciting time to be a member of the Caucus of Working Educators. We've built a base of educators, parents, and community members that have taken Opt Out to the streets, fought to Reclaim our PD, and brought together almost 200 people from around the city to discuss racial justice and education for this summer's book clubs-- and that's just this summer!

But this has only happened because individuals have come together to share their knowledge, skills, and passion with one another. Jane McAlevey, who visited us in April, explained that as we build relationships with one another, we begin to recognize collective resources --personal relationships, social networks, and knowledge--which can be mobilized to build power and transform our communities.

As the next step in building power, we've created a survey that will allow us to better understand and map our collective power across the city. 

Please take 3-5 minutes to fill out this Power Survey (especially if you're in an all-day 'Driven by Data' PD!). We want all WE supporters to take this, no matter what your role or involvement so far:

Just to get you interested, here's our starting map of all Philadelphia public schools. Yellow dots are elementary schools, orange are middle schools, and blue are high schools:

If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about power mapping, please email to get in touch.



An Open Letter in Defense of Art Class at Bartram H.S.

Dear Philadelphia,

I want to give you an update of conditions at Bartram. Perhaps you can spread this piece of positive news, even though it is mixed with some negative. Chris Palmer, John Bartram’s art teacher extraordinaire, has been CUT. After this year there will no longer be an art program at Bartram High School even though current Art Education Coordinator, Deborah Klose, states that all high schools should have at least two expressive art classes. There will still be CTE programs of graphic design and video production that are offered to a select group of hand-chosen students. However, the rest of the school will be left with one elective--music.

The district has predicted that Bartram’s enrollment will drop below 600 students, and thus requires less teaching staff. But, the elimination of a studio artprogram is the wrong target. Studies show that the integration of the expressive arts into school curricula has a measured positive effect in core subjects. Students need these expressive arts classes in order to aid their critical thinking and problem solving skills. Art is an essential and vital part of any high school. It breathes life into classrooms and provides yet another way for students to connect to their learning experiences. It “creates a unity of spirit and imagination,” and can help alleviate stress in an at-risk environment. Students need a chance to un-wind, express themselves, and regenerate in a district that only seems to value core subject proficiency. Studio Art, Dance, Music, and Drama are areas in which all students can express their thoughts and abilities in ways that use multiple intelligences.

Despite the lack of funding and lack of resources, Mr. Palmer, in his 7 years of tenure at Bartram, has created a strong art department worthy of any institution. He is an amazing artist who inspires students to create their own original pieces. I know that the students, their families, and staff have greatly appreciated his efforts. So, with art disappearing from the course selection at Bartram, I am extremely concerned about the detrimental effects this will have on the already distressed community of Bartram. I have seen students who are frustrated with their lack of academic success who thrive in art class.

In Mr. Palmer’s art class, I see English Language Learners, Special Education and regular education students working together in a collaborative classroom environment towards common goals…complete with differentiated instruction. I see “problem” students engaged and focused while working on their projects. I have also witnessed the undeniable therapeutic value ART has had on many of the troubled teens in the Southwest section of the city. Isn’t it ironic that this summer the PSD is offering PD for teachers in recognizing and dealing with victims of trauma?

As his farewell to the Bartram community, there will be an exhibition of pieces completed by his students of positive women role models titled, “Mothers, Daughters, Sisters.” The artwork is the companion show to his previous exhibition of positive male role models. You can see the positive impact of these previous exhibit on the lives of students in this video:

I do hope that you can spread this news on our efforts to maintain an art class at Bartram and retain Mr. Palmer as an exemplary art instructor.


Bartram High School Staff



Celebrate with Working Educators on May 15th!


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

May 15, 2015 at 7pm - 11pm
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.!
-Tamara Anderson (Singer/Performer)
Parent, community activist, and WE Steering Committee Member!
-Little Strike (Electronic/Alternative)
-Jason Cohn (Acoustic/Indie)
-Carter Woodz (Hip Hop)
Local Philosophy Professor and Member of the Hip-Hop ItAG!

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

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.




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. 


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!


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.


Oppose Charter Expansion Tomorrow: What would you buy our schools with $273 mil?


As Philadelphia educators, parents, and community members, we know the kind of schools every student in the city deserves.

