Northeast Times

Public school staffs are slashed

Thou­sands of school em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing many in the River Wards, will be laid off in Ju­ly un­less the dis­trict gets needed funds. 

In what could prove to be the largest jobs cut in al­most 40 years, more than 3,700 school em­ploy­ees will be laid off Ju­ly 1 if more money isn’t found to fill up the dis­trict’s $304 mil­lion budget hole.

Schools Su­per­in­tend­ent Wil­li­am Hite on Fri­day an­nounced lay­off no­tices were be­ing mailed to 3,783 of the dis­trict’s 19,530 em­ploy­ees. Of that num­ber, 676 teach­ers, 283 coun­selors, 127 as­sist­ant prin­cipals, 1,202 noon-time aides and 307 sec­ret­ar­ies and 769 school sup­port staffers will be pink-slipped along with 419 oth­er work­ers, ac­cord­ing to stats sup­plied by the dis­trict.

The su­per­in­tend­ent called the lay­offs “deeply dis­heart­en­ing.”

He said the soon-to-be-idled staffers “play im­port­ant roles in the lives of thou­sands of stu­dents In what could prove to be the largest jobs cut in al­most 40 years, more than 3,700 school em­ploy­ees will be laid off Ju­ly 1 if more money isn’t found to fill up the dis­trict’s $304 mil­lion budget hole.

Schools Su­per­in­tend­ent Wil­li­am Hite on Fri­day an­nounced lay­off no­tices were be­ing mailed to 3,783 of the dis­trict’s 19,530 em­ploy­ees. Of that num­ber, 676 teach­ers, 283 coun­selors, 127 as­sist­ant prin­cipals, 1,202 noon-time aides and 307 sec­ret­ar­ies and 769 school sup­port staffers will be pink-slipped along with 419 oth­er work­ers, ac­cord­ing to stats sup­plied by the dis­trict.

The su­per­in­tend­ent called the lay­offs “deeply dis­heart­en­ing.”

He said the soon-to-be-idled staffers “play im­port­ant roles in the lives of thou­sands of stu­dents throughout our city. They of­ten do jobs bey­ond their titles and em­ploy­ee clas­si­fic­a­tions. They are teach­ers, coun­selors, friends, pro­tect­ors and ment­ors to the chil­dren of Phil­adelphia. Without them, our schools will be just empty shells.”

The lay­off total rep­res­ents al­most 20 per­cent of the school dis­trict’s staff, dis­trict spokes­man Fernando Gal­lard said. 

“Every as­pect of the dis­trict will feel the im­pact,” Hite said dur­ing a June 7 news con­fer­ence. “Schools, re­gion­al of­fices and cent­ral of­fice.”

Hite said the dis­trict’s cent­ral of­fice work force will be re­duced by 40 per­cent.

Gal­lard did not provide a school-by-school break­down of the lay­offs. Most schools con­tac­ted by Star would not yet give spe­cif­ics on which staff mem­bers would go.

At  Bod­ine High School for In­ter­na­tion­al Af­fairs in North­ern Liber­ties, 1101 N. 4th St., ap­prox­im­ately 12 staff mem­bers will be laid off, ac­cord­ing to school staffer Ulysses McGhee. The school’s one sec­ret­ary will be cut, as well as the school’s as­sist­ant prin­cip­al and coun­selor. 

“I think it’s go­ing to be tough, 12th graders are go­ing to have a hard time get­ting in­to col­lege,” McGhee said of los­ing the coun­selor po­s­i­tion. Los­ing the school’s as­sist­ant prin­cip­al, Nina Gavula, will af­fect the school’s 550 stu­dents, McGhee said. “Dis­cip­lin­ary wise, it’s go­ing to be an is­sue.” 

For oth­er River Wards schools, it wasn’t clear how many staff mem­bers would be af­fected. Staff at Hor­a­tio B. Hack­ett Ele­ment­ary School, 2161 E. York St., and Brides­burg Ele­ment­ary School, 2824 Jenks St., would not of­fer any com­ment on lay­offs when reached by phone Monday. 

In March, the Phil­adelphia School Re­form Com­mis­sion agreed to close 23 pub­lic schools, in­clud­ing three in the River Wards: Charles Car­roll High School, 2700 E. Au­burn St., Douglas High School, 2700 E. Hunt­ing­don St., and Sherid­an West Academy, 3701 Frank­ford Ave. Those schools will all close this month.

Penn Treaty Middle School could not be reached by press time. When pub­lic school clos­ings were an­nounced in March, Penn Treaty was slated to ex­pand to in­clude grades 9 through 12, and also stu­dents from oth­er closed schools — stu­dents in grades 5 and 6 from Hack­ett Ele­ment­ary would trans­ition to Penn Treaty Middle, as well as high school stu­dents from Sherid­an West Academy, Douglas and Car­roll, if the school in­cludes grades 9 through 12.

Hite said the dis­trict has bor­rowed $300 mil­lion to pay its bills and closed 30 schools dur­ing the past 18 months. The dis­trict also has frozen charter school ex­pan­sion and ad­op­ted a budget that cuts pro­grams, po­s­i­tions and re­sources and has re­duced the salar­ies of seni­or staff.

“We also have re­duced cent­ral of­fice staff, school budgets, nurs­ing and coun­sel­ing levels, ath­let­ics, art and mu­sic pro­grams. We have lowered wages, and re­quired fur­lough days and con­tri­bu­tions to health be­ne­fits,” Hite said June 7.

All of that has helped the dis­trict’s fin­ances, but hasn’t helped enough.

“The real­ity is that, if we had not done these things, our out­look would be even bleak­er,” Hite said. “The dis­trict would be in more per­il.”

Em­ploy­ee con­tracts have to be honored, so those slated to be laid off had to be in­formed.

The lay­offs fol­low the School Re­form Com­mis­sion’s re­cent ad­op­tion of a so-called Doomes­day Budget. That budget will be amended if there is an in­fu­sion of cash from the state and the city as well as give­backs from the Phil­adelphia Fed­er­al of Teach­ers. 

“I am do­ing everything in my power to pre­vent this budget from be­com­ing a real­ity on Ju­ly 1,” Hite said.

In mid-May, May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter an­nounced hikes on li­quor and oth­er taxes to col­lect $95 mil­lion for the school dis­trict. State ap­prov­al is needed for the meas­ures. ••

You can reach and at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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