The Caucus of Working Educators is a diverse group of PFT members from every corner of Philadelphia. Below are just a few of their stories. We hope you will join us in our work! You can also e-mail us to get more information about membership at [email protected]
Kelley Collings, Teacher, Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences
I joined the Caucus of Working Educators because the very future of public education is at stake. If we don’t fight, there will be no more public education in Philadelphia. In order to win the fight, we need to build an engaged, politicized, and mobilized rank and file union membership that has meaningful partnerships with parent, student, and community groups at the local school level and across the city. The caucus is our best hope for making that happen.
Karina Hirschfield, Counselor, Science Leadership Academy
Last summer, every single counselor in the district was laid off, and it became clear that there are strong forces working to undermine the hard work of educators. I joined because I believe that an energized union has a better shot at fighting back against a reform agenda that is not interested in educating the “whole” child. School closures, emphasis on test scores, and loss of counseling services greatly impact student’s emotional, cognitive and physical well-being. A strong union is needed to put the brakes on practices that harm students and destroy our communities.
Sam Reed, Teacher, Beeber Middle School
I am a part of the Caucus of Working Educators of the PFT because, I think it is important that we do all we can to support our union in improving the working conditions for teachers and learning spaces for our students. I am looking forward to working with the existing PFT leadership and teachers throughout the district to transform our schools and influence education policy in our city and state.
Peggy Savage, Teacher and Building Rep, Richmond Elementary School
It is crucial that we strengthen our union and our school communities by marshaling the passion and innovation of all working educators. We want to build a member-driven union whose mission is to ensure a great education for our students and ensure the viability of teaching as a life-long career. The Caucus of WE values teacher voice and tackles issues like gender bias, structural racism, class size, lack of resources, and other issues that plague the Philadelphia School System.
Luigi Borda, Teacher and Building Rep, Masterman High School
I joined this caucus because after working for three years trying to get more teachers involved in Philly politics, I am confident that Working Educators can make an impact and accomplish real change in our city!
Yaasiyn Muhammad, Teacher, Central High School
I joined the Caucus of Working Educators as I emerged from the fog of the 2013 layoffs and acclimated to my new position at Central. As I looked around I noticed that the most active and socially conscious PFT members were members of WE. These PFT members were active in planning multiple school-based actions and included me in those plans. Up until then I felt a disconnect from my union and felt as if I had no role in the PFT. Membership in WE has shown me that active membership within a union is pertinent and has reframed how I view my union and my vocation.
Kristin Luebbert, Teacher and Building Rep, Bache-Martin School
I joined the Caucus of Working Educators because I believe that we have the skills and the rank-and-file power to change the education landscape in our city. I joined because I believe that ALL children in the city of Philadelphia deserve an equitable education-the people who work with children every day are the people who can make this happen.
Delilah Pearl Washington, Teacher, Francis Scott Key School
I joined the Caucus of Working Educators to become more involved in public education. I come from a long line of Philadelphia public school teachers. My mother and sister-in-law are current Philadelphia School District teachers. My son attends a Philadelphia public school. I believe that the collaboration between the schools, parents and the community will ensure the success of our schools. A member-driven union will ensure that our voices will be heard and that all teachers, parents and students will have the school community that they deserve.
Eileen Duffey, Nurse, Academy at Palumbo
As a school nurse who works along side of our teachers and counselors on the front lines every day, I am alarmed at the rampant disrespect being shown urban educators across this nation. I want to work to strengthen our union so we professionals who know how to help our students can work in solidarity to fight back against the draconian budget cuts that are hurting children. We have the knowledge, talent, experience and energy to reinvigorate our schools. I want to harness every bit of that passion to strengthen this union, because our working conditions are our students' learning conditions.
David Hensel, Teacher and Building Rep, Taggart Elementary School
I have a lot of respect and admiration for the people involved in starting this caucus. Some of them have done great work on behalf of our students and educators in organizations like Teacher Action Group, The Alliance For Philadelphia Public Schools, Teachers Lead Philly, and Philadelphia Counselors United. Others have done a tremendous job supporting their schools and communities as PFT building representatives. Many of us were brought closer together during these last few years of terrible decisions that have accelerated the chronic disinvestment of our city's young people. We've been out there fighting as best we can within our own groups, at times out there on our own, and we all knew that it was time for us to collectively come together and support each other through this caucus. We want the Caucus of Working Educators to be a home for others who know they must continue to speak out, to tell their story of what these cuts and poor decisions are doing to our students and their families. We will work hard to make sure they know their voices are appreciated, supported, and amplified by their fellow members. I'm honored to be a part of this caucus at the beginning. I'm excited to meet all those who plan to join in the coming months. I look forward to continuing to fight the good fight with you all.