The Philadelphia School District’s plans to lay off more than 3,700 employees, in what could prove to be the largest job cut in almost 40 years, would turn the city’s schools into “empty shells,” Superintendent William Hite said.
The superintendent said the layoffs would take effect on July 1 if money isn’t found to fill the district’s $304 million budget shortfall for 2013-2014.
Hite on Friday announced that 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, 307 secretaries and 769 school support staffers will be pink-slipped along with 419 other workers, according to information supplied by the district.
The superintendent called the layoffs “deeply disheartening.”
He said the affected 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. He said he believes layoffs in 1977 might have involved more workers.
“Every aspect of the district will feel the impact,” Hite said during the 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.
At Northeast High, the number is 43. That’s how many staffers, including all five assistant principals, will lose their jobs, said Rob Caroselli, one of those assistant principals.
On Friday, Caroselli said the high school’s support staff, secretaries and counselors would be idled, too. Northeast, the city’s largest high school, has more than 3,000 students.
The high school’s principal, Linda Carroll, joined Hite and other school principals at the news conference to praise the staffers she is losing. Northeast’s guidance counselors, she said, have helped the school’s students get into many colleges and universities and also have helped them get scholarships.
Other principals complained that they won’t even have staffers to answer their schools’ phones.
“I don’t think we’ll have recess next year,” said Mickey Komins, principal of Anne Frank Elementary in Bustleton.
Anne Frank is the city’s second-largest elementary school, Komins said. Approximately 1,100 pupils are expected next year, but the school will lose about 20 of its roughly 120 staffers, Komins said in a phone interview Monday. The cutback at Anne Frank is across the board, he said.
“It affects everything we do,” he said.
Eugene McLaughlin, principal of C.C.A. Baldi Middle School on Verree Road, on Monday said his support staff has been decimated. He expects to lose 32 of about 135 positions at Baldi, which has 1,254 pupils and is the city’s largest middle school.
The staffers headed for unemployment will lose their health benefits as of June 30, he said. A few teachers won’t be coming back to Baldi next year, he said, but they have seniority so will be assigned to classrooms in other district schools.
Shawn McGuigan, principal of Fels High School, said the layoffs won’t keep the school from opening its Fels School of the Arts next year.
“It’s my intention that we’re moving forward with that,” McGuigan said Monday.
The program is designed to offer performing and visual arts-intensive curricula at the Langdon Street school.
RED INK FLOWS
Financially, the district is in a very bad way. That’s nothing new.
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 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.
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 adoption of a so-called Doomsday Budget on May 30. 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 Federation 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. ••