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.


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.


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.


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


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 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.



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:



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.



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.


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.


Who are WE? Come find out at an informational event near you!

Wondering about the upcoming PFT election? Have ideas for how we can transform our union, schools, and city? Want to meet member of the Working Educators Election Slate? 

You and your colleagues are cordially invited to join fellow educators and union members at one of the many "Who are WE?" Informational Events throughout the city this December.

Whether you've never thought about union politics before, or have bookshelves crammed full of labor history, WE need your experiences and ideas in order to strengthen our union and defend our schools.


"Who are WE?" West Philly Happy Hour
Friday, December 11th - 3:30-5:30pm
Local 44 (4333 Spruce St., 19104)


"Who are WE?" Northwest Happy Hour
Friday, December 11th - 4:00-6:00pm
Johnny Mañana's- East Falls (4201 Ridge Ave, 19129)


"Who are WE?" North Philly Happy Hour
Wednesday, December 16th - 3:30-5:30pm
Tierra Colombiana (4535 N. 5th St., 19140 )


Holiday Fundraiser
Friday, December 18th - 4:30-8:00pm
Private residence in NE
Email [email protected] for address.


Applebee's Breakfast Fundraiser (Roxborough)
Sunday, December 20th - 8:00-10:00am
Applebee's Roxborough (8601 Henry Ave, 19128)
Join the Caucus for a kid-friendly fundraiser!
Adults $10, Kids (under 12) $5


Meet the Slate Fundraiser
Tuesday, December 22nd - 5:00-7:00pm
American Legion Post #366 Auxillary (7976 Oxford Ave, 19111)
$25.00 (Friend of the Caucus); $50.00 (Supporter of the Caucus)
Drinks and light fare. RSVP here.


 "Party for your Right to Fight" Fundraiser
Wednesday, December 30th - 6:00-9:00pm
Kelley's place (441 W. Earlham Terrace 19144)


Or join us for a "Who are WE?" Session at a nearby school- or get in touch to schedule one at your school! We'll make sure slate members come to any school that's interested with information.

12/9, Girls' High (Contact: Tatiana Olmedo)
12/10, Northeast High School (Contact: Marcy Weisberg)
12/14, King HS (Contact: Adam Blyweiss)
12/15, Penn Treaty (Contact: Peggy Savage and Kristin Combs)
12/15, Central (Contact: Yaasiyn Muhammad)
12/17, Wilson (Contact: Carlos Frederick)
12/18, Germantown HS Diaspora (Contact: Ismael Jimenez)
12/21, Franklin Learning Center (Contact: Catie Khella)
12/22, Wister (Contact: Robin Lowry)
12/23, Potter Thomas (Contact: Tamiko Mitchell)


Vote Working Educators: Our Slate

Our union is 11,000 members strong, and the ultimate power of the PFT comes from those individuals. Below are nine candidates who have distinguished themselves as leaders among the rank and file, working to empower and support their colleagues in every way they can. They bring determination, experience, and vision to their work. 

Amy2.jpgPresident - Amy Roat

Amy has been teaching middle school English Language Learners for nine years at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences (FSAS) in North Philadelphia. For fifteen years prior, Amy taught elementary grades throughout Philadelphia and in the Rochester City School District in New York State. She is a graduate of Manhattan College and holds two master’s degrees: an M.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. in Urban Education from Temple University. Amy has been fostering solidarity as the PFT Building Representative at FSAS for the past three years and served on the Building Committee for three years before that. Amy is also a proud member of Opt Out Philly. Drawing on a family history of unionism and political activism, Amy combines fierce determination with equanimity. She has repeatedly demonstrated her ability to communicate with families, fellow PFT members, and the press in a clear and forthright way.

Yaasiyn.jpgVice President - Yaasiyn Muhammad

Yaasiyn is a product of the School District of Philadelphia.  He graduated from Martin Luther King High School in 2004, and from Temple University with both his B.A. and M.A. degrees in 2009. First hired at Northeast High School, Yaasiyn lost that position during the district layoffs in 2012 and now teaches at Central High School. As an African American History teacher, Yaasiyn's passion for justice and equality translate into the lessons he delivers his students. Those lessons have focused on the overarching themes of social justice, and this focus has carried over into his work outside of the classroom as well.  Yaasiyn has displayed a keen ability to hold tough conversations with teachers across the city. Combined with his demonstrated strengths as an organizer, Yaasiyn's work has expanded the capacity of the Caucus to effectively articulate the mission of social justice unionism.


