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Activists call on Philly schools to limit teacher seniority, unilaterally

Photo: Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

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

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

It’s been called the "nuclear" option.

On Monday afternoon, a coalition of education groups called on the Philadelphia School District to bypass negotiations and unilaterally impose new contract terms on the District’s teachers.

The groups, led by Philadelphia School Partnership and PennCAN, specifically want the District to do away with teachers’ union seniority provisions that give teachers with more years of experience their preference among available positions.

Instead, these advocates say the District should implement a system of 100 percent "mutual consent," where principals and prospective teachers agree on every new placement. This system — referred to within the District as "site selection" — is already in place in 169 of the District’s 212 schools.

In 2012-13, nearly half of 1,047 open full-time positions were filled through the site selection process, the rest by traditional seniority procedures.

Reformers say the status quo prevents principals from building school teams that believe in the principal’s approach.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers strongly opposes eliminating seniority as a factor in placement.

A 1st-grade ‘travesty’

Nina Liou, parent of a kindergartner and 2nd grader at Bache-Martin Elementary in Fairmount (where she’s also Home and School Association president), was there to advocate for the change.

She said, in recent years, one of the school’s 1st-grade teachers was laid off and eventually replaced by someone with more seniority — a District employee who had been working as an administrator at District headquarters. Liou claimed the person came back into the classroom after a 10-year absence in order to ensure full retirement benefits.

Liou called the year a "travesty" for the students.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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