This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Principal participation is required
Response to Feb. 2013 edition article “Where displaced teachers will land is uncertain.”
A frequent complaint about schools is about what to do with ineffective teachers.
But it is not impossible to get rid of incompetent teachers. There is a system in place, even with union due process. The problem is that principals refuse to do their part. Principals are supposed to observe teaching. They may only get two “formal” observations per year, but they are allowed to be in any classroom on any day and at any time. They can bring concerns to a teacher’s attention, discuss them with the new-teacher coach or department head, recommend coaching or professional development, and then re-observe. If there is no improvement, the teacher can be fired.
Often principals will not execute this process because they think it is too much work. Their refusal to participate in the process is their failure, not the teachers’.
The writer teaches reading and social studies at Bache-Martin School.
Analyze 10 years of SRC budgets
Response to Feb. 2013 edition editorial “Change the dynamic.”
To find out why the District is in so much financial distress, we need a detailed analysis of the budget over the last 10 years, since it has been managed by the School Reform Commission.
Every classroom teacher can speak from experience about how long schools have been starved for resources. As a computer teacher, I had a computer lab that received new computers in 2001. When I retired in 2011 the computer lab still had those computers. I would go to conferences and see fantastic things they were doing in other districts. I had to go back and make do with aging equipment.
In 2010, then-finance director Michael Masch held community meetings to talk about the District’s budget. Allocations for District schools were cut, but funding for charters went up. That was a clear signal that the District was not supporting public schools and that parents should consider charters.
The writer is an activist and retired Philadelphia public school teacher.
A neighborhood asset
Response to Feb. 18 blog post, “Cash-strapped Philly schools hoping to tackle tax deadbeats.”
It is great Philly is thinking of ways to secure revenue for schools through the Actual Value Initiative, by cracking down on tax delinquents, and cleaning up the sheriff sale process. But none of these changes will bring in the cash needed to increase funding to struggling schools, nor will they get schools off the closings list.
The city needs to knock down doors and collect delinquent taxes, keep the sheriff sale process transparent so that property rolls over from people who do not pay to those who will, and fine deadbeat landlords who let properties deteriorate.
The city ought to have a smooth system for property management and delivery of funds to schools. Neighborhood schools are huge community assets. We need the same level of facilities that suburban schools have – or city children will suffer, and families will flee.
The writer is a veterinary medicine and city and regional planning Ph.D. student at University of Pennsylvania.