One-on-one with Philadelphia schools superintendent William Hite

PHILADELPHIA - August 26, 2013

Philadelphia Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Hite says he can open schools in two weeks with barebones education to offer Philadelphia's 136,000 public school students.

"It's the bare minimum of what we need in order to have adequate schools," said Hite.

With the $50 million pledge from City Hall, he's calling back 1,000 of the 4,000 employees laid off this summer.

There will now be one secretary per school, 46 assistant principals, 126 guidance counselors, 66 music teachers and 900 noontime aides.

The philosophy here: something is better than nothing.

"All classrooms will have a teacher, all buildings will have principals, all buildings will have individuals to monitor students in the hall and in the cafeteria," said Hite.

This money only carries the district through the first semester. The schools are still waiting for Gov. Corbett to release $45 million from Harrisburg, and that is largely contingent on current labor negotiations with the teacher's union.

The district is demanding the union contribute over $130 million in givebacks, wage cuts and contributions to their healthcare costs.

The union's public stance has been no way. But negotiations continue, with the contract expiring Saturday night at midnight.

"I'm more concerned with making sure our schools open with the personnel needed in order to run a school, and that schools are not a warehouse," said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan.

So public schools like West Philadelphia High are set to re-open on September 9th, albeit with a skeleton staff.

The teacher's union has scheduled a mass membership meeting for next Monday, Labor Day, which may or may not be the ideal time for a strike vote.

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