Peggy.jpgSpecial Vice President, Elementary Schools - Peggy Savage

Peggy is a fifth grade classroom teacher at Richmond Elementary School. She has been an educator for 33 years, with 31 years in the School District of Philadelphia. Peggy served as PFT Building Representative for over twenty years, and recently “retired” into the role of Political Liaison at her school. Peggy is a Need in Deed first year teacher, an NAACP Science & Math judge, an alumna of and teaching consultant for the Philadelphia Writing Project, a Lead Teacher for Senator Vincent Hughes' S.O.S Summer Literacy Program, a member of the Philadelphia Teachers Convening Steering Committee, a judge for the Temple Upward Bound Math & Science Symposium, and a Co-Founder of the Girls on Fire summer writing program. She holds a B.A. from Mansfield State University and an Master’s from La Salle University.


Kelley.jpgSpecial Vice President, Middle Schools - Kelley Collings

Kelley has been a Philadelphia public school teacher for fifteen years. She currently teaches Math at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences and has also taught at Hunter Elementary. Prior to becoming a teacher, she was a community and parent organizer for over a decade in cities across the country, including New York, Dallas, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. She and her colleagues at Feltonville School of Arts & Sciences helped fuel the local movement against high-stakes testing in Philadelphia this spring when they publicly organized 40% of the families at their school to opt out of testing. She holds a B.A. from Colgate University, an M.S. from St. Joseph’s University, and an M.Ed. from Arcadia University. Kelley is a founding member and current Co-Chair of the Caucus of Working Educators of the PFT, as well as a leader of the Teacher Action Group of Philadelphia.



Ismael.jpgSpecial Vice President, High Schools - Ismael Jimenez

Ismael is a dedicated educator, who for the last ten years has worked with children in both preschool and high school settings. Born in Philadelphia and a graduate of Temple University, Ismael spent time working at a child care program serving children living in transitional housing, and then became a social studies teacher in the School District of Philadelphia in 2009. He taught at Germantown High School until it closed in 2013, and currently teaches African American History at Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School. Ismael has been an active Building Committee member for every year he has worked in an SDP school. He has also facilitated several district-sponsored professional development sessions on issues ranging from structural racism to bridging the knowledge gap of students between high school and postsecondary institutions. Ismael's teaching and activism are rooted in the theoretical framework developed by Paulo Freire, which emphasizes the role that education plays in the transformation of the world.


Eileen.jpgRecording Secretary - Eileen Duffey

Eileen is a fearless, relentless advocate for public schools. As a 21-year veteran school nurse, she currently works at Academy at Palumbo and Stearne Elementary, and has previously worked at Meredith, Nebinger, and Furness. She earned her B.S. and M.S. from St. Joeseph’s University, and her nursing degree from Hahnemann. She is a proud member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, and co-produced the video "Our Schools Are Not for Sale," which won the nationally-recognized Home Town Media Award. In 2011, she successfully organized and led a 22-week rally which brought national attention to Philadelphia’s layoffs of school nurses. Since then, Eileen has continued to pressure the District to resist outsourcing the work of certified school nurses. She strengthens her organizing work by cultivating relationships with church communities, educational leaders, city councilpersons, and grassroots activists. She is a member of POWER through her church. 


Tasha.jpgAssociate Secretary  - Tasha Russell

Tasha has been teaching in the school district for 20 years. She currently teaches at Wagner Middle School, and has also taught at Kinsey Elementary, Stetson Middle School, Lowell Elementary, and Roosevelt Middle School. She  holds certifications in Physically and Mentally Handicapped, BCIT (Technology), and Educational Administration. She is a longtime Teaching Consultant with the Philadelphia Writing Project, as well as Teachers Lead Philly fellow. She earned her B.S. at Penn State and holds two M.Ed. degrees: one from Penn State and one from Cabrini College. She is currently completing her Ed.D. in Educational Technology at the University of Phoenix.


Pamela.jpgTreasurer - Pamela Roy

Pamela has taught students in the School District of Philadelphia for nine years, at Hopkinson, Edwin Vare, Roberto Clemente, and currently at Mifflin Elementary. She holds a B.A. from Bard College and an M.S. from Michigan State, and is certified in Elementary Education, Middle Years Science, and Biology. Besides the caucus, she is a Public Youth Forum Debate coach in the middle school league, a Need in Deed experienced network member, a member of Philly Core Leaders, and a board member for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of Americans for Democratic Action. Her graduate degree in science, attention to detail, and love of organization, spreadsheets, and analysis give her the skills to deal with the minutiae involved in handling and safeguarding our collective resources.


