Response to School District of Philadelphia's "Comprehensive School Planning Review"

This week, the School District announced a plan to study building use and demographic changes in Philadelphia.

While we recognize that studies like these are necessary to guide increased investment in our schools and prevent overcrowding of our classrooms, we want to ensure that the school district centers the communities of color -who make up the majority of Philadelphia residents and students- as they move forward with this decision-making process. 

These studies will provide data that will be used to make decisions that will impact Philly’s students, educators, and families for decades to come. If our goal is truly to create vibrant public schools that support all students in our city to learn and grow, the true stakeholders in every school community must have power in this process.

In order to guide the district's "Comprehensive School Planning Review", we propose the following principles:

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WE Summer Reading Series Can Lead to so Much More

By Blair Downie 

Sign up for the 2019 Summer Reading Series here!  

There’s nothing quite like a middle school environment when PSSA testing has concluded and the weather is getting warmer. As the testing coordinator of my school, my brain is pretty much jello once we ship that final box back to the DRC. It was that jello brain that desperately needed a break as I  was waiting for UPS, checking the PFT Facebook page, and I saw a post advertising WE’s Summer Book Clubs. The description of the Summer Book Clubs jumped out to me: “the Reading Series will be a place to deepen our relationships with each other; expand our political analysis, and inform our organizing and teaching in the upcoming year.” This sounded appealing, even to my post-PSSA jello brain. An opportunity to spend time over the summer talking about things that I cared deeply about with other people who cared deeply of those things - sign me up!

I signed up for the group that planned to discuss So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo. I received an email shortly after letting me know how the book would be divided into three parts for three different meetings. I bought my copy and off I went to meet up with friends at the beach for a long weekend. While So You Want to Talk About Race may not be a traditional beach read, there I was dog-earring pages and scribbling notes in the sun. I was so excited to share my thoughts and notes at our first meeting.

As I drove down Lincoln Drive on the way to our first meeting at the Unitarian Society of Germantown, I had no idea what to expect. As somebody who struggles with being perpetually early to everything, I was, of course, one of the first people to arrive and had to walk around the building aimlessly, looking for a door. I was definitely nervous to be around a group of new people, but I’d soon learn that there was nothing to be nervous about. The first book club meeting far exceeded my expectations. Everybody was warm and welcoming and the facilitators framed the discussion with norms that made everybody a bit more comfortable. The discussions were rich, the snacks flowed freely, and two hours seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. I could never have fathomed at that moment that my first book club meeting would end up being a jumping-off point for me and so much of the work that would encompass the next year of my life. I felt like I had finally found a space that not only validated that caring about racial and social justice was vital to our role as educators but lifted up that passion in ways I could never have imagined.

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Caucus Petition Leads to New Air Conditioning Units in Philly Schools

On Wednesday, May 15, the school district announced that more than 20 new buildings will be getting updated cooling systems. After over a year of organizing to improve building conditions in Philly schools, the Caucus of Working Educators is proud to celebrate this victory with all the staff, students, and community members who fought for air conditioning in every school building.

This year, rank-and-file members of the PFT organized to demand an end to toxic conditions in our schools. The petition below represents thousands of face-to-face conversations with rank-and-file PFT members. Over 2,500 members signed the petition demanding air conditioning in every learning space. Extreme heat in school buildings was a cause of several school closures last summer as well as a major asthma trigger. Asthma is one of the leading causes of absenteeism in Philly schools. The petition also demands lead remediation and robust pest control in every Philadelphia public school.

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Vote for a Philly Teacher on May 21st!

This past year we have witnessed thousands of teachers across the country regain their voice in the fight to save public education. Teachers have started using some of the strongest tools we have to regain power: striking, media campaigns, and of course, running for office.

Not only are teachers running for office in record numbers- they are winning. The public trusts teachers to make strong decisions that will better both our schools and our communities.

In the Democratic Primary next Tuesday May 21st, we have the chance to vote a teacher, PFT member, and education activist into Philadelphia city politics: Luigi Borda, a middle school history teacher and WE member, is running for Philly City Commissioner.

Push Button #37 on May 21st to Vote for Luigi Borda for City Commissioner!

What is the Philly City Commissioner? Commissioners make the elections happen, ensure that they are fair, and support voter turnout. Luigi Borda has spent the last ten years demonstrating a single minded determination to increase Philadelphia voter turn-out. How? Just a few of Luigi's strategies include:

  • Educate and energize students and voters of all ages, races and parts of the city to turn Philadelphia into a voting Powerhouse
  • Bombard our schools with resources to get young people to vote. He wants to visit every neighborhood block party this summer with a mobile “voting van” to teach everyone the process of how to register, understand a ballot, and vote.
  • Make sure that every local ward leader has the machines, people and energy they need to increase their own local turn-out, and he plans to hold them accountable for their numbers.

Politicians and the public must see that teachers are serious about doing whatever it takes to save public education in Philadelphia. They must see that we are a powerful voting bloc, and we will come together to put our strongest advocates into office. We hope you will join Luigi’s teacher’s campaign by doing the following four things:

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Building Committee Boot Camp THIS Week!

Building Committee Boot Camp

  • Wednesday, May 1st // 4:30 - 6:30 PM // Kensington CAPA (1901 N. Front St.)
  • Saturday, May 4th // 9AM - 11AM // Rittenhouse Political Partners (151 S. Broad St.)

(These are repeat sessions, you can pick either one!)

Are you a new member of your school's Building Committee, or a veteran who wants to share your skills? How do you run a great PFT chapter meeting? How do you get people to come to your meeting? How do you organize to solve problems and effectively deal with administration? 

Get answers to these questions and more at this event, which is organized by veteran PFT Building Reps. This event is focused on Building Committee Members and Building Reps, but everyone is welcome who wants to help strengthen your school. 