Tomorrow the School Reform Commission will vote on the 39 applications for new Charter Schools. Working Educators will be there throughout the meeting to say "We Can't Afford More Charter Schools".

We are not alone. At the meeting tomorrow we will be joining allies from PCAPS, Action United, Parents United for Public Education, Youth United for Change, and more.

Furthermore, every Mayoral candidate has signed on to a letter saying "No New Charters" (except Anthony Williams, of course), as well as City Council President Darrel Clarke, Councilman Wilson Goode Jr., many City Council candidates, and other community organizations. 

We know what our schools need. In letter after letter written to the SRC opposing these new charters, WE members expressed the beautiful communities that exist in our public schools, despite an already dire financial situation. As one educator remarks:

For me, the Richmond School is an upbeat example of what a neighborhood school can be. It has strong roots in the community. It serves as common ground for students and staff of different racial groups, ethnic groups and cultural traditions, a building where we can come together in a calm and nurturing place. Generations of families have been welcome here. The stable, experienced staff is lively, vibrant, capable. Classrooms are focused on learning. I go every morning to the Richmond School because it makes me feel good about my city and hopeful about American democracy and American opportunity.

Please join us tomorrow to show the city of Philadelphia that educators, parents, and community members stand together in support of the public schools our students deserve. Sign up here and invite your friends on facebook

We will be distributing these flyers to fill out and make sure everyone knows that teachers and families are the real experts. Grab some from a WE member tomorrow, or print your own!




Some notes for attending tomorrow:

  • The full meeting will be long (probably 4 hours!), but it's essential we stay through to the vote at the end so the SRC knows educators are organized and watching. It's ok if you get there a little late.
  • Last SRC meeting, they didn't allow signs into the building at all. If you make a poster, put it on paper that you can fold up and fit in your bag.
  • WE is a member-driven union, which means our ideas come from the membership. The above posters were made by two members. What's your idea for how to make this 4 hour meeting fun and powerful? Want to use your PD to host a poster-making party? Bring balloons? Choreograph a "no new charters" dance? Do it!

For more information on the charter threat, and community-led alternatives, check out this informational flyer from PCAPS.


Push back against Charter Schools- Write a letter TONIGHT!



“No child should be harmed so another child can be helped.”

This is what Donna Cooper, executive director of PCCY, wrote earlier this week about the 39 Charter School applications which the SRC will be voting on this Wednesday, February 18th at 3:30pm.

The pressure is growing for the SRC to vote down these charter school applications and support public, neighborhood schools. As Philadelphia educators, parents, and community members, we can make it clear that Philadelphia supports strengthening its public schools- rather than putting scarce resources into a new round of financially and pedagogically questionable charters. 

If you haven't written a letter yet to the SRC opposing one of the charter schools threatening your school or neighborhood, the deadline to submit letters is tomorrow at noon. Take a look at our step-by-step instructions (including analysis and criticism provided by the district's own Charter School Office), and then make sure to send your letter to and so we can keep track of how many letters were sent.

Then, please spread this action in any education and parent networks you have. We've been hearing that parent email lists around the city are blowing up with parents opposes to these new charters- let's make sure they know that we're taking action!

Want some inspiration? The letters that have already been written and submitted show a deep love for the students and communities that make our public schools so special. Take a look, and then write your own today!

Screenshot_2015-02-15_at_6.38.11_PM.png ~ ~




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How to Protect your School and Neighborhood from Charter Takeover


On Monday, the School District announced that it would be voting on the 39 charter applications next Wednesday, 2/18. The slots to speak at that meeting have already filled up, but the district is still accepting public comment until noon on Monday 2/16.

We think that the best chance we have to influence the outcome of the charter vote is to provide specific, detailed objections to charters that are threatening the zip codes where we live and work.

Doubtful? Check out the charter application analysis reports -- the district did NOT play nice in their critiques of the holes in the applications. If you don't feel like combing through the reports one by one, take this quiz to see some of the harsh words the evaluators had for different proposals.

Reading the reports, it's also clear that the board played close attention to how much support was given for individual schools -- and also whether that support was authentic or cookie-cutter. (Independence Charter got a note in their report that they sent 100 letters... but that they were a form letter.)

We're looking to send at least 500 individualized letters to the SRC by next Monday.

