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SRC votes to extend teachers’ contract again

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The School Reform Commission is voting at its regular meeting today to extend the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers until November 30. A similar extension is to be voted on for District 1201 of the SEIU, which covers maintenance workers.

The contract has already been extended once, from August 31 to October 31.

The other unions, covering principals and school police, have already extended their contracts until Nov. 30.

In the face of a large revenue shortfall, the District will be challenged this year to figure out a way to offer pay increases that might improve the negotiating climate. Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has said she wants some heavy-duty changes in this contract, including performance pay, an overhaul of the teacher evaluation process, and full site-selection. That is on top of some perennials, including a longer school day and year.

PFT president Jerry Jordan said in an interview that he felt the negotiations were "making progress."

"There are a number of very difficult issues we are discussing and have yet to discuss thoroughly," he said. Among them, he said, are the involuntary movement of teachers from one school to another, the longer school day and year, and wages and benefits.

Jordan said that each side has come armed with research backing its own position on some of these issues, like evaluation and performance pay, which unlike in the past have now become subjects of national discussion and debate.

"I like to rely upon proven research," Jordan said. "I lived through so many fads in the School District during the years, I’d like to know where the research is that points to X as the best way to go about improving student achievement."

He said that while Ackerman is relying heavily on school "turnaround" — in which low-performing schools are radically restructured, including new management and replacement of staff — research in Chicago indicates, in his view, that it hasn’t been very successful. He said that some of the turnaround schools there are in gentrifying neighborhoods, reopening with a better-off student population rather than serving the same student population as before.

The SRC is also hearing a presentation Wednesday on Renaissance Schools, Ackerman’s plans for identifying and restructuring some of the district’s lowest-performing schools, that borrows the name of the Chicago model.