Click here to RSVP now!

Schools that send three or more members of their BC to the event will be granted a $25 Dunkin Donuts gift card to support their first PFT chapter meeting as a newly elected group! 

 

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Affordable CPR Certification for SDP Staff

NEW Date and Location:

Saturday, May 11th

9AM - 11:30AM

First United Methodist Church of Germantown (6001 Germantown Ave.)

RSVP Here

This event is specifically organized for district paraprofessionals, who are required to regularly renew their Red Cross CPR certification at their own expense. The training typically costs $80-100, but we have organized a group rate and will offer it for just $30 (or less, depending on our registration numbers). 

Please reach out to the Paraprofessionals and SSAs in your building to see if they would benefit from this program. Click here to RSVP now!

 

 

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Grad Credits and Salary Upgrades Workshop

Graduate Credits & Salary Upgrades Workshop

Thursday, May 23rd // 4:30 - 6PM // Kensington CAPA (1901 N. Front St.)

Have you maximized your salary as a school district employee? At this workshop, we will share the most effective ways to earn graduate credits online in order to shift to a better salary schedule, as well as how to navigate the district process of submitting the paperwork. Anybody who has not yet earned any graduate credits on top of their Bachelor's or Master's degree should be at this event. See the flyer above for more info, and click here to RSVP Now!

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Pack City Hall to Heal Our Schools on Monday, 4/15

On Monday, 4/15 we are bringing 3000+ PFT and community signatures to City Council during their annual budget hearings!

Will you join us at City Hall at 4:30pm on Monday, 4/15?

Over 100 PFT members and allies will be delivering our "Heal Our Schools" Petition, and several educators will be testifying on the deteriorating conditions where we work and students learn every day. In order to restore the funding our schools need, we will demand an end to the tax abatements that could bring tens of millions to Philadelphia public schools. Click here to RSVP.  

Share the event on Facebook by clicking here!

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When We Fight We Win: Join UTLA At Our 5th Annual Convention!

When We Fight We Win: Join UTLA At Our 5th Annual Convention!

For nearly two years, 35,000 educators in more than 900 schools in Los   Angeles organized to fight for a fair contract. In January 2019 they went on strike  for the schools Los Angeles students and families  deserve - and   won .

How do we make Philly #UTLAStrong?

Join Georgia Flowers-Lee and Gillian Russom from UTLA, Maurice Weeks from Bargaining for the Common Good , and PFT members, parents, and allies, on April 6, 2019 for a day of workshops to learn how the UTLA rank and file are transforming their union, building power, demanding a fair contract, fighting for racial and economic justice in LA - and winning!

Flowers-Lee and Russom are both members of the UTLA executive board, classroom teachers, and regional organizers of the recent strike. Get to know Flowers-Lee on the picket line and listen to Russom in this interview  on day 2 of the strike.

UTLA leaders have served as mentors for the Caucus  for years, including hosting 10 of us in Los Angeles in August 2017 at a conference designed to support Working Educators and like-minded caucuses. (UTLA is currently led by the Union Power caucus, a sister caucus of WE.)

SAVE THE DATE: WE Annual Convention  on Saturday, April 6th.

Make sure you register yourself and members from your school on this form!  http://bit.ly/MakePhillyUTLAStrong

And, you can donate here to support making this organizing happen!

https://www.gofundme.com/when-we-fight-we-win-making-philly-utlastrong

Here is our agenda.  We can't wait to see you.

 

Sat. April 6, 2019 (9:30-3:30pm), Temple University,

Tuttleman Bldg, 809 N 13th St, Phila 19122

9:30 AM - Registration & Breakfast

9:45 - 10:15 AM - Putting Racial Justice At the Center

10:15 - 11:15 AM - Keynote 1 - Maurice Weeks (Bargaining For the Common Good)

11:30AM - 12:15PM - Breakout 1 - Contract Issue Groups

12:15PM - Tax Abatement Action

12:15 - 1:15 PM - Lunch

1:15 - 2:00 PM - Keynote 2 - Georgia Flowers Lee and Gillian Russom (UTLA)

2:15 - 3:00PM - Breakout 2 - Building Contract Action Teams

3:15- 3:30 PM - Closing

6:30-8:00 PM - Organizing for the Common Good (Calvary Center, 801 S. 48th St)

 

 

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Educators Deliver Petition to End Our Toxic Schools

On Thursday, March 28, the Caucus delivered a petition signed by nearly one quarter of the entire Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, demanding that the School District of Philadelphia abate the toxic building conditions in our schools.

Working_Educators-Building_Conditions_Petition_Banner_LO_RES.jpg

(Click to see high resolution version)

The demands are:

  • Make a plan to remediate all lead, mold, and asbestos - in all of our schools - NOW
  • Make a plan to treat all rodent infestations in all of our schools - no
  • Make a plan to overhaul all heating and cooling systems in our schools - now
  • Fund this repair with an end to the 10-year tax abatements on large property owners in Philadelphia and collecting Payments in Lieu of Taxes from universities like UPenn.

The petition was signed by over 3,300 educators, parents, students and community members, the majority of whom were PFT members. The petition has signatures from over 100 schools in the District -- representing nearly half of the schools in the District. This is a huge victory for our rank and file, in our fight for racial and economic justice, and in the fight against dispossession of public education in Philadelphia.

One hundred educators were present at tonight’s Board of Education meeting. The petition was delivered via email after the Board of Education went into recess after student protests on the vote for mandatory metal detectors.

WE will deliver the petition to City Council members on Monday, April 15th at 4:30PM on the 4th floor of City Hall -- RSVP HERE! WE will also present the petition in person at the April Board of Education meeting.

 

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