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Renaissance Schools to expand

By Benjamin Herold on Jan 4, 2012 03:54 PM

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook and WHYY/Newsworks

UPDATED 9:30 p.m.

There will be a year three of the Renaissance Schools initiative after all.

Despite significant uncertainty caused by ongoing budget cuts and leadership changes, the District announced today that it will expand its program for converting low-performing schools to charters. Prospective "turnaround teams" are invited to submit proposals by February 7, three months later than last year.

"Even in this difficult budget environment, the District is not sitting still on our goal of improving outcomes for students," said District Deputy for Strategic Programs Thomas Darden. "The decision to move forward with another round of Renaissance Charter Schools is an important part of our overall strategy."

Both the schools targeted for turnaround and the final list of outside providers that will compete to manage them will be announced on February 20. Darden would not yet say how many schools the District anticipates converting to charters during this third round of the Renaissance initiative, which began under the leadership of former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

"The ultimate goal is to turn underperforming schools into highly effective schools," according to a press release from the District. "By continuing this initiative the District underlines its commitment to the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact." 

The Compact, recently signed by city, state, District, and charter leaders, calls for "replacing or transforming at least 5,000 low-performing seats annually for each of the next five years, beginning in 2012-13."  

The District recently announced that it is scaling back its internally managed turnaround schools, called Promise Academies, for financial reasons.

District and charter officials also expressed concern last November that the window was rapidly closing for identifying low-performing schools and matching them with new outside managers. Two months later, that window is even tighter. Though a similar timeline was deemed to be too rushed after the first year of the Renaissance process, Darden downplayed any concerns about timing.

"The start date this year still allows us to meet the timeline we had last year for a March SRC vote on the match recommendation," said Darden in an emailed response to questions submitted to the District's communications office.

Darden also said that there will be no changes in how the process for matching targeted schools with new management will work. School Advisory Councils consisting of parents and community members will still review proposals and make a recommendation on which provider should assume control of their schools.

Darden added that the Renaissance initiative will continue to target "chronically underperforming schools" and that "performance will continue to be the main driver in the process of school selection." He did, however, say that "any final decision on Renaissance School selection will include input from our Facilities Master Plan and other considerations."

Last year, 16 schools were designated as "Renaissance alert" schools that could be targeted for future turnaround if they failed to show improvement.

During the first two years of the Renaissance initiative, the District's process for selecting schools and matching them with outside providers has at times been controversial

So far, the District has converted 13 schools to Renaissance charters. The first cohort of seven Renaissance charters touted significant test score gains during their first year. Despite concerns that outside charter operators might weed out students who were particularly difficult to serve, a Notebook analysis found that those schools continued to enroll children from their surrounding neighborhoods.

Scott Gordon, the CEO of Mastery Charter Schools, which currently operates five Renaissance charters, said his group intends to apply for more during year three.

"We are certainly prepared to do two or three schools this year," said Gordon. 

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Comments (167)

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on January 4, 2012 5:30 pm

What schools have been targetted? or identified in politically correct speak?

Submitted by Paul Socolar on January 4, 2012 5:35 pm

No schools have been identified.

Submitted by Joe DiRaddo (not verified) on January 5, 2012 6:00 pm

Mr. Darden: Are we committed to our schoolchildren and their school communities or are we committed to the "compact" which is committed to the Gates Foundation which is committed to the privatization of public schools?

Turning our schools over to educational management organizations that we call charters is what you are planning. That is not what the charter school movement is even about. The charter school movement is about the hundreds of "true charter schools" which founded their schools pursuant to the charter school law and its intent to provide individuals and groups of teachers the opportunity to start a school based on innovative model of instruction.

A school which does not have its own independent board of trustees is not a charter school at all under the Charter Schools Act. You should try reading it some time.

In Denver, as in Philly, the best schools are still regular public schools founded, governed and led long before charter schools were ever created.

Why don't we open more seats in those schools?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 4, 2012 5:19 pm

This is enough to make me want to quit teaching. Why was this article written as if this were a good thing?

Apparently the new SRC was sent here to destroy public schools, too.

Submitted by Raheem (not verified) on January 4, 2012 6:24 pm

With all due respect, are you at all surprised? This is par for the course until public education is disbanded or - by grace and a miracle - a sane and intelligent person is put in command of educating our children.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 15, 2012 8:44 pm

I read this post and almost found myself being transported to another universe. Philly may have the best of intentions towards its young citizens. However, having a close firsthand knowledge of one middle school promise academy, I can tell you that what has evolved is an organization run by an egotistical individual so determined to "look good" for the visitors that he is willing to hammer his teachers. I sincerely believe that some administrators are so bent on 'saving face" that they are placing demands on their teachers that cannot possibly be met. Further, frankly, some of them cannot legally be met. Teachers are routinely harassed by memos and many times are given unsatisfactory evaluations for ridiculous reason. In one case, a teacher was chastised for using internet materials while working with her students (some of which were as much as 3 years behind academically and have emotional disabilities). This writeup included the fact that the "core criticulum was not used" though the materials used were quite successful in meeting the objectives of the lesson. There was little regard for the fact that the teacher simply recognized that her students would not and could not understand the grade level material - simply because they could not read. In short, she modified the lesson because legally under the special education laws that is what must me done.
Dedicated teachers are getting thoroughly disgusted at the attitude and behaviors of these people. As a special education parent it is appalling to me. I believe that if parents were truly aware of what was going on most of this would stop and schools could return to what they do best...educating students, not impressing a group of people who are obviously clueless as to what it takes to educate a child.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 4, 2012 9:18 pm

It does look like "deja vu all over again" coming again. Now doesn't it?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 4, 2012 9:01 pm

Yes, it sure does, we go again with the forced transfers and the like. If anyone is anyone, they have to see that the Promise Academies are a bust and are failing miserably.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 4, 2012 10:05 pm

Money Talks 24/7. Until WE the PEOPLE stop it, it will continue.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 4, 2012 5:52 pm

Is the release posted somewhere? I didn't see it on their site.

Submitted by Erika Owens (not verified) on January 4, 2012 7:07 pm

Looks like the release still isn't on the District's site and two pages for Renaissance Schools haven't been updated either. Here's a PDF of the release.

Submitted by Ryan (not verified) on January 5, 2012 8:13 am

This article is very well-written and informative.
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Submitted by Timothy Boyle on January 4, 2012 5:28 pm

 The correlation between Renaissance Match and SPI was tenuous before Wiener left for NYC. Now SPIs are abandoned. What is left to make the data-driven decisions?, School Improvement Grant funding criteria. Though I wouldn't be surprised if the ridiculous list devised to award vouchers that included zero failing charter schools (cyber or otherwise) came back from the dead on this one. If the SRC wants to build upon the credibility it has garnered from the FMP process (post-Ackerman) than it should come up with how it plans to designate schools for Renaissance and release the information next week.

Submitted by SOS 60 on January 5, 2012 8:28 pm

Tim, why do you say the SPIs are abandoned?

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on January 8, 2012 8:18 am

 They are no longer listed under each schools webpage and we were not issued a new one this fall. The Annual Review document remains and is used for action planning purposes. I was never a fan of SPI because its weight toward PSSA scores made the rest of the information pretty useless, especially at the elementary level. The cheating scandal also put some serious doubt into the vailidity of the decisions made using that data set. Logan School for instance, was awarded Vanguard status and then had their scores plummet. Strawberry Mansion had the highest similiar schools ranking and then had their scores fall precipitately.  

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 8:42 am

Roosevelt Middle School also had their scores plummet after being taken out of the "empowerment" category. I've worked on our SIP and it is a rehashing of primarily test prep or related objectives. Does anyone know about the money PDE will receive which is for STEM and teacher/administrator evaluation? I hope it isn't similar to the current SIP model.

Submitted by SOS 60 on January 8, 2012 9:30 am

Tim, I believe the District's intention is to continue using SPI. They have admitted that this year's are late in coming out. I would think too given the Compact, and emphasis on "good schools" of all kinds, the SPI is the only means available at this time to compare apples to apples. I expect the SPIs out soon

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on January 10, 2012 1:56 pm

As part of the Great Schools Compact, the District, SRC, city, state and a group of charters have committed to agreeing upon a new accountability metric that apparently will be based on SPI but contain some tweaks/changes.  According to the document, the deadline for agreeing to this new metric is May 1, 2012.  The District and SRC are currently forming a 'Compact Committee' that will be tasked with working on this metric, among other things.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 15, 2012 8:01 pm

It should be noted that Logan was under the command of a new administrator after the other one left the district. Was there cheating previously? Or is the new principal awful? Who knows - so many variables in deeming a school "successful" or not.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 4, 2012 6:08 pm

In short, does this mean that the teachers will have to go through what happened last year? Are jobs again in jeopardy? Plain English please! The insanity never stops in this place!

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on January 4, 2012 7:12 pm

I assume it will mean many cuts... and many more non-unionized teachers, custodians, nurses, etc. Does this mean Mastery, Aspira and Universal will get more schools? Nutter said he wants 50,000 seats eliminated in the SDP with schools becoming charters or closed. That is a lot of jobs. We can assume they'll start with high schools. Will there be any neighborhood high schools left in Philly? There has to be somewhere to send students who are not admitted to other schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 4, 2012 8:23 pm

All that's left will be AD 4.

Submitted by tom-104 on January 4, 2012 7:43 pm

This is the next step in a years long strategy to privatize our public schools. Arlene Ackerman was the Moses who showed the way for them to their imagined Promised Land of privatization. The current SRC is showing no signs that the privatization program does not continue full steam ahead.

Mayor Nutter was just reelected (with the enthusiastic endorsement of the leadership of the PFT). Immediately after being sworn in to his second term, he reveals his true agenda for Philadelphia's public schools which he did not reveal during the election. He is going to Denver with members of the SRC to learn how to privatize schools from the Gates Foundation. Is this democracy?

Last summer’s dispute between Mayor Nutter and Arlene Ackerman was not about the education of the students at Martin Luther King High School. Mayor Nutter's enthusiastic support for Dwight Evans after this debacle shows this. (See”Nutter defends Evans' 'passionate advocacy' at King” at The dispute was over lucrative contracts to the friends and cronies of the parties involved in the take over of Martin Luther King High School. For a brief moment we saw the corruption and nepotism that will be involved in the privatization of the public schools. That Mayor Nutter thinks it is OK for a state legislator who sponsored charter school legislation to then turn around and run a charter school says it all. Evans sponsored legislation which he hopes he and his friends will profit from.

Governor Corbett showed the true agenda for the public schools in this year’s state budget. He cut almost one billion dollars for education while at the same time increasing the budget for prisons by almost one billion dollars. This includes the building of three new prisons, some of which will be privately owned. This is a return to slave labor.

Whatever the educational goals of the SRC and Mayor Nutter, they are helping the privatizers establish a two-tier educational system where a select group of students will be placed in charter schools with the funding needed to provide an education. The rest of the students will be in underfunded public schools (which has been the case for decades) where they will be prepared for a future of poverty, menial labor, or prison. The closing of low performing public schools, rather than fixing them, while opening more charter schools, is a classic case of union busting. The 1%, which both parties work for, do not want to have school employees making a middle class wage since these employees will be teaching the children left behind.

Please read the linked PDF “The Gates’ Foundation and the Future of U.S. Public Education: A Call for Scholars to Counter Misinformation Campaigns” at

Submitted by IDK_Y (not verified) on January 4, 2012 8:38 pm

Thanks for posting your thoughts and truths about public education and the path of destruction we're facing. IDKY people don't realize this to be the case of or do folks just don't care.

Submitted by Ocean (not verified) on January 4, 2012 9:35 pm

The fooled public seems to want this, no? Nobody is stopping this. Nobody.

Submitted by cmaerriol (not verified) on January 4, 2012 8:51 pm

The public has been fooled. I was once a supporter of Promise Academies until I accepted a position in one. It is a nightmare. I wish I could honestly state what it is like to work in this school. No leadership, no communication, no vision. How can the leadership downtown be so blind. Nine teachers have resigned since Sept.2011. Nine! Can anyone do anything. Someone must be asking a question or two. .

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 4, 2012 9:04 pm

And, our Union leader Jerry Jordan made an agreement with the School District involving funding into our pension because the District cried poor due to the $629 million hole that Ackerman and her cronies dug!!! There is already a list of schools closing in June. What more do they want?? I hope Jordan and his lawyers are on top of what is going on. For damn sake already challenge that ACT 46 is unconstitutional and take it to the PA Supreme Court.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 4, 2012 10:21 pm

The SRC has spoken and it ain't good news for the kids, as usual. The farce of charters is expanding because money talks 24/7.

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on January 4, 2012 11:35 pm

Remember when Scott Gordon was worried there wouldn't be enough time for this process? Guess they found some extra capacity.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 2:15 am

I'm sure Mastery/Gordon have been "in communication" with Darden's office for some time. I'm also sure they already know which schools they want to take over...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 1:48 pm

Exactly, my point. This is a disgrace but it won't stop until WE stop it--by any means necessary..but it's up to all inner city people to organize and fight. No more praying, asking and quietly marching around, singing songs. It's NOT going to work with these slithering types and please don't think Obama is going to help. He's NOT so get used to that too.

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on January 5, 2012 12:59 pm


For those who don't remember, Gordon (along with District officials) expressed concern in November that time was running short.

Yesterday, Gordon reiterated that stance: "I'm certainly concerned."

But, said Gordon, he trusts the District, particularly Darden: "If he says he can work out a timeline, I haven't seen it,  but I trust that he'll do it," said Gordon.  "He knows that we can't wait until May [to start the transition.]"

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on January 5, 2012 5:20 pm

 From the timeline Erika posted today it looks like we've greatly reduced the amount of time spent matching to compensate for the short time period. My reservation is less about Ren charters being up and running in August/September than the matching process itself.

RSA's report laid out that SACs varied widely and had very different levels of involvement in decision making. And of course MLK's didn't having any involvment. Less time for those with supposed decsion making ability to select which provider is going to be awarded the education of their children doesn't seem to make a third Renaissance match diaster (West, MLK) less likely. 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 1:37 pm

Yes, you make sense. Hopefully, everybody is waking up to the truth. This a trendy business model to make money for the rich at the expense, once again, of the poor. We need to force this stuff to stop and should have done so 3 or more years ago.

Submitted by SK (not verified) on January 5, 2012 12:06 am


I'm a Greenfield parent, and I just want to see if I've got this straight. I've been trying to sort out what's been going on in the school district, after too long a time of not paying sufficient attention, so please bear with me.

Nursing money gets cut, because of the crisis. Nunnery and Masch essentially blame it on the teachers: "This new round was necessary, Masch and Nunery have said, because they underestimated the costs of an early-retirement program and overestimated the amount of savings they could get from reopening union contracts, among other things."

Fernando Gallard spits out some gibberish about how "medically fragile" kids will be okay, as if there's a class of "non-medically fragile" kids who don't really need nurses at school fulltime (and apparently kids with asthma or diabetes don't count as medically fragile anyway).

Now we're told that "Even in this difficult budget environment, the District is not sitting still on our goal of improving outcomes for students," said District Deputy for Strategic Programs Thomas Darden." And from the reference to "difficult budget environment" it sounds like they are spending some money on this latest move.

Is it then a reasonable conclusion that the "goal of improving outcomes for students" prioritizes converting schools to charters over adequately funding school nurses? (as well as the other laid-off employees, and those threatened with layoffs in a year)

Thanks for the links, tom-104. I will add the Gates Foundation piece to the list of things to read at night and keep me up.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 6:36 am

They've also laid off every custodial worker, building engineer, bus driver, etc in the 1201 union. They say unless they give back the equivalent of $8000 per person, next year they're all fired and they will hire non-union contractors to do their jobs. Some of them have worked here for decades.

They claim "expanding charter costs" as one of the biggest reasons for all these cuts. Now THEY are expanding charter costs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 2:56 am

Why is Darden still in the SDP? He was given a series of "made up" positions by Ackerman. Now he is the expert on charters? What K-12 school based experience does he have? The quote from Scott Gordon means Mastery will "take" 3 schools, I assume Universal and ASPIRA will be in line. Do the powers that be really think they can get rid of all neighborhood high schools and have enough places for ALL students (students with mental health issues, special education, ELL, etc.)?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 4:05 pm

Darden is just another liar. My school recently had a walk through by 440 and the report came back full of typos and made up data. They just make up numbers. It is nothing but smoke and mirrors. Darden, Weiner, Silverman, Nunery, all of these people have lied to my face.

I love teaching my students, but I've grown to accept that the District will fail eventually. Lack of political support and the horrible staff at 440 ( excluding those who care about our kids) will eventually turn our public schools into discipline schools, and our charters into the "regular" schools.


