Catholic high schools closed as teacher strike continues

September 14, 2011 3:05:31 PM PDT
There will be no classes at the 17 high schools in the Philadelphia Archdiocese until a teachers strike is over.

Of those schools, 16 were closed starting this morning. The one exception was at Bishop Wood High School in Warminster, Pa., which was open for a few hours so students could take care of some orientation issues. Bishop Wood missed one day last week because of severe weather.

At all of the schools, teachers are now walking the picket lines. Classes have been cancelled for more than 16,000 students who had been operating on a modified schedule since last week when the 711 lay teachers went on strike.

The teachers say that, in its drive for flexibility, the Archdiocese really wants to strip teachers of protections, principally job security. They worry that increased use of part-time teachers will cost higher-paid teachers their jobs.

"That's my biggest concern," said teacher Steve Peters. "I'm 62 years old, I'd like to work until I'm 66. I've invested a lot of my life here."

"Part-time teachers are cheaper, there's no benefits," said striking teacher Carol Snowdon. "We've given our lives to this."

The Archdiocese has repeatedly said part-timers will not be used to replace full-time employees.

"The proposal says that part-time teachers will never replace full-time teachers," said Superintendent Mary Rochford.

In addition to the Archdiocese and the teachers, a third party has surfaced on Facebook. "Catholic Parents Respond" (CPR) is calling itself a new coalition of angry parents that calls for withholding of tuition payments until the children are back in school.

CPR said it is not taking sides. However, the group does take the Archdiocese to task for not accepting the union's offer from Tuesday that teachers return to work under old contract rules if the Archdiocese accepted a third-party mediator in the meantime.

CPR said its members could take up positions on the picket lines to express their frustration.


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