Donate today!
view counter

Countdown, Day 18: What are you doing to bring about a positive opening of schools?

By Wendy Harris on Aug 22, 2013 01:22 PM

The District will open schools for the 2013-14 school year in a little over two weeks. Though Superintendent William Hite has been promised an infusion of $50 million to help open the doors on time, many schools will still be without critical components and staff such as guidance counselors, assistant principals, and other positions that would allow them to operate at an adequate level.   

Over the past several months, many advocacy organizations have taken to the streets to rally for the fair funding of Philadelphia public schools. Those protests continue at 3:30 p.m. today, when demonstrators will gather outside the Comcast building, march to City Hall, then to District headquarters to protest the state of the city’s schools. The School Reform Commission meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. today at District headquarters.

The Notebook asked 11 local education organizations to share what steps each is taking before the opening of schools on Sept. 9. Four of those organizations responded. Here is what they had to say.   


Education Voters PA
Susan Gobreski, executive director

Education Voters is advocating and mobilizing for more resources now, like the $45 million being withheld by Harrisburg and for Philly to add some additional dollars – not loans or advances. Longer term, we are working to get a state formula to help stop this madness. Our work is targeted civic action and supporting policy priorities – working with people to directly engage in the policy process.

Our elected officials need to start delivering for our students as if their jobs depend on it. People are mad, and I think our elected officials don’t fully comprehend the wave that is headed their way if they aren’t clearly taking big steps to change this. The consequences of not having a formula are horribly real right now.

It is also critical that people stop perpetuating the lie that money doesn’t matter to education. Money is critical – class size, planning time, science, language programs. Money buys us the chance to develop the practices that matter most – developing the strength and capacity of principals and leadership teams, treating teachers like the professionals they are and creating good learning environments. Call your Congress members and senators and ask them to help shake that $45 million loose for Philly.

Public Citizens for Children and Youth
Anthony Hopkins, communications director

PCCY sees three big challenges: First, we must get the opening of schools right; second, we need a new teachers’ contract that works for great teachers and students; and third, we need to continue the push for funding.

We are just a few weeks away from the start of the year and there are parents who still do not know where to enroll their kids. PCCY is identifying gaps in the enrollment process and sharing them with the District. 

We also want the best and brightest teachers and principals in our schools. To make this happen, PCCY is advocating for changes in the new contract that reward the District’s top teachers and give schools and parents the power to decide what’s best for their schools.

PCCY is also pushing Harrisburg to stop the political games and release the $45 million due to the District. If we do this, we are confident our schools will be ready to go on Sept. 9.

Parents United for Public Education
Helen Gym, co-founder

Our first and foremost goal is to let parents know what to expect in schools before the year starts: no guidance counselors for two-thirds of elementary schools and 60 percent of high schools; one nurse per 1,500 students; zero full-time librarians; potential for split grades and maximum class sizes, which we eliminated in the Paul Vallas years. Is this what parents believe is right and safe for children?

Our second goal is to ensure that the $180 million requested from the District by the city and state be delivered to the schools. We can't have a conversation about schools if the city and state refuse to provide basic resources and staffing needs.

Finally, we want to engage parents citywide in a long-term discussion on schools, funding, and political leadership. Political leadership this year was absolutely miserable and failed our children. It wasn't just Harrisburg and a so-called Philadelphia-hating Republican party. The Philadelphia schools were sunk by local politicians on both sides of the aisle, who have shamelessly neglected our schools even while employing the rhetoric of school reform. We are working to engage parents citywide on all these areas before Sept. 9.

Youth United for Change
Khyeanna Mallette, YUC member and rising junior at Philadelphia Military Academy at Elverson

This summer, Youth United for Change, as a part of PCAPS, will continue door-knocking to let the community know what has been going on with public schools and to build our movement. On Aug. 22, at 3:30 p.m., YUC, as a member of PCAPS, will march from the Comcast building to City Hall to the School District to demand full and fair funding for our schools.

