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More principals lack certification paperwork

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

The School District Tuesday released a list of 12 principals and 3 assistant principals who, like LaGreta Brown, don’t have complete certifications on file with the state.

But it is difficult from the document to figure out exactly what the problem is — and whether, like Brown, they failed to keep up with continuing education requirements, or whether the snafus were the fault of the Office of Certification’s failure to follow through. Brown resigned as principal of South Philadelphia High School after a tumultuous tenure marked by controversy over her handling of violence against Asian students.

In a statement, Ackerman said, "There is simply no excuse why the District did not properly monitor the certification expirations and requirements. Just as every employee in the District must pass an FBI background check, all teachers and principals require up-to-date certifications. We failed to do our job in these cases and will take immediate steps to repair the process.”

According to Ackerman, the District will now enforce a rule that any new principal without Pennsylvania credentials must get emergency certification within 30 days.

Ackerman first disclosed that there were additional principals in the system without complete credentials to The Philadelphia Tribune during an interview about Brown that was published on Saturday. In that interview, Ackerman she said she wasn’t sure that Brown understood what was required of her in terms of documenting her continuing education courses.

The document released by the District includes several unclear explanations for why the 15 additional principals lack up-to-date certifications. In two cases, it appears that everything for an emergency certification was completed except for a doctor’s signature on a required physical; one was attributed to a "clerical mistake" by Arcadia University. Other designations include "emergency ready to go" and "emergency submitted to PDE," meaning the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Most emergency certifications, especially for administrators, are for those who have out-of-state credentials. Pennsylvania doesn’t automatically recognize those certifications, but requires extensive paperwork to make the person legally able to work here.

Spokesman Fernando Gallard said that the School District is supposed to file paperwork when principals come in from out of state. "The Office of Certification absolutely did not do the job it should have," he said.

The other cases appear to be closer to Brown’s case — people who had so-called Pennsylvania "Level II" principal certifications, but had let them lapse for one reason or another. Eight of the cases are marked as either "Level II ready to go" or "Level II submitted to PDE."

Gallard said he had no idea whether any of these people, like Brown, had failed to complete their 110 hours of continuing education requirements to keep their certifications active. It would seem, however, that if the applications were "ready to go" or "submitted," that the principals had done so.

Ackerman said she wrote to the heads of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the principals’ union "to apologize for this oversight and asked for their cooperation in helping me restore a certification monitoring system that works.”

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