Submitted by Brook Lenfest (not verified) on January 5, 2012 6:51 am

The number of schools and which ones haven't been identified so it's impossible to tell how many any provider will get. The SAC makes a recommendation of which operator they would like after a process which is then approved or not by the SRC so it's not up to Darden.

The Renaissance providers are public schools and neighborhood schools. I can speak for Mastery that we do teach all of the children that live in the neighborhood including students that are special education, have mental health or emotional issues, children with Autism, disciplinary problems, etc. Some of our schools have as high as 27% special education.

And we do pay and treat our teachers fairly. In the schools we took over management of last year about 15% of the teachers we hired came from the District managed schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 8:47 am

Mastery do not treat their teachers fairly. There is no accountability. Mastery claims they had 100% graduation rate at their Thomas Campus. Every Student participated in graduation however many of their students had to return for summer school. Also, Mastery will tell the public they had 100% of their students apply to college - everyone applied to Community College including those who did not receive their diplomas in June. Please, STOP making Scott Gordon and Mastery sound like the great white hope.

Submitted by Brook Lenfest (not verified) on January 5, 2012 3:07 pm

Mastery graduates students when they have satisfactorily completed the curriculum. That can certainly mean that they are allowed to graduate with their class but have to go to summer school to finish. So what?

I have seen the list of all Mastery graduates college acceptances and scholarships and they span many colleges not just Community College. From memory there were more than 25 Colleges.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 8:38 pm

However they report that 100% of their students graduate on time. A play on numbers. That's the so WHAT!1!! If we are going to look at data and make a comparison of Mastery's graduation rate to the SDP then lets look at the TRUTH and not a bunch of lies.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 9:18 pm

However they report that 100% of their students graduate on time. A play on numbers. That's the so WHAT!1!! If we are going to look at data and make a comparison of Mastery's graduation rate to the SDP then lets look at the TRUTH and not a bunch of lies.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 6:15 pm

Mastery shows blatant age discrimination! I am in mid-40's with a stellar teaching record with three certifications and 8 years teaching experience. Yet, the only ones that get the jobs in your "charter schools" are those under 30! I took a tour of your so called "Mastery Charter" and made a concerted analysis of the ratio of young teachers versus those that were middle age and well qualified.
Puhleezzzz spare me your bull!

Submitted by EILEEN DIFRANCO (not verified) on January 5, 2012 9:56 am

What about the buzzers the Mastery teachers are asked to wear on their belts? What about the teachers being taped without their knowledge or permission? A teacher I know quit Mastery in disgust. I checked out Mastery's test scores. While their scores are better than the schools they replaced, they are the same as the average district scores. Other charter schools don't even publish their scores on their websites. The assumption is that they are better simply b/c they are charter schools.There is a great website people need to check, charterschoolscandals blogspot. The reliance upon charter schools as the savior of public education reminds me of the human tendency to repeat something over and over again until it takes on the semblance of truth. The Credo report stated that only 17% of charter schools outperform their local charter schools. Yet the politicians are jumping on the charter school band wagon when empirical evidence indicates that they should be doing something else. Remember new math, language experience? Educators were quick to put all their marbles in those baskets only to find several years later that the kids couldn't read or do math. A couple of years and millions and millions of dollars later, we'll find out the same thing about charter schools. And urban public education will remain the shambles it has become. There are answers. Stake holders need to sit down and talk about them rather than having them imposed from above. Quite frankly, I'm tired of new messiahs riding into town on their white horses with their allegedly "better" ideas.

Submitted by Brook Lenfest (not verified) on January 5, 2012 3:13 pm

No teachers are taped without their permission. The buzzers are for training teachers to make a positive comment to someone in the class whenever it goes off. It is proven that amid telling students to be quite, sit down, whatever that a positive comment recognizing someone in the class every so often gets better results. What's wrong with that.

I don't know what test scores your looking at but if it's from any of the schools we have been managing for more than a year they absolutely do not match the district average they are way above. In almost all cases they match or in some cases are above tha State everage which is still not good enough but is certainly well above the City's

Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on January 5, 2012 4:24 pm

Sorry, the teacher in question was taped without her permission. She also found it demeaning and distracting to wear a buzzer on her belt. She was an excellent teacher with 5 years of teaching experience at our school. Having a buzzer go off on your belt every five minutes is like having your cell phone ring. It's distracting. Are universities recommending such a thing?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 5, 2012 4:09 pm

You don't need teachers trained like robots for them to learn and understand the power and effectiveness of positive reinforcement. That stuff takes away from the authenticity of positive reinforcement and thereby lessens its impact as being deeply meaningful to students.

Our best teachers are artists not robots.

And as a reading specialist who ran a high school diagnostic-prescriptive reading program for 20 years, the PSSA test scores can be artificially increased rather easily. Anyone who is well educated and experienced in the diagnosis of reading ability understands that the PSSA scores lack basic validity and reliability.

That is not to say you don't do a wonderful job at Mastery. I am sure you do. But your scores do not impress me especially since I know all the games we can play with that stuff.

I would be much more interested in learning how you measure growth in reading over time. We used the MAT 6 as a pre and post every year. We used another diagnostic comprehension evaluation as part of our mid terms. We also did informal diagnosis with authentic materials as we taught.

On the humorous side -- we named our reading program "The Mastery Learning" Reading Plan! That was long before there was a Mastery Charter School.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 4:28 pm

Do you need to be "buzzed" to say nice things? We aren't Pavlov's dogs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 5:26 pm

Yes, sometimes they do. As with many things in any management, it is not the action or technique that is's the delivery.

Do you think all teachers remember to reinforce children that often? I know I don't at times because I'm engulfed and beaten down by all the negativity and I'm becoming negative. I would love to wear that buzzer to help me remember to check in with the quiet kid who gets lost or compliment one off my challenging students who has made an effort. I'd love it because I see value in it helping me.

Now, if my region decided to use these, my bosses wouldn't come up to me and discuss the importance of praise. Present this as an optional tool for me to use to help myself grow as a teacher and then ask me what other tools I could use. I'd get a memo in my box that these are mandatory, 25+ angry announcements over the loudspeaker demeaning me and colleagues in front of students, and random observations filled with innacurate, useless notes.

It's all the delivery.... Maybe Mastery empowers their teachers, facilitates teamwork, and encourages a positive environment...I have no idea. I do know that too many PSD teachers are beaten so badly that they can't even remember what its like to be positive or nice in a school building...and the concept of a buzzer being a positive tool is unfathomable to them.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 5, 2012 6:43 pm

There is nothing more powerful in the realm of leadership than a warm and caring smile along with a kind word of praise for what you do well. It must be authentic though and it works best if it is timely.

If a buzzer works for you -- use one.

If Mastery is a good school, they do exactly what you say.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 7:07 pm

Rich- I'm a business transplant and managed hundreds successfully using nothing but positive attitude and a client focused approach. Your posts and viewpoint resonate with me firmly. In truth, I don't love the buzzer but used it as an example...the thing that gets me to no end is the toxic environment that fosters an attitude among colleagues to make a tough situation even tougher. Collectively, WE COULD help each other and make strides in the right direction but too few seem to get that.

Submitted by Brook Lenfest (not verified) on January 5, 2012 7:50 pm

I will say a couple more things then I'm done. Mastery has excellent teacher support and professional development. Some teachers are reluctant to try things that work until they see that it really does work. To the best of my knowledge it is in the beginning while we are training teachers to be great teachers that they are asked to wear the buzzer. And, it does work among many other things we do. They are all small things but together they make a huge difference.

We just did a training for three days in Philadelphia on our professional development. I think 24 schools and school districts attended including Washington DC, and Philadelphia. We are trying to help beyond our own schools.

Personally I don't care whether schools remain district schools or become public charters as long as in both cases they become good schools. There are still 25,000 students in schools that rank a 9 or 10 which are the two worst ratings. There is no plan I have heard of that gives all of these to charter operators. Any plan I have seen has the district working hard to make some of them better and giving some to successful charters to do the same. Neither the district or the charters on a stand alone basis have the capacity to improve all of these schools quickly so a compact is a way to help these students as quickly as possible.

To the teacher who responded about reading programs, PSSA corelation, etc or any other who would like to visit Mastery, I will take you on a tour personally. You can formulate your own opinions good or bad but with enough information to know what you're talking about.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 7:48 pm

Ah yes.....and the avoidance of the comment that your school system shows blatant age bias against older teachers!

