The Inquirer’s recent series on school violence has sparked comment from many quarters. The response of Mayor Nutter and Police Commissioner Ramsey, in particular, has provoked some controversy. They have suggested that it might be time to place Philadelphia police officers in some of our more dangerous schools.
Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers was quoted as favoring this idea. Jordan cited his own experiences as a teacher at University City High School where at one time city police officers were assigned.
Recent revelations about the role of School Reform Commission Chairman Robert Archie in the awarding of a school contract that could be worth up to $60 million demand a full investigation from state agencies and a response from Mayor Nutter.
Two things need to happen in order to change our school governance to an elected school board.
First, we have to return the School District to local control.
“The students are hopeless."
“The union is useless."
“The administrators are incompetent, and liars to boot."
“The families are horrible."
These, and many more, are among the comments responding to the Inquirer series on school violence.
This is the second in a three-part series about governance of the Philadelphia schools.
Today, Philadelphia's schools are governed by a state commission with a majority selected by the governor in Harrisburg. Ten years ago we had a school board appointed by the mayor and nominated by a panel of civic notables, who were selected by the mayor based on criteria enumerated in the city’s charter. In both cases, Philadelphia's citizens did not select the people responsible for the city's public school system.
In this current climate of educational reform many teachers are carrying big chips on our shoulders.
Follow the local and national news, and you will see attacks against teachers from both the liberal and conservative establishment. In addition to politicians weighing in on how we are doing our jobs, parents, students, wealthy donors, and ordinary taxpayers are spewing a narrative that most teachers in “low-performing schools” are ineffective. The concept of teacher “accountability” could easily be translated to “it's the teachers' fault for failing schools.”
Last week’s two scheduled budget meetings reinforced a troubling theme in the District’s approach to community engagement – creating a forum where community concerns are rendered irrelevant. Consider the baffling process dozens of parents endured last Saturday morning.
For almost 10 years Philadelphia schools have been governed by a five-member commission selected by the governor, who appoints the majority, and the mayor, who gets two appointments. The citizens of Philadelphia, unique in the commonwealth, have no say in the selection of this body and no way, short of discharging the governor, of removing its members.
The School District’s jaw-dropping decision to terminate Audenried teacher Hope Moffett is just another example of the polarizing style that defines this administration. Whether it’s handling an outspoken young teacher, racial violence at South Philadelphia High School, or parents who disagreed with turnaround policies at West Philadelphia High School, the District has shown the lengths it will go to make a point and its willingness to sacrifice its moral authority to do so.
But with a political and economic climate that's just waiting for excuses to underfund schools, has this administration's leadership failures become a liability to itself and the city?
The announcement by the School Reform Commission that it will extend Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s contract through June 2014 sends a terrible message about the SRC’s approach to the most serious financial disaster the District has seen in recent memory.
The move effectively preserves one of the most lucrative pay packages for a public employee in the state, flying in the face of a national bipartisan trend toward curbing exorbitant compensation for school chiefs.