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District fills all its vacancies

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

Despite a tense summer marked by a legal stalemate over layoffs and a long delay in placing teachers in their assignments, the District is reporting that it has managed to fill all its vacancies before students show up for the first day of school on Tuesday.

According to spokesman Fernando Gallard, every vacancy except one for a librarian has been filled and more than 600 of roughly 1,200 teachers who were laid off due to budget cuts were recalled.

With teachers due back to work on September 1, the District had more than 1,000 openings as of mid-August and still had 200 vacancies as recently as August 30.

Staffing up was accomplished during two weeks of marathon sessions in which teachers came to pick assignments according to their qualifications and seniority. Generally, that process takes place much earlier in the summer, giving teachers more time to prepare for their new school and position.

The sessions were jointly staffed, as always, by the District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

"This was a heavy lift, folks here put in long hours, weekend hours, and the PFT was working with the District to try to get this done," Gallard said.

The question has been raised that the District didn’t need to lay off so many teachers in the first place, but Gallard said that there was no way of knowing exactly what the needs of individual schools would be back in June, when officials are legally required to inform teachers of their status.

He said that, among other things, more teachers took advantage of an early retirement incentive and principals cut their budgets by cutting fewer teachers than the District’s budget mavens anticipated.

The latest numbers from the District:

  • 1,260 teachers were laid off overall
  • 600+ teachers were called back; an additional 332 did not respond to call-backs (meaning it is likely that they had taken other jobs during the delay in finding out whether they would be called back). This means all but about 300 laid-off teachers got call-backs.
  • 563 other teachers opted for the District’s voluntary early retirement program, which was designed to reduce the number of layoffs.