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Countdown, Day 33: District breaks promise in Bok move, says PFT [UPDATED]

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

by Sonia Giebel

Update: The District disputes the PFT’s claim of a program cut at South Philadelphia High School. The school’s principal, Otis Hackney, confirmed that the program is intact, saying, "We will definitely have a culinary program at the school this year." It will be staffed by one teacher from Bok and one from Southern.

PFT complains about Bok merger with Southern

The District is doubling back on its promise to shift all of Bok’s career and technical programs to Southern, said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan during a PFT rally at South Philadelphia High School yesterday.

Following Bok Technical High’s closing, the school’s culinary arts program will not carry over when it merges into South Philadelphia High, according to a PFT statement. The District has replied Thursday that the program will continue.

“The students and their parents at Bok were promised that SPHS would offer the same Career and Technical programs that they were studying,” said Jordan in the statement. “The reality of what these students will be offered at SPHS in September is very different. Those programs did not move to SPHS with the students.”

The rally was part of the PFT’s recent “rally the neighborhood” campaign, an effort to alert communities to the drastic changes that will occur in schools if the District fails to provide adequate funding.

Union members to resume hunger strike

UNITE HERE, which represents school safety and food service workers, is planning another fast on Aug. 14 to protest the District’s lack of action to restore noontime aides to schools. All 1,202 aides were given pink slips in June, following the passing of a bare-bones budget. Without the presence of aides, schools will be opening this fall without any dedicated staff for hallway, lunchroom, or schoolyard supervision.

Aides are paid, on average, $10.88 an hour, just a bit above the living wage in Philadelphia. Student safety staff only recently secured that figure in their last contract, before the layoffs. Bringing back all of the student safety staff would cost the District about $10.5 million; the positions are budgeted at $8,700 per aide. The District is currently without available funding, though it hopes to receive $50 million from the city, which the governor and mayor have proposed to borrow against future sales tax revenues. The District has not indicated whether any aides will be rehired in time for the coming school year.

Sonia Giebel is an intern at the Notebook.


The School District of Philadelphia faces an unprecedented situation – uncertainty over whether it will be in a position to open safe and functioning schools in September.

This feature, appearing each weekday, is an effort to highlight developments and motivate action as we get closer to the beginning of the school year. We encourage readers to send us information about both concerns and breakthroughs to countdown@thenotebook.org.

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