Charter Letter Instruction Kit

To participate, do two things:

1. Download the instructions and follow them.

2. Collect the letters and e-mail them to both and No number is too small (or too large)! If you can get your whole school on board by calling a letter-writing session before report card conferences on Thursday, AWESOME. If you are a parent and you can get two neighbors to write, great. If there's no school targeting your zip codes, go one zip code over or write about a neighborhood that matters to you.

Remember, this is NOT a campaign against all charter applications together -- we already published that letter. Instead, we are asking you to take a look at which school(s) are near your home and work, explore what critiques were made of their applications by the district, and then write the educated, thoughtful commentary that the district and potentially the charter appeal board in Harrisburg need to hear.


Philly Teachers, Professors, Parents and Community Urge SRC to "Stop the 40 Charters"

Want to help in the work to "Stop the 40 Charters"? Email to join our Organizing Committee!


January 29, 2015 

Commissioner William J. Green, Chair

Commissioner Feather Houstoun

Commissioner Farah Jimenez

Commissioner Marjorie Neff

Commissioner Sylvia Simms

Philadelphia School Reform Commission

440 North Broad Street

Suite 101

Philadelphia, PA 191230


Re: Charter School Applications


Dear Commissioners Green, Houstoun, Jimenez, Neff, and Simms, 

We are a group of Philadelphia educators, community members and parents who would like to testify about the 40 applications for new charter schools that your body is reviewing. We operate on the premise that the goal is for all public schools to provide an excellent, equitable and holistic educational environment for all children. Thus, we implore you not to approve any more charter schools to open in our city at this time.

Looking at finances alone, opening more charters is not a sensible option for our already cash-starved district. As former School Reform Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky has noted in his recent post in The Notebook, the district loses $5,500 per student when they transfer to a charter, and $10,000 per student when they transfer from a parochial or independent school, for an average loss of $7,000 per student. According to Dworetzky, rather than going towards supporting our schools, taxpayer dollars go towards mitigating this loss. In an era where we are already operating on a severe budget deficit, we cannot risk the loss of any more money or resources for our students and teachers.

Academically, existing data about the benefits to a student attending a charter school versus a traditional public school are inconclusive, as are data about student transfer or dropout rate from charter schools, according to a recent report by Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY). Looking at the organizations that have applied to open charter schools in Philadelphia, PCCY notes that the charter schools that these organizations already operate do not reflect the demographic of traditional public schools in the district; there are fewer minority, low-income and English Language Learning (ELL) students on their rosters. Even given this statistic, according to the PCCY report, 48% of applicants’ schools report that fewer than half of the students at the schools they currently operate are on grade level for reading and math. Further, a recent Stanford report found that in reading, as compared to their counterparts in traditional public schools (TPS), 56% of students in charter schools nationally showed no significant difference in academic growth between 2010 and 2011, and while 25% did significantly better, 19% did significantly worse. In math, 40% showed no difference as compared to their TPS counterparts in their scores, while 29% did significantly better and 31% did significantly worse. 

Philadelphia is our nation’s poorest big city; 84% of our students qualify as low-income. Because the data are so inconclusive, it seems that a problematic ideology of experimentation undergirds the district’s willingness to consider increasing the number of charter schools in our city. It is ethically unacceptable to experiment with the education or future of any child, especially those who may come from more challenging backgrounds or circumstances.

As people who teach and learn in Philadelphia’s schools, and as parents, we know that the problem of educational inequity and school failure is much bigger than teachers and schools: it has to do with people’s access to health care, healthy food, steady employment and a reliable income, early childhood education, and clean water and air, amongst other factors. While there seems to be no panacea for the amalgamation of social issues that affect children’s school experiences, increasing the number of charter schools, and thus, competition, in education does not help to solve any of our city’s problems. Former New York City Schools’ Chancellor Joel Klein advocates in the recent documentary The Lottery for parents to improve education in the city by “vot[ing] with their feet”, in other words, for refusing to send their children to neighborhood public schools that are purported to be low-quality. Yet, if a good public education were free and universal, why would parents have to vote or compete at all for their children’s welfare? Rather than increasing competition and exacerbating an already inequitable schooling environment, we advocate for working together to ensure that every child has, at the very least, access to a free and quality education, regardless of which school they attend or which neighborhood they live in. 