Eventually the sham that these charters are will surface---it's just a matter of time. I would love to see someone file a class action suit against one of these charters for that very reason. Surely you know it to be the truth, and it is only a matter of time that this will happen.

Submitted by Brook Lenfest (not verified) on January 5, 2012 9:15 pm

I can't respond to every comment and the more negative ones like yours I tend to leave unanswered because answering them is a waste of time. Mastery does not discriminate based on age or anything else.

We do look for certain things in teachers and one is attitude and believing every student can acheive at a high level.

We train our teachers how to be great teachers and we certainly do things different than a lot of other schools. Teachers with your kind of attitude that don't want to be instructed and improve their effectiveness or evaluated are not going to get hired.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 9:39 pm

You're kidding right? Funny.....I went through the machinations and read the article and went through the timed interview. My credentials, attitude, and teaching skills are steller. After this "so called" interview---I did "do a walkthrough". Just as I was walking through the halls---I could count on one hand the number of teachers that were in that school that were over the age of 35!

Attitude---you betcha. It's true and you know it! Even the pictures that sell the school (you know the posed pics with the teacher and kids---all have younger teachers!)

You don't want expertise, you hire robots. And, when they reach a certain age, incredibly, you will find fault with those teachers, too.

I rest MY case!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 9:47 pm

I went through the same interview last spring. And, I have over five years teaching experience. I was not hired either. I thought the same thing, I was not "young" enough.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 14, 2012 1:33 pm

I also have seven years teaching experience and went through the interview process at Mastery and was not hired. The woman interviewing me was young and only had 1-2 years teaching experience. Disgrace! After reading about how they treat the teachers I am glad and looking forward to teaching in a school where teachers are appreciated and not looked down upon because they know what they are doing. God was looking out for us!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 8:11 pm

Hello Brooke,

Can you share about the hiring process for Mastery, and when your schools will start their hiring for next fall? Specifically as it pertains to leadership positions?

Submitted by Brook Lenfest (not verified) on January 5, 2012 9:26 pm

I don't know the answer also it would epend on whether we're adding any schools. I will email someone and try to get back to you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 9:09 pm

Thank you very much. I am very interested in learning more about working for Mastery. If they will be at any career fairs this spring I would definitely like to speak with a recruiter.

Submitted by Brook Lenfest (not verified) on January 5, 2012 9:40 pm

I will get back to you but meanwhile if you Google Mastery Charter School and under search tools select a week or a month there are a lot of job postings that will come up.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 10:41 pm

Thank you!

Submitted by Brook Lenfest (not verified) on January 6, 2012 5:38 am

I emailed Scott and below was his reply.

Were hiring now. They can go to our website and apply on-line. We have an apprentice leadership program where we hire folks as apprentices for 6 or 12 months and then they step into full assistant principal or principal positioms.
Scott Gordon
Mastery Charter Schools Network

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 5, 2012 10:03 pm

Actually, I would love to take you up on that. I am looking for some charter schools that I can point to as effective charter schools and write about. There are three more charter schools that I already promised I would visit. I was impressed with KIPP when I visited there.

I believe all schools should share what they do well with others. The education of our children is not a competition. It is a collaboration. Good pedagogy, good leadership and good governance is the same whether it is the public sector, the private sector or some hybrid of the two.

The common denominator of good schools is that they are all good school communities which create a good climate for their students and a good climate for the teachers to teach in. We speak about "professional learning communities" but how do we create them and set the conditions where they flourish.

Charter schools were originally envisioned to be incubators of innovation and research on teaching and learning. How do we validly measure growth in achievement and gauge effective schools?

Submitted by Brook Lenfest (not verified) on January 6, 2012 5:26 am


Email me and I'll set up a visit. Also, let me know if you want to see a Middle/High school or Elementary or both.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 9:12 pm

It's also been proven that throwing out compliments purely because of the passage of time (it's buzzer time, folks!) makes compliments pointless. How long do you think it will take the kids to figure out that the compliments are buzzer driven instead of earned? There different levels of compliments that are needed for a whole class. Some kids needs the encouragement often while others are content to get it when they truly have done something worthy of one.

Submitted by Brook Lenfest (not verified) on January 5, 2012 9:20 pm

It's TEMPORARY!!!!!!! It also goes with instructing the teacher. After they see it's effectiveness it goes away. It works and the compliments are earned by someone in the class and aren't hollow.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 9:49 pm


War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength........

The thought police have arrived!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 9:26 am

Readng the many comments there is something to be said for both sides. However, public schools have been failing our children for MANY years. Where was all this concern on the part of parents & teachers when the kids were failing. Yes, money talks - now that jobs and pensions are in 'jeopardy' everybody is 'concerned'. When the only ones losing were the children there was no public outcry.

Charters may not be the only answer but they are - as far as the children are concerned - making a difference. Improvements in reading and math are proven. Better behavior and exposure to more than just bare basics are always a plus for the students. Students being held accountable for their behavior and responding positively can only be a good thing. Where is the disadvantage to students when teachers are held accountable for the time they spend with them and expected to produce results?

If the same was demanded of all teachers throughout the system earlier perhaps we wouldn't be in this mess. Yes there are good teachers who should be greatly rewarded for their dedication. The problem is there was not enough of them and they were not supported by the District and in many cases their own union. Thus education deteriorated horribly over the past few decades. Good education should not be in certain pockets of the city, it should be citywide.

If this is what it takes to get the ball rolling in a positive direction for the children of Philadelphia I say take those successful models and spread them as quickly as possible.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 9:45 pm

Your generalizations are so typical of charter shills. Hold children accountable? As if public school teachers haven't been crying out for that for years! Reading and math skills have improved? Where? Time and time again it's been proven that charters, there are exceptions, have failed to produce the results they claimed they could. Last study I read about said only 17% did better than public schools. Hardly anything to crow about. I notice you skip over accountability for parents. The problem with Philadelphia Public Schools is that the administration are such pushovers when it comes to incompetent parents. Even parents that have been banned from the schools for threatening teachers, other students or administrators are rarely banned. Administrators are too scared to stand up to the breeders, as opposed to parents who actually take an interest in their children. What successful models are you talking about? Will you be willing to fight for public schools to exlude problem children the way charter schools do?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 6, 2012 10:48 am

I think this forum doesn't allow for a lengthly discussion of benefits v. disadvantages of charters. However, the fact that children have been failing far to long is a given. Yes, public school teachers have been crying out for years but unfortunately the District (as I mentioned) has not supported them. They have not been given the assistance they've asked for.

If a child is showing improvement even if it's small at first it's better than a pattern of continual failure.17% can lead to 25% and so and on - we have to start somewhere.

Teaching children to be accountable is a step in the right direction. The issue of parent accountability is so broad. If the parents can't or won't teach it, the children have to learn accountability at some point to succeed. If the school is doing it successfully than great.

I agree that irresponsible parents are the reason this mess has been allowed to fester and become the disaster that it is. They should be the ones backing good teachers and demanding accountability from the bad. They should be the ones fighting for good education for all children. They shouldn't just show up to complain when changes in the school make life inconvenient for them. I agree they should not be threatening teachers setting bad examples for their children. Again, the District should back up their educators; set rules and stick to them but they don't.

I am willing to fight for successful education. As a parent who has fought LONG and hard for decent education for my own children, now my grands, I have seen success in charter schools. Mastery Charter is not the be all end all but I have certainly seen success not only with academics but also a return of something I haven't seen in many schools for many years - well behaved students, desire to learn and succeed and consistent encouragement as well as students with pride in their school.

I have fought with the public schools my children attended for many years to make the schools safer and hold parents accountable for problem children to no avail. There is too much fear they might get sued.

Again, we can't continue to throw babies out with the bathwater. We have to start somewhere. Perhaps the District will impose the same standards as successful charters citywide. I don't believe schools HAVE to be privatized but I do believe they have to change. If this is how it starts, so be it.

Submitted by Raheem (not verified) on January 6, 2012 4:13 pm

What data proves that there are well-behaved students at Mastery and that they have pride in their schools? The vicious attack made by Mastery Students on an innocent man last year? What empirical data supports they have a desire to learn? WHERE IS THE REAL DATA?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 6, 2012 5:25 pm

LOL! I know----and we're still "Waiting for Superman"

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 6, 2012 5:02 pm

I know because I've taken the time to go to the school. During the match process I took them up on the invitation to visit the school (on multiple occasions). I know because I am at the school every day. I've had occasion to visit other Mastery schools and saw well behaved, polite and engaged students. Data exists in the record of reduced incidents of violence at Mastery Schools.

