Northeast Times

Thousands of layoffs stun Philadelphia School District

More than 3,700 School Dis­trict em­ploy­ees re­ceived pink slips in what could prove to be the largest job cut in al­most 40 years.

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. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus