3,783 being laid off from Philadelphia School District

June 7, 2013 8:30:21 PM PDT
The Philadelphia School District announced Friday is it laying off 3,783 people across entire range of district employees, from senior administrators to support staff.

Superintendent of Schools William Hite made the dramatic announcement Friday afternoon at school district headquarters.

"The layoff notices that will be issued today are nothing less than catastrophic for our schools and our students," he said.

Those being laid off include:

  • 127 assistant principals
  • 676 teachers
  • 283 counselors
  • 1,202 noontime aides
  • 307 secretaries
  • 769 supportive service assistants
  • 89 teacher assistants (early childhood)
  • 53 school operations officers
  • 45 school improvement support liasons
  • 25 community relations liasons
  • 25 food service workers
  • 22 special ed classroom assistants
  • 21 conflict resolution specialists
  • 18 non-teaching assistants

    In all, the district is reducing its total workforce of 19,530 by nearly 20 percent. Unless the district gets money from the state or city, the layoffs will take effect June 30th

    "The School District of Philadelphia must live within its means. We can only spend the revenues that are given to us by the city and the state. Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality of how that looks," said Hite.

    Hite acknowledged the cuts were painful, but said the district had no other choice.

    Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, who learned the details of the layoffs just one hour before they were made public, had little sympathy of Hite's position.

    "I can tell you that however upset he may well be, it's not going to compare to the feelings of the educational employees of the school district who are going to be receiving pink slips," Jordan said.

    The School Reform Commission (SRC) maintains the cuts are necessary to cover a $304 million budget shortfall, since they had no additional promises of funding from the state legislature or the city prior to the May 31 SRC budget deadline.

    Last week, the SRC approved a $2.4 billion spending plan that includes deep cuts in art, music, athletics and other programs.

    Opponents called it the "Doomsday Budget."

    The district was required to pass a budget by last Friday. Officials say some of the cuts can be rescinded if they receive extra funding this summer; they've asked the city and state to kick in $180 million and for unions to agree to about $130 million in concessions.

    Friday afternoon, several principals said the loss of all those staff members would severely and negatively impact the quality of education for all students.

    "Losing all the key people and programs that contribute to the safety and well-being of students is devastating to us," said Lisa Kaplan, principal of the Andrew Jackson School.

    Joszette Robinson is among the 1200 noon time aides laid off.

    She is not a teacher, but rather an assistant in tune with students, who works the halls during lunch and recess.

    "Bullying is a major issue at our schools. So we prevent a lot of bullying," she said.

    "We know we have school police," said noon time aide Doris Hogan, "but they'd rather come to us than them if something is ready to go on."

    Otis Hackney is the principal at South Philadelphia High School. He says his school has made great progress and will be off the 'Persistently Dangerous' list for two years straight.

    "But without the additional support, it'll be very, very difficult for us to maintain a safe atmosphere," he told Action News.

    Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite, says unless the district gets concessions from unions and additional funding from the city and state, the district's future looks bleak.

    "Schools that we will have to open with are not schools I've seen here or anywhere else," he said.

    Mayor Michael Nutter released a statement asking City Council to approve a revenue package he says will provide nearly a $100 million of additional funds.

    He and Hite are pleading with Harrisburg for help. They have just weeks to change the so-called Doomsday Budget approved in May.

    PARENTS REACT

    Parents were upset - sad, in fact - to hear that school personnel are getting laid off by the thousands. They are, of course, concerned about how this will impact their children's education.

    "We need so much for these kids. It's going backwards," said one parent.

    After school let out Friday at Laura Waring Elementary in the Fairmount section, many parents were just hearing that hundreds of teachers and all assistant principals are getting layoff notices.

    "I think the kids need more people in their lives," said parent Nicole Miller. "Some of them don't have it at home, so when they come to school they need that teacher, that vice principal or assistant. They need that at school."

    "Miss Smith, the assistant at this school, we love her," said Shantae Thorne. "My kids have a real connection with that woman."

    Many appealed for the funding needed to close the budget gap.

    "I don't understand it," said Janail Shippen. "You got money for other things, but you don't got money for education for children, or people to work for you to help you."

    "Somehow Governor Corbett and local elected officials need to do more to make sure our schools are properly funded," said Ola Solanke of Francisville.

    And they wonder how the district can consolidate schools effectively with a smaller staff.

    "Who is going to teach the kids being pushed out into the other schools?" asked Sharelle McCaskill. "Because they are closing down other schools."

    EMAIL SENT TO PRINCIPALS

    Action News obtained the email sent to school principals from the superintendent about the layoffs.

    It reads:

    Dear Principals,

    This is a follow-up to my message yesterday about layoff notices.

    We understand this is a difficult process for you and your school community. The Office of Human Resources will finish mailing letters today to all school-based employees affected by the layoffs. All principals will receive a list of affected employees from your Human Resources staffer this weekend.

    Your Assistant Superintendent will meet with you to discuss the facts about the layoffs and to guide you in discussing the circumstances with your staff, students and families. I encourage you to utilize your Assistant Superintendent throughout this process. They are available to support you and to answer your questions. We encourage you to work with them on contingency plans for staff absences and other matters. There will be ongoing professional development opportunities and supports for principals and staff throughout the summer and fall to address your needs.

    As difficult as this process might be, we need your cooperation in following our established guidelines and procedures. The school year has not yet ended and our students need your leadership and commitment.

    I greatly appreciate everything that you are doing on behalf of our colleagues, students and District community.

    Thank you for your continued support, cooperation and leadership.

    Sincerely,

    William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D.
    Superintendent


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