Even in the best of families, one can find the child who for some unknown reason behaves totally contrary to their upbringing. Yes a couple of students committed a terrible act. However, many more students went into the street to let the public know they were upset at what their classmates did and wanted the public to know those 'bad apples' didn't represent the whole. Students who don't want to learn cannot be made to improve their scores. They miss days, they drop out. Data supports solid retention of students at Mastery. Students who don't want to learn, don't come to school. Don't go by hearsay, go to the district and ask for the stats on the schools Mastery has turned around.

Bottom line, schools are failing students and an unacceptable rate. While we all do studies, point fingers and bicker about who does it best and who should be allowed to run the schools, these students are dropping out, they are unemployed and in some cases they are committing crimes because they are too poorly educated to get a job. Whoever steps up and helps these children toward success, let's try to work wth that. I'm not saying Mastery is the only answer, but it is a start. Again, we have to start somewhere. Please ...

Submitted by Raheem (not verified) on January 6, 2012 11:52 pm

You say don't go by hearsay, but the only data you're supplying re: this charter school is your supposed daily visit to Mastery.
I know people who work at Mastery - I know teachers and administrators who work there and it's smoke and mirrors, Anonymous (perhaps, if having such faith and hope in Mastery, you'd like to give your name).
So we both have our individual experiences.

Schools are failing students? The schools? Not the Board or the government or crack cocaine or parents or welfare, huh? (Generally, people mean "teachers," hardworking ones, when they lay blame to who are failing children.
In any case, I'm glad that you believe in Mastery. It's good to have hope.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 3:45 pm

Again I say don't go by hearsay there is some data in this very publication (October 2011 'Keeping it in the Neighborhood' also in September's issue some data on student scores for several charters not just Mastery) There is also some data on retention of neighborhood children as well. It is up to us to look up the information ourselves.

You say you know people at Mastery but are not specific, you say it's smoke and mirrors but are not specific. Yes we both have different experiences (sorry yours was not a good one). The point is that the majority of students served by these schools improved in their education. It is the children who should benefit. Again, I did say Mastery was not the 'be all/end all or that charters were the only answer.

I agree and also mentioned that it is irresponsible parents who have allowed this to become such a mess. I agree it is failure on multiple levels (parents, government, etc.) that got us here. I do not blame teachers, I have worked with and fought along side teachers for improvement. I mentioned that the district has not supported good teachers (many of whom leave the schools and go to suburban or charter schools).

Your opinion is what it is and nothing I say would change it. I'm sure if I posted my name it would have no impact on how you feel. Like you I am merely expressing an opinion. You are right, it is good to have hope because without it we are defeated before we even start. Let's keep hoping for the future of our children.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 5:34 pm

Thank God. We need more charter schools so the kids can get a decent education.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 6:42 pm

You know what! Perhaps if parents started raising their children instead of relying on strangers, then any and all schools would be appropriate to attend! I am sick and tired of the blame and finger pointing going towards the teacher---most of whom are very dedicated and passionate about their jobs. And, better yet, get cursed at, yelled at and called the worst things that no other person would tolerate in any other profession. The definition of giving and receiving respect has become skewed over the years---and teachers are powerless in offering support ---when you have schools that mask their "dangerous incidents" and suspension!

Charters have yet to disclose their statistics. But let's be for real.....surely you don't think that they want their dirt aired in the press.---It's only bad in the SDP because the press says so........the jury is not out yet on the charters....because we DON'T hear anything about them!

Submitted by Mary Beth Hertz (not verified) on January 5, 2012 6:25 pm

Forget about labels. I'm done with the Charter vs Traditional public school debate. It's like beating a dead horse. Let's focus on what WORKS. Let's focus on KIDS, not test scores. What ever happened to the District's original inclusion of a community/teacher partnership takeover of failing schools? We can scream at each other all day long, but it doesn't help kids. I think we can learn from E.M. Stanton and the way they stood up to the District's (second) closure announcement. If more teachers and parents got together the way Stanton did, maybe we'd actually see some change.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on January 5, 2012 9:01 pm

I agree Mary Beth. If we could do charters the way they were meant to be, it would be great. Or, why charterize? Just let each school program the way they need and want to and remain part of the district. The district pretty much leaves schools like Penn Alexander alone, they should let each school community budget and plan for each school.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 12:01 pm

Weighted funding was supposed to do that. They got rid of it. The district doesn't want schools to have too much power because then the schools could prove they can do it and don't need a bunch of walkthrough teams and managers and policies handed down to them.

However, some schools change principals multiple times during a school year. I've been teaching in the district 1.5 years in the same building and gone through 7 or 8 principals.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 6:57 pm

The schools are failing our students but this is primarily a result of parents failing their children. The city is falling apart and the kids truly could care less anymore. You know why? Because their parents don't care either. If the law would just allow teachers to instill effective consequences, we could have a far better chance at producing useful members of society. These kids are not dumb. But as long as their are behavior issues in the classroom, urban schools will never be on par with their suburban counterparts. It's scary.

Submitted by spankington (not verified) on January 5, 2012 8:48 pm

Right on the nose with that comment. But, you see, that's what the reps and some dems want. It's a big money grab. SRC, Nutter, all phonies. They know what is at stake. It's opportunity to make their and our corporate masters happy. Here's the game: they'll make the AYP requirements impossible to attain year after year. We'll kill ourselves to try to get a bunch of apathetic students to reach unattainable highs on PSSA's. Unless you cheat, you won't eventually be able to keep up with onerous demands. It all started with Ridge and Bush and Kennedy. The job is being carried out Nunnery, Shorr, Nutter and crooked councilmen what have you. It is NOT about servicing children. It is servicing what corporate America wants. The more we don't make AYP the more corporate America can push their agenda to privatize public education and get rid of all teacher unions. Unless teachers everywhere start some kind of revolution, along with the rest of the head in the sand public, it will be the early 1900's all over again. Everything that MLK and other leaders fought for will be lost and maybe forever!

Submitted by spankington (not verified) on January 5, 2012 8:46 pm

Right on the nose with that comment. But, you see, that's what the reps and some dems want. It's a big money grab. SRC, Nutter, all phonies. They know what is at stake. It's opportunity to make their and our corporate masters happy. Here's the game: they'll make the AYP requirements impossible to attain year after year. We'll kill ourselves to try to get a bunch of apathetic students to reach unattainable highs on PSSA's. Unless you cheat, you won't eventually be able to keep up with onerous demands. It all started with Ridge and Bush and Kennedy. The job is being carried out Nunnery, Shorr, Nutter and crooked councilmen what have you. It is NOT about servicing children. It is servicing what corporate America wants. The more we don't make AYP the more corporate America can push their agenda to privatize public education and get rid of all teacher unions. Unless teachers everywhere start some kind of revolution, along with the rest of the head in the sand public, it will be the early 1900's all over again. Everything that MLK and other leaders fought for will be lost and maybe forever!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 10:23 pm

I am so tired of hearing that the public schools are failing the children! I work for the SDP and in no way to I see us failing. We are working so hard, and seeing a lot of growth. I am concerned that I will be laid off once again come the Spring, and then I will have to apply for the charters. What kind of pay and benefits do the teachers recieve at a charter school? It is just as important to take care of the teachers as it is to take care of the children. I don't like the idea of not getting a pension. I think the pension program is excellent, we are paying for it! It feels like everyone is against public school teachers, and they want to take things away from us. My question is why? We pay for our own paper, supplies, we do everything a charter school does with is this justified? I don't agree with that superior charter school attitude. Sorry, I had to vent!

Submitted by spankington (not verified) on January 7, 2012 12:39 pm

Your absolutely right. Don't apologize to vent. It is true. The folks who criticize us are the ones who don't know what we go through and really just believe everything the conservative right tells them. What they don't get is that, in reality they are against their own self interests as well. The Koch Bros, The DeVos Family and Bill Gates are so glad there is a lot of people out there that think teachers don't deserve what they get. Dress up the corporate agenda and call it school reform. It is not the government that is doing this. It is corporate America saying,"We've got all the money and you'll do what we say because we have all the money." Folks this is not a democracy. It is a Republocorporotocracy. Social programs are only okay if they benefit people like Michele Bachmann purchase land so her goofy husband can build a brainwashing center for gay people, which is a joke in itself. God forbid if a social program helps someone who really needs it, then it is out and out welfare. Most people in this country truly don't understand the real power hosing they are getting.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 5, 2012 11:09 pm

If a teacher is working at a school that gets converted to a charter, does the teacher get the option of staying? Or does the teacher have to go through an interview process for the charter school?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 6, 2012 4:08 am

The teachers has to be hired by the charter. Last year, according to Mastery, they hired 15% of the current teachers. I think it was a similar percentage at Aspira and Universal. I know at least one teacher who was not hired at Universal because of age ("too expensive") and universal was very clear they wanted Latino/a teachers - one person said primarily Puerto Ricans. Both are violate the law but I don't think any charter will admit to discrimination based on age, ethnicity, etc. They'll claim something else. I appreciate the need for diversity but charters can - and do - exclude teachers based on ethnicity, age, etc.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 6, 2012 6:34 am

I find it sad that these companies are hiring based on age and race. The previous poster is correct in saying that there would be some "lame excuse" provided to those not hired. I would be curious to see if there are some public statistics available to see what in what proportion certain teachers of specific race and age are being hired by these charter school.