George.jpgLegislative Representative - George Bezanis

George has been teaching since 2001, and joined the School District of Philadelphia nine years ago as a Social Studies teacher. He first taught for four years at Edison High School and now works at Central High School, where he also serves as a PFT Building Representative. He holds a B.A. from Penn State Honors and an M.Ed. from Holy Family University. As both a teacher and the proud father of two Philadelphia public school students, he believes that fair and equitable public education--no matter what race, ethnicity, zip code, or socioeconomic class a child happens to be born into--is the building block of American democracy. Not afraid to speak truth to power, George has given several standout speeches to the School Reform Commission. Apart from being a proud public school parent and teacher, he is also an elected Democratic Committee person in the 63rd Ward and President of the Fox Chase Homeowners Association.


Occupy the SRC on Nov 19th & Fight to Keep our Schools Public

On October 15, members of Working Educators filled the SRC meeting along with many of our friends in the Philly Education community. On Thursday, November 19th, we will do it again!

Parents and teachers from Cooke, Huey, and Wister will be present to testify about how their communities want the respect and adequate funding they deserve, not privatization of their schools! Join us outside 440 at 4:30, and inside the meeting afterwards. RSVP and share on social media by clicking here.
Bring your work to show what we do #beyondthebell. Help fill the speaker's list by sharing testimony. Bring your phones and cameras to take photos and video. Live tweet, post, and share your views on a public meeting. Follow our Twitter @CaucusofWE as we live tweet it. 

We do not show up to SRC meetings with the expectation to change their minds, but join with fellow education advocates to stand up for the truly democratic, community process Philly schools deserve. As the saying goes, the people united will never be defeated. On November 19th, help us flood the SRC meeting with public education supporting teachers and families! Let's show them what a REAL public meeting looks like! 
Check out some of the testimonies from Working Educators members at the last month's SRC meeting. 
George Bezanis:
For more testimonies from WE Members and our parent & community allies, please see Ken Derstine's videos here:
Join us on Thursday as we continue to speak truth to power, stand up for a democratic vision for our schools and communities,  and #OccupyTheSRC!

Why Working Educators? Our Platform

Thanks to all who attended our Second Annual Convention last Saturday! We introduced our slate of candidates for Executive Office, as well as unveiled our platform, which reflects the opinions and priorities of the many educators who turned out for our city-wide listening sessions. 

We'll be introducing you to the candidates over the next week. As for our platform, below is a partial summary of how our work would transform the PFT. If you'd like to check out our complete platform, see this document. Our platform is not a laundry list of campaign promises -- it is a template for how to improve how our union operates. We'll be highlighting additional sections of it in the coming weeks.

Want to share this with fellow educators? Click here to download a printable PDF version.


7 Ways Your Vote for Working Educators Will Mean Positive Change for the PFT

1. You will have a central office and staffers that listen and respond. We will send and receive direct phone calls and email.

2. Your Building Representative will become an expert. Veteran reps will help train newer reps, and we will use regional meetings to hear about member needs.

3. You will have a chance to read and understand your contract before voting. You deserve to know exactly what you are voting on.

4. When an event is coming up, you will know about it. Working Educators will share information earlier and through more channels -- both in person and online.

5. Your union will fight for you on all fronts. Court victories are great, but not enough. Working Educators will keep up the PFT’s legal fight, and also expand our alliances with parents, community groups, politicians, and other unions — so that the entire city on is on our side.

6. You will have a union that supports you as a professional educator, not just an employee. You know what works best for your students. We will protect your profession and fight for the resources you need.

7. You will belong to a PFT that builds power by involving ALL members. We’re the largest union in Philly. Our numbers are our strength!


Standing Together: Educators Fight for $15 Minimum Wage on Nov. 10th

On November 10 fast food workers in Philadelphia and across the nation will hold strikes and rallies to support the effort to establish a $15 minimum wage and expand the right of workers to unionize. In Philadelphia, educators will be there in solidarity.

4.15.15.Fightfor15March.jpgThis event, one year before the 2016 general election, begins a year of organizing and voter registration efforts meant to ensure that candidates hear the voice of workers and their families. This campaign also seeks to ensure that elected officials support policies that promote economic justice, including a livable and sustainable wage. Caucus of Working Educators stands in solidarity with these workers and organizers in their fight. As part of our Racial Justice Statement, we recognize economic justice as an essential part of supporting our students and eliminating structural racism in education.

Fightfor15.Eileen_Duffey.jpgAs workers we know that in order to build a just economy we must support each other and stand together. As educators we know that too many of our students and too many of their families find it harder to achieve their goals and reach their potential because of economic inequality. As working educators we know that schools and society can not be improved in isolation from each other, but must be rebuilt together by the community. 

t10906199_948594501867150_6916163835226543005_n.jpgOn Tuesday Fight for 15 will take another step in that effort. In the year ahead we look forward to working alongside them to promote racial, economic, and social justice for all of Philadelphia’s students and their families.

Please join us as educators and workers on Tuesday for the Fight for $15 National Day of Action:

Tuesday, November 10th
City Hall