Indeed, charter schools in cities across the United States have become vehicles not only for experimentation, but for privatization and advancement of corporate interests. This is a sad distortion of Al Shanker’s original vision: he conceived of charters as independent, non-faith based public schools that could be started by special interest groups who worked alongside traditional public schools to best meet the needs of diverse populations of students, and to maximize the expertise of teachers and administrators.

Because we do not yet have enough data to say whether charter schools operate in the best interest of the youth on their rosters, at this point, Philadelphia doesn't need more charter schools, whatever their brands or track records might be.

What we need is a commitment to strengthen our existing schools. We need leaders to call upon our state to fund all schools fully and equitably. Finally, we need vision that will help us pull our city's schools from the wreckage brought by severe underfunding and into a new phase that will allow us to meet all students' needs and aspirations.

Education is a public good, not a business enterprise. It is time to fulfill the promise of public education, and provide quality schools to all of our city’s students.



Amy Brown, MST, Ph.D.

Educational Anthropologist

Critical Writing Fellow, University of Pennsylvania

Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators


Kristin R. Luebbert, M.Ed, MS.Ed

Reading Specialist

School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators


Anissa Weinraub, M.Ed

English and Theater Arts Teacher

School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators


Mark Stern, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Educational Studies, Colgate University

Visiting Scholar, Education, Culture, and Society Program

Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania

Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators


Madeleine Nist, M.A.

Retired, School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators


Tamara Anderson, M.Ed


Lead Faculty

University of Phoenix

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools

Caucus of Working Educators (Supporting Member/Steering Committee)


Nick Palazzolo

Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators


Alison McDowell


Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools


Eileen Duffey Bernt, RN MS

Certified School Nurse

Caucus of Working Educators

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools


Mariana Pardes, M.A.

Research Associate, Villanova University

Resident of Philadelphia

Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators


Jody Cohen

Term Professor of Education

Bryn Mawr/Haverford Education Program


Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Ph.D.


Associate Professor

Department of Sociology, Saint Josephs University


Encarna Rodriguez

Associate Professor

Department of Educational Leadership

Saint Josephs University


Carolyn T. Adams, Ph.D.

Department of Geography and Urban Studies

Temple University


Magali Sarfatti-Larson, Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology (Emerita)

Temple University


Kelley Collings, M.Ed, MS.Ed

Math & Science Teacher

School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators

Teacher Action Group

Teachers Lead Philly


Sonia M. Rosen, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

School of Education

Arcadia University


Frank Bernt, Ph. D.


Department of Teacher Education

Saint Josephs University


Barbara Ferman, Ph.D


Department of Political Science

Temple University


Sukey Blanc, Ph.D.

Principal Researcher

Creative Research & Evaluation, LLC


Elaine Simon, Ph.D.

Co-Director, Urban Studies Program

University of Pennsylvania


Jerusha Conner, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Education

Villanova University


Rhiannon Maton, M.Ed

Ph.D Candidate, Graduate School of Education

University of Pennsylvania


Nina Johnson, PhD

Instructor, Graduate School of Education

University of Pennsylvania


Grace Player, M.A.

Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate School of Education

University of Pennsylvania


David Hensel


School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators, PFT


Shaw MacQueen


School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators


James Arrington, M.Ed

Ed.D Candidate, Graduate School of Education

University of Pennsylvania


Thomas Quinn


School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators, PFT


Jesse Gottschalk, M.S.Ed


School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators, PFT


Kaitlin McCann


School District of Philadelphia



Peggy Marie Savage

N.A.A.C.P-A.C.T-S.O Planning Committee

Upward Bound Math & Science Symposium Judge

N.A.A.C.P-A.C.T-S.O Lead Science Judge

W.E. Working Caucus of the P.F.T

P.F.T. Liaison PLN 5/7

E.L.L. Content Friendly Teacher 5th Grade
Philadelphia Writing Project ( E.L.L)

Philadelphia Teachers Convening Executive Team


Lisa Hantman


School District of Philadelphia

Citizen of Philadelphia


Monica Clark, M.S.

Doctoral Student

College of Education

Temple University

Citizen of Philadelphia


cc: Dr. William Hite, Superintendent

Paul Kihn, Deputy Superintendent

Matthew Stanski, CFP

Claire Landau, Assistant to the SRC

Sophie Bryan, Director, Strategy Delivery Unit