On Aug. 24, YUC and other organizations will join together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and to demand that the national government stop putting public education last on the list of priorities, not only in Philadelphia, but across the country. 

On Sept. 8, YUC and PCAPS will be going to Gov. Corbett’s office to hold a vigil for the death of public education and to tell the governor that we deserve our fair-funding formula back.

The School District of Philadelphia faces an unprecedented situation – uncertainty over whether it will be in a position to open safe and functioning schools in September.

This feature, appearing each weekday, is an effort to highlight developments and motivate action as we get closer to the beginning of the school year. We encourage readers to send us information about both concerns and breakthroughs to

Click Here
view counter

Comments (28)

Submitted by Teacher Bill (not verified) on August 22, 2013 1:34 pm

High School Teacher

As a high school teacher I've been preparing my room for an indeterminate number of students. Last year my classes ranged from 22 to 33 students depending on time of year and class but this year I'm expecting 33+ since without our contract in force I have no faith we can even think of 33 as the max. The challenge is arranging the room to have enough chairs while having enough stations for so many students. It is going to be a huge challenge doing activities which is especially problematic since those were what managed to keep students the most engaged.

I've also been talking with volunteers from local education programs to see what support we can have in the room. It's going to be an interesting trial by fire for them but I hope it doesn't scare them away from the SDP. The problem here is that volunteers have nowhere near the reliability of actual instructional support so you need to plan lessons for when you have help and when you don't simultaneously.