The district stopped hiring teachers due to "racial balance". It is unconstitutional! Eventually there will be an older teacher who is not hired by one of these charters that will do the homework and let this scam come to light. More and more people will express their dismay on how their hiring practices are blatantly unfair and extremely biased!

Submitted by TIRED OF THE LIES (not verified) on January 6, 2012 11:28 pm

Is Scott Gordon's salary public information?

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on January 7, 2012 1:21 pm

According to a look at the 990 IRS forms for two Mastery schools (Mastery Charter High and Mastery-Thomas), Scott Gordon earned a total of $203,753 ($161,845 in base salary, $20,000 in bonus/incentive compensation, and $21,908 in nontaxable benefits) in 2010, the last year for which such information is publicly available via

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 10:53 am

So it looks like the PSD is going to get a new influx of students. The teachers union's successful efforts to block any vouchers for private and parochial students, out of fear of competition, has now come full circle and is helping to aid the closure of Catholic schools. Now the children can utilize the public school system for which their parents already pay. Thank God for charters. Enjoy the new students without additional funding. The taxpayers are already paying to the hilt.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 10:28 am

Why do you thank God for charters? A consequence of Charter schools is the closing of many Catholic schools. In Philadelphia, students who would have normally attended Catholic schools have turned to charter schools because they are free and most often safer than public schools.

In the suburbs, students who would be attending Catholic schools, have turned to their local public schools because they are free and are outstanding public schools with democratically elected school boards and strong teachers' unions.

You are right. The only good reason for vouchers is so children can have their Catholic School tuition paid for by the taxpayer. The problem there is that the Pennsylvania Constitution forbids public money going to religious schools as part of our separation of church and state.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 1:58 pm

I thank God for charters because the kids will at least have decent schools to attend with teachers who are held accountable. The reason Catholic schools are closing is because the parents can no longer afford the tuition. They are paying tuition twice, once through taxes that they don't utilize and second through tuition for Catholic School. They can no longer afford it. The union fought tooth and nail against vouchers for these kids, and now the result is that the public school system can teach them. But there won't be any additional funding because the taxpayers are tapped out. Get used to larger class sizes and granting concessions to the bloated pay and benefits packages.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 4:09 pm

While improvement is needed in the educational system, the Charter schools hiring practice of teachers needs to be fully examined. They cater, and predominately hire teachers who are "fresh out of college", and with minimal experience in teaching.

I have heard the stories of teachers with much experience not being hired by the charter school. One reason is a salary issue. The other is age. I have a nephew that attends a charter school. Believe me, the same nonsense, fights and other concerns that exist within a public school are evident in the charters. The only difference is the fact that they are adept in keeping these "blemishes" out of the newspapers.

Frankly, I would want an experienced teacher teaching my children. The charters school skirt around this issue in that they don't hire older, more experienced teachers. Parents should be proactive in their research on this. I am a teacher, and I work with some very talented colleagues. If the SDP folds, why should they not be offered the chance to display their talent in a charter school. Parents, do the research before you "drink the kool-aid".

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 8:28 pm

Every single teacher that I know that got fired from the Philadelphia School District was snatched up by charters the same year. What does that tell you about charters' priority in the teachers they hire?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 8:02 pm old were they. I have two colleagues with several certs that DID NOT get hired. Charters snatch up TFA's!

Submitted by Andrew Saltz (not verified) on January 7, 2012 1:59 pm

Why do we respond to people who are too scared to write their own name? Or at least take the time to make up some clever fake name?

Seriously, people: Do not feed the troll

Sad story for people who loved those schools.

(And for everyone who thinks this could be a boon for Philadelphia public schools: Don't forget this will mean a whole group of teachers who are used to working for less money.)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 3:05 pm

If you're a teacher using your name can lead to job termination no matter what subject you are posting. Remember Hope Moffet? She merely asked the SRC a legit question and the cowards tried to rubberroom her out of a job until the public uproar made their decision look like the petty vendetta it really was all along.

Submitted by Andrew Saltz (not verified) on January 7, 2012 3:12 pm

Fair enough (and I was at the TAG rally at 440). I'm certainly glad that The Notebook gives us a forum to ask questions that are being asked elsewhere.

But that's not the problem. When somebody anonymous writes a comment to the tune of "You lazy union people are ruining our city", we shouldn't respond. They are looking for teachers to flip-out, and I would rather educators not take the bait.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 3:41 pm

Flipping out, no. Standing up, yes !! Too much misinformation is pumped out there by both Democratic and Republican politicians along with the charter industry. The general public (see Facebook sites like Teachers Unions Exposed) want to use teachers as a scapegoat for the educational crisis. Teachers need to counter every time someone posts this negative crap about teachers. Explain how politicians and administrators are profiting from attacking public schools. Tell them that the taxes they are paying are not making it into the actual classrooms. Point fingers at the guilty. Tell them how violence is being increased by administrators who refuse to report incidents in an effort to keep numbers down. Enough is enough!

Submitted by Andrew Saltz (not verified) on January 7, 2012 3:43 pm

We cannot counter this information with anonymous comments. Their too easy to ignore and abuse.

Either we have a substantial debate or we're just nameless internet flamers, you can't have it both ways.

But, Anonymous, I am glad to see that you care about these issues. We need all the advocacy we can get.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 8:11 pm

Having been the target of vindictive Philadelphia School administrators I have to remain anonymous for the time being. I had one principal on my case for blowing the whistle on missing school funds. I also had another try to have me beat up so I am sure you can see why I am leery of posting my name.

The flaming bit is uncalled for as I did mention one site that readers can view for themselves if they think I'm making this up. Check out N.A.P.T.A.'s site or the Philadelphia Freedom Forum. There are lots of places where you can read someone else's words instead of mine.

Submitted by Mary Beth Hertz (not verified) on January 8, 2012 6:29 pm

I second, third and fourth that, Andrew. If you can't put your name behind your words, you are most likely saying something that you would never say face to face. Please, people. Stop responding to people who can't respond respectfully.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 1:26 pm

I think the whole problem is that in Philadelphia, too many people don't pay taxes, with apartments and public housing. That is why there is no money for the public schools. Parents don't truly understand the public/charter debate. They believe what they hear. It's all about money with the charters. I don't understand why people keep saying teachers get so much with benefits and pension. Like any other job, teachers have access to benefits!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 4:16 pm

Would any other profession require one to buy their own supplies? I don't think that I am that in well paid in that I have spend in excess of $2000.00 for my students. Paper, school supplies, copybooks, pencils, pens and so forth. I value my job and don't mind doing it. However, I resent anyone saying that we, teachers, are "well-paid". Since the budget crunch, I have had to put my hand in my pocket more in order to do my job effectively. My work day does not end at 3 o' clock. What about the work that teachers do on their own time in preparing lessons and grading papers? This nonsense has gone on long enough that it is "the teacher's fault".

Submitted by spankington (not verified) on January 7, 2012 5:03 pm

Here here, now we have to take it to the streets and get the general public to realize the shell game the SDP and For Profit Charter operators are pulling over on the general public. It's all about funneling money back to the Corps. buy privatizing education. They want know one to have anything and they want the kids just smart enough to work for them but just dumb enough to not question anything or to think for themselves.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 7:08 pm

Yes, please do. Take to the streets. Let the public know what this is all about. It's about what the union wants for itself. Make sure to march past all the new homeless on the Parkway, or the occupy kids who graduated college and can't get a job because we have to lay teachers off because the union won't grant any concessions. It sounds an awful lot like the UAW, until of course they drove their companies into bankruptcy.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 8:57 pm

Are you as dumb as you appear?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 9:02 pm

Nice rebuttal.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 9:03 pm

Thanks, Goober.

