With Seniority Suspended, Parents And Teachers Not Happy

With Seniority Suspended, Parents And Teