Philadelphia officials prepare new teachers to go back to school

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This school year, more than 500 new teachers are entering the Philadelphia School District. (WPVI)

A classroom at the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush will soon be filled with students. But on Friday it was filled with middle school teachers who were wrapping up a week of new teacher orientation.

This school year, more than 500 new teachers are entering the Philadelphia School District. And with music, sports and art programs making a comeback, teachers are excited to get started.

"It's very refreshing to see such energy and excitement and that's from the top down. I think Dr. Hite has a lot of good plans for the district," said Jaime Mong, South Philadelphia, third-grade teacher at George W. Childs School.

"For the first time in about four years, or since I've been superintendent, we're opening in a more stable way, in a more stable environment," said Philadelphia Schools Superintendent Dr. William Hite.

But the district has its challenges.

After three tumultuous years, the district and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers still have not agreed on a new contract.

Still, the room was full of energy Friday as the mayor and superintendent addressed the newcomers.

"You're a first responder to our kids' futures, and I think that's very critical," said Mayor Jim Kenney.

Gift bags filled with school supplies for the new teachers were donated by the Philadelphia business and tourism community. A little something to calm those first-day jitters that even teachers feel from time to time.

"Just a little nervous, but I am truly excited about it. A new adventure for me," said Colleen Wyche, Mt. Airy, fourth-grade teacher at Gilbert Spruance Elementary School.

Dr. Hite says 97 percent of positions are filled, but there are still a few more positions available, mainly in specialty areas like special education and career and technical education. But he says every classroom that needs a teacher will have one come September.
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