Submitted by Seth (not verified) on January 8, 2012 4:11 pm

"the occupy kids who graduated college and can't get a job because we have to lay teachers off because the union won't grant any concessions."

I am active in Occupy Philly (and also a Greenfield parent) and I have never heard any of the "occupy kids" say anything like this. There is no such thing as an Occupy line on this, but I think the general view can be seen in something like this:

“Mic check! MIC CHECK! Let the Puppet show begin! LET THE PUPPET SHOW BEGIN!”

The demonstrators who held the floor at a December 14 meeting at Newtown High School in Corona, Queens, were part of Occupy DOE (Department of Education), a mix of veteran teachers, parents and Occupy Wall Street activists that is bringing the language and tactics of OWS to the grassroots fight against neoliberal education reform.

Obviously there are many similarities to what's happening here.

Locally, there have been two Occupy 440 rallies so far, and another one for this Wednesday, and every Wednesday @ 4pm at, of course, 440, to protest the nursing cuts. This was not organized by Occupy folks, but I know that it has been supported by Occupy Philly members, several of whom have attended, and some who have spoken.

I just wanted to clear that up re Occupy Philly and the Occupy Wall Street movement in general, in case anybody got the wrong impression from that reference to the "occupy kids".

Seth Kulick

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 7:00 pm

You are not "required" to buy supplies for the students. Their parents buy their personal supplies, hence the massive "back to school" sales at Walmart in August, and yes, even in the city. Other supplies are provided by the district.

Teachers should be required to grade papers and prepare lesson plans at school, on the clock, so everything is transparent. I don't see private sector workers cruising home after a six hour day with work to do at home. They stay late, unpaid, if need be to finish it.

What other profession gets 3 months paid vacation? We could help close the budget gap by utilizing teachers to perform other city functions during the summer.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 8:14 pm

Hey troll, you're wrong. Some parents buy their children what is needed, but many are missing in action. "Other supplies are provived by the district" is complete crap. The district will supply a few things that somebody down at 440 benefited from when the deal was made, but rarely is it what teachers need. The Smart Boards were the only new thing that we could use. Now if they'd only supply training for it. Most teachers rarely get the luxury of working a "six hour days" because there is some much other work to be done. Much of our day is taken up with pointless busy work dictated by the clowns down at 440. Busy work that is assigned to justify people who really don't need to be on the district payroll. I wish I could do lesson plans and grade papers after school, but there is too much other stuff that has to be taken care of (mandatory Interim Reports, personalized behavior plans since the principals don't want to deal with behavior problems anymore, etc.) The "3 months paid vacation" is actually the year's wages doled out over 12 months. Many teachers have to work during the summer because their paycheck from the school is not enough. You gloss over the fact that there are more than 60 other PA schools districts that pay their teachers better than the Philadelphia School district (which is one of the toughest districts to teach in and has one of the highest city wage taxes), but you don't seem to be one to let the facts get in the way of your agenda.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 8:55 pm

On any given day, I am giving out 40-50 pencils and supplying paper with MY MONEY.

You say that I get a 3 month vacation? I am only paid for 10 months. And, as the other poster indicated, with all of the other work that is necessary to do, I cannot get papers graded and lesson plans done in a mere 90 minutes. Do the math, troll. I only make $44,000 a year, and I work 15 hours a day with OVERTIME. I make less than a garbage collector. And, I buy my own supplies! We are sick of your ilk in blaming the teachers and thinking that we have it made. Think again!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 8:58 pm

**without overtime. Typo. Would you work over 8 hours in a day and not get time and a half? I doubt it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 9:02 pm

You must be a newbie. The top scale is over 75K for 9 months work, equal to about 100K on an annualized basis. That is far too high. Add in the gilded benefits and it's ridiculous. When you're marching, make sure the taxpayers know what your total compensation package is.

Submitted by Anonymous teacher (not verified) on January 7, 2012 9:34 pm

It takes many years and multiple degrees to get to that level of salary. No other profession (profession, not "job") would ask people with that amount of experience and education to settle for $45,000 a year. And frankly, not many people stick it out in this profession long enough to reach the higher salary levels. It's just too difficult and way too stressful -- please try teaching and managing the impossible amount of paperwork for 180 kids a day in an inner city comprehensive high school -- go on, try it. Then come back after, oh, say, a month, and tell us how you're making out. Heh.

(BTW, it's Saturday night at quarter to ten, I've been correcting papers since 5:30, and will be spending many hours tomorrow writing lesson plans. Just thought you'd like to know the working conditions before you sign up for this lucrative career...)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 9:18 pm

That's interesting. Alot of the teachers I know started out in private industry and became teachers because it was too stressful. They have no intention of going back to the "rat race." Not when they can sit on the beach all summer in North Wildwood or Sea Isle. I don't know anyone who left teaching to work in private industry. If what you're saying is true, then the free market would require higher salaries to retain teachers and you wouldn't need a union at all. Should we disolve the union and see what happens?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 10:46 pm

Why on earth do you persist on badmouthing teachers, troll? Divide their salary by the numbers of hours that they WORK OFF OF THE CLOCK, you bet that they deserve that time off.
Many teachers have degrees and education that supercede that of many high paying execs. HAH, a city sanitation worker makes more than a teacher. Funny, no one gets too upset when they come around banging on doors looking for a "holiday gift" ----a tip, if you will for what my tax dollars are paying for.

You're damn straight I deserve three months off. I am up grading papers ---doing lesson plans and the like on my weekend. I work seven days a week...just like most dedicated teachers do. Put up, or shut up. If your job has got you down, get a real education, a degree---hey, become a teacher!

Submitted by Notebook Reader (not verified) on January 7, 2012 10:21 pm

Were you spurned in a summer romance in Wildwood? Your bitter and repetitive stereotype of Philadelphia teachers sounds familiar from some blogs earlier this year. It doesn't help the conversation.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 10:19 pm

Once again, I go to Avalon. I thought we've been over this?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 10:19 pm

And I will be working, pregnant, at a job where I make less than $10 an hour at a non-profit, because I love it and I think it helps my teaching. Just like I did last summer (minus the baby). The myth that teachers sit around all summer resting on their laurels is harmful and bizarre.

We have seasonal employment, as far as I'm concerned, and everyone I know who isn't on step 11 spends their spring looking for a summer job so they can keep paying back all the student loans they took out paying for their Master's degree.

The fact that teacher-bashing has become a cliche doesn't make it any less detrimental to the middle class.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 9:35 pm

Gee, how come teachers don't deserve those salaries? Many have two or three degrees, and work way beyond a regular 8 hour day! Oh, I get it, perhaps you are the one that is jaded! Only doctors and lawyers deserve those salaries for having multiple degrees?

Boy, aren't you stupid!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 10:50 pm

Puleeaze. A masters in education is nowhere near equivalent to a medical or law degree. The coursework is not demanding at all. Most of your masters plus 30 people couldn't make it through the first year of undergrad school in an engineering program.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2012 10:24 pm

Stop feeding the troll. This creep just has no idea. "If you can read this, thank a teacher".

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 8, 2012 5:13 am

Just for the record, I have been a teacher, an administrator, a lawyer, and a business owner. Teaching by far is the most demanding of all of those professions.

I can sit here and write briefs and legal documents all day long and into the night and I am not nearly as exhausted as I was when I taught. Teachers put far more emotion and passion into their jobs on a daily basis than any other profession. They are on stage all day long and they work under some of the most stressful conditions imaginable. They live it 24/7.

Teacher burnout is one of the most debilitating consequences of teaching and happens because of all the psychic energy they must put into their jobs every day. Emotional burnout is an issue that has been ignored by management and is epidemic in Philadelphia. It is a health issue. Teacher turnover has also been at epidemic proportions for years in urban districts.

The most ringing words on the subject I ever heard an assistant principal say to teachers at the end of the year was, "Go home, refresh your batteries, and return in September ready to have a good year."

Most teachers study during summer months and/or expand their background of experience so they can bring that back to the classroom and share it with their children. Most teachers are wonderful people who put their heart and soul into their jobs.

