We the members of the Caucus of Working Educators (WE) of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, decry the unjust treatment of our colleagues at the Blaine and W.D. Kelley Elementary Schools. We protest the use of a non-existent “Transformation Model” to justify the wholesale forcing out of the faculties of both schools.
The School Reform Commission has never voted to approve “Transformation” as a turnaround model. There were no community meetings announced by the district.
How could this happen? In a reprehensible bait-and-switch, the two schools were invited to apply for funds from the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP), which could help them to adjust to significant enrollment increases brought about when nearby schools closed.
The SRC voted in August 2013 to accept a $1.5 million PSP grant for each school. Although Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn told a NewsWorks reporter in March that the money would come with “no strings attached,” PSP essentially went shopping for two schools whose principals would take their money as long as they agreed to discard their teachers.
To be clear: nowhere in the application for PSP funding did Blaine Principal Gianeen Powell suggest that teacher quality or teacher technological skills were lacking at Blaine. Nowhere in the grant agreement between PSP and the School District is there a requirement for a complete turnover of the faculties.
Teachers at Blaine and Kelley were not told until March 7, 2014, after months of planning for the new grant, that they would have to reapply for their positions because their schools had been named as “Transformation Schools.” Many parents told union members just days after the district’s announcement that they knew nothing about the transformation, and were shocked that teachers were being forced out.
Teachers and staff have not been afforded due process in this phony turnaround scheme. The educators who have dedicated their professional lives to the care of some of the most vulnerable students in the city are being forced to suffer the emotional distress at having to leave their students behind, and at having to deal with the disruption of their own careers in order to further the mission of the corporate “reformers” who do not have the best interests of our children at heart.
As members of the WE Caucus, we see the violation of the rights of the Blaine and Kelly teachers as a wake-up call to all educators in Philadelphia: this can happen to you and your school.
We must strengthen our alliances with community and parents to stop this from happening to any school which PSP chooses for “transformation.” We must build on the victory of the parents and teachers who fought to keep Steel Elementary a public school.
Educators, students, and parents have been working for years across the District to transform their schools. The Caucus of Working Educators believes that local communities and those affected by school reform should be looked to for the wisdom and knowledge to transform their schools. This process should be bottom-up, participatory and highly democratic to engage schools and communities in school improvement. Philadelphia has had enough of "transformation models" imposed by outside forces.
The WE Caucus demands a full explanation by the district about how this bait-and-switch was perpetrated. We demand that the SRC explain why they are allowing this blatant injustice, under the guise of a non-existent turnaround model, to continue. We demand that the district afford the teachers at Blaine and Kelley the due process rights to which they are entitled.
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