I also cleaned my home and have lunches and dinners for a month organized. It might not be directly school related but I know this is going to be an incredibly stressful opening of the school year for teachers so I've done everything to minimize stress at home!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 22, 2013 2:54 pm
Don't forget volunteers need a security clearance and must apply for a background check before they can work in the school. They have to go through the district and pay for it themselves. Otherwise, you will be legally liable if anything happens to any of your students.
Submitted by Teacher Bill (not verified) on August 22, 2013 2:01 pm
I believe some of the academic programs actually help with the clearances. Thanks for the reminder, I will definitely have to check and make sure anyone who comes into my classroom has their clearances!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 22, 2013 2:16 pm
Ok... rather be in your situation with the unknown number of students compared to my situation that I am laid off and do not know if I will be working come this September. We are all stressed but not having a job or being able to pay the bills is even more stressful. Rarely is it discussed about the livelihood of the teachers who kill themselves everyday for their students and were laid off over politics. Yes the students are more important, but it hurts being just a number when I was a product of the Philadelphia School System and persevered to become a great teacher for years only to be laid off in my own school system and city.
Submitted by Teacher Bill (not verified) on August 22, 2013 2:14 pm
My preparations are in no way meant to demean you. I wish you the best of luck either being recalled or finding a job elsewhere.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 22, 2013 3:08 pm
THANKS for putting as your response. I was actually thinking the same exact thing and was about to post this. Many educators are here complaining about spending, pay cuts, seniority, etc. Little is discussed about the thousands of individuals that were laid off and have to work with MUCH less resources to just pay the bills and getting medical assistance to pay for their kids medical care. Especially when we were not laid off due to our performance but due to politics as you stated. Once again, thanks for placing this post.
Submitted by Tired Educator (not verified) on August 22, 2013 5:38 pm
It sucks to be in that position. My second year in the district I was laid off and it felt as if time was moving on and no one else cared. Ultimately being laid off is temporary and what everyone is fighting for is permanent. If everyone sticks together you will come back to your rights and benefits on top of your wages. After a few more years with your seniority hopefully you won't have to deal with this again. Its horrible, its unfair for anyone to be laid off due to the nonchalance of the state, but you will be back though even though it stings now.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 22, 2013 3:34 pm
Donna Cooper - Shame on you and PCCY!!! All you have done is attack unionized teachers. You left your grassroots at the door. You are the same as Nutter and the privateers! You screwed the preschool programs and now you are screwing with K-12. You have no place trying to influence a union contract.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 6:50 am
Susan Gobreski and Ed Voters are also part of the "coaltion" which has called for the end of seniority for PFT members. Now that they have gotten what they wanted, we can all thank them for helping the SRC and the Governor in their union-busting efforts. Hope they have the decency to come back next year and tell us how well that has worked for the students.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 7:00 am
Agreed! Union busting led by Gobreski, Cooper, Mondesire (NAACP), ASPIRA, Congreso, etc. all under the direction of the Philadelphia School Dictatorship (funder of the coalition). Gorbreski's husband is a PFT teacher - will he lose his job? I doubt it.
Submitted by Lisa Haver (not verified) on August 23, 2013 7:56 am
And Patricia Coulter, head of the Philadelphia Urban League and also a Coaltion member, has an editorial in today's paper decrying the loss of "workers rights". Except the ones whose rights she is helping the Governor take away, I guess.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 22, 2013 3:47 pm
Well let's see, today I spent my last $150 for the next 8 days so I could buy supplies for to educate other people's children. How selfish I am!! Hey, where're my exorbitant big bucks? I should've looked harder before I left the house this morning. Then I could've spent unlimited funds.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 22, 2013 5:36 pm
I, too think of those who were laid off this past summer. I know how you are feeling because I was laid off the year before. It is stressful not knowing when or if you will be called back to work and teach our children here in Philadelphia. My thoughts and prayers are with each of you who is in this situation.
Submitted by A Teacher (not verified) on August 22, 2013 10:06 pm
That was very kind of you. Thank You...
Submitted by Lisa Haver (not verified) on August 23, 2013 7:41 am
Is it time for teachers to stop spending money and enabling the same school district which is persecuting them? Teachers keep telling the SRC that they keep the district going, but that didn't stop them from taking seniority and step increases. It may seem harsh, but at some point you have to say "enough". Let them pay their own bills. Let them see how well the district operates when we are not funding it. Thoughts?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 7:02 am
As a teacher, I agree but it is easier said than done. I buy everything - already spent over $500 for this coming year. Colleague next to me doesn't. Guess where students and colleague goes for supplies to tissues? Do I let a kids nose run and say "sorry." As a parent, I want my kids to go to school to do more than sit. I'm sure teachers in Lower Merion, and at SLA, "The Workshop" and Penn Alexander are not dealing with what I deal with at a neighborhood school. So, this does not affect all teachers.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 4, 2013 5:32 pm
I worked at a school where the princpal refused to give me a computer and she wanted everything I did do be done on a printer (nothing handwritten on the walls). She didn't like what I had done but still didn't give me a printer so I took it all down. I said if you come in here and don't like what I've done I'm going on record that it is not my doing. I'm not using my home printer when you have a computer room nearby that you keep locked. It's very hard and often risky but sometimes you just have to say no. If they want you to do bulletin boards and there is no construction paper then there's no paper, leave it empty. I think the principals should be raising holy hell.
Submitted by Pervez (not verified) on January 13, 2018 3:40 pm

We're checking out this blog to get newbie. We're pleased to talk about this I’ve turn into a superb buff of your site theoretically. At this moment please click here  payday loans  Thanks a ton significantly once for all occupation.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

By using this service you agree not to post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. We reserve the right to delete or remove any material deemed to be in violation of this rule, and to ban anyone who violates this rule. Please see our "Terms of Usage" for more detail concerning your obligations as a user of this service. Reader comments are limited to 500 words. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

Follow Us On

Read the latest print issue

Philly Ed Feed

Recent Comments


Public School Notebook

699 Ranstead St.
Third Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: (215) 839-0082
Fax: (215) 238-2300

© Copyright 2013 The Philadelphia Public School Notebook. All Rights Reserved.
Terms of Usage and Privacy Policy