We need to stop bashing them!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 10:35 am

Rich, you are awesome. I so very much enjoy reading your posts. Thank you!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 8, 2012 10:12 am

You are more than welcome and thank you for your comment. It is heartfelt.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on January 9, 2012 8:08 am

How wrong can you be? I am shopping this back to school sales. Not my parents. Not them. I supply pencils, crayons, glue, paper, and everything else I need int he classroom. I even cover homework books, since only about half of my kids ever have even those.
As for what the district supplies? Really nothing. We have even been warned that due to the latest budget cut, there will be no more paper bought this year.
Second graders need more than what the district covers. Every child does.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 2:35 am

Instead of reading a union blog, why not read what the taxpayers have to say. Check out what people think about the Neshaminy teachers who are going on strike on Monday. Enjoy!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 8, 2012 6:46 am

I think it is Great that they are going to strike. It is time someone stood up and said enough is enough. I am sure the Neshaminy parents are pretty happy when their children Ace the SAT's and their children go to Ivy League schools!

I also bet the Neshaminy parents are ecstatic when their sports teams compete in and sometimes win championships all over Pennsylvania.

Have you checked out the cost of a middle class existence these days and the run away inflation that surrounds us? There is plenty of money in America to afford our teachers a middle class standard of living. Just ask Warren Buffet.

Our economy, as one Wall Street insider said, will never improve until the middle class make more money. They just do not have it to spend. Wealth is correlational my friend.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 11:11 am

I agree with previous posts...don't feed the troll! Teacher bashing is one of the reasons why teachers aren't getting the respect they deserve. If parents don't respect the teachers, then the children will not respect the teachers. If teachers are to perform other city duties during the summer months, then they must be paid! Teachers are only paid for 10 months. I don't understand where all this teacher bashing is coming from. Teaching used to be such a well respected profession. It is so sad to see such hatred toward the people that have such an empowering and important job.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 12:27 pm

The teacher bashing is coming from those corporations, administrators and politicians who are financially benefitting from the great school reform scam. Create a problem, pretend to have the solution and then milk it all the way to the bank. Teacher bashing is a way to deflect attention from who is causing the real problem.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 4:27 pm

The teacher bashing is coming from the people you work for, the taxpayers. The union entitlement mentality is disgusting everyone. At a time when we have 15 million people out of work, many more millions who have had to take other jobs with less pay, your union greed is alarming. The gaul of you people to call no pay raise "sacrifice" just shows that your union has turned you into a bunch of unrealistic spoiled whiners. You want to raise taxes on people who are really strugling to pay their bills and feed their families just so YOU can get a pay raise. It's no wonder everyone is fed up with government workers living off the teet of struggling taxpayers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 4:58 pm

If you knew what you were actually talking about I might be upset with your lies. Philadelphia teachers have always been one of the worst paid in Pennsylvania. They have forgone several pay reasons lasting over two and a half years. The 15 million out of work is due to the same folk who want to ship American jobs over sea and unionbust back home. As much as you'd like people to think Philly teachers are on some sort of gravytrain you ignore the fact that Philadelphia has always had trouble attracting teachers and keeping them for more than a few years. Whiners like yourself are just jealous because you though you were entitled to a lifetime of employment. Why not step up to the plate and become a teacher if it's such a walk in the park. You are too spineless to point the finger at the politicians and Ackermans of this world who have squandered millions whil boneheads like yourself teacherbash.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 1:21 pm

I think your totally right. There has to be someone on here benefiting from the charter schoo movement. They want the public to bash teachers inorder to pay them less and take attention away from the root of the problem. The teachers care about the children, they don't.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 2:31 pm

I am just reading all this, and I have some serious concerns about the buzzers. First of all, no adult should have to wear a buzzer. Any teacher that would allow another adult to tell them to wear a buzzer is too weak minded to be a teacher. I am a young teacher, and if I was told to wear a buzzer, I would tell them where to shove that buzzer! Have some self respect! If we all have the "at least we have a job mentality" the entire teaching profession is going down. No job is more important than your self worth!
My second concern : If charter schools are being run like a business, what is in it for teachers? Any business that wants employees to work and stay there, offers incentives. As I was navigating some charter school websites, I found a whole laundry list of expectations. Not once, did I see any incentive for the teacher to stay there. Benefits weren't listed, afterschool clubs incentives weren't listed. At the very bottom of one charter school it said, salary $40,000 no exceptions. If I get laid off, which will probably happen, I will gladly collect unemployment and go to school for something else. Can anyone tell me the incentives for a teacher to work at a charter school besides "professional development," we get plenty of PD in the PSD. Also, if there are no older teachers at the charter schools, who do the teachers go to for ideas and advice?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 4:56 pm

I think you highlighted some of the serious problems with school reform. People are creating patchworks of loosely affiliated schools in the name of "reform" with different policies and different motives. While I despise the bureaucratic machinations of the SDP, at least if we want to implement a change within the district it is possible.

Eliminating the district and creating this loose conglomeration of charters (which seems to be the master plan here) makes widespread reform less likely, not more.

There's a glaring inconsistency between the philosophy of running a school like a business and giving a flat salary to every teacher. Additionally, as people have pointed out over and over, that shows that this charter school reeeeeallllly doesn't want experienced teachers. A first-year teacher might not mind the difference between 40k and 44k, but a senior teacher is not going to take a salary half his/her current one.

Submitted by Brook Lenfest (not verified) on January 8, 2012 5:56 pm

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 5:46 pm

We can read, Brooke. Stop soliciting your crap on this site.

Submitted by Brook Lenfest (not verified) on January 8, 2012 6:33 pm

It's Brook not Brooke and I'm not soliciting. They asked a question about incentives for performance. The following is off our wedsite:

Rewards for Success

We value hard work. Teachers’ and leaders’ efforts are rewarded through merit-based pay and incentive programs. Tiered instructor levels mean constant opportunities for increased responsibilities and compensation, and achievement is acknowledged through annual bonuses tied to school performance. The leaders that drive schools’ academic gains are rewarded with competitive incentives. Our students’ potential is limitless; our work is rewarding.

There's also the Apprentice School Leader Program. We've been voted one of the top workplaces in the Philadelphia region because of the ability to grow a career within mastery.

And, don't tell me what to do!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 6:41 pm

You're an administrator? You don't seem very professional. The other poster is correct in saying that if they want this information, it is easily accessible via Google, or some other search engine.

I read your comments on here. I do agree with the consensus that your schools do not engage in fair hiring practices. I did, in fact, look at the "Bar Graphs" illustrated on your site. Nice graphics!---no hard core data.

Your school system already spends a considerable amount of my TAX dollars to run that website of yours. Please, spare us the free advertising here. And, for the record "Brooke", I am teling you what to do!

So, stop pontificating, and whining that someone told you off!

Submitted by Brook Lenfest (not verified) on January 8, 2012 6:06 pm

I have said nothing unprofessional. The person who said they were researching and could find nothing on incentives at charter chsools apparently didn't read enough.

Like it or not we are here to stay and since we get less to spend per student than the district schools we are saving the taxpayers of Pennsylvania money.

If you had better reading skills you wouldn't have misspelled my name.

To the person who would tell their boss to shove the pagers up their ass, I have news for them. If and when they're fired from being a teacher and go back to school to do something else they won't be getting very far by telling their boss something like that.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 6:27 pm

Please act professional, Brook. If you are a principal, act like one and stop throwing your weight around. Reiterating foul language that someone previously wrote only enhances your immaturity. Professional don't use foul language, nor do they repeat it.

Your organization is biased, unsubstantiated, and a sure fire way to make money off of kids. Your hiring practices are poor. I know talented "older" teachers in the proverbial sense that were not even considered for positions---many of them! When a law suits start to occur and many experienced, talented teachers grow tired of getting rejection letters, be prepared! I know I don't like what I am seeing or hearing. As an older teacher myself, I find this to be scary and sad. Do you have bar-graph statistics on the number of older teachers your organization turns away from potential jobs? Don't think so!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2012 10:40 am

Have taxes been lowered as a result? Less amount of money per student is exactly what it sounds like, less money per student. The money saved goes to the administrators and to grow the business. These schools are bare bones PSSA practice schools. I know because I work in one!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 6:56 pm

If you really believe in Mastery, then you need to start a serious movement among the rare good charters to get rid of all the terrible ones, all the for-profit ones, and all the politicians' friends money-making machines.

Many people are still sold on charters, but the year when the crap hits the fan is coming. Schools are not better just because they aren't public, and the favoritism shown towards charters will end. Better off joining the fight against the bad ones than aligning yourself with them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 8, 2012 6:18 pm

Good point!

Submitted by Brook Lenfest (not verified) on January 8, 2012 6:36 pm

I'm not a supported of all charters just good ones and in particular Mastery because that's the organization I know best. The bad ones will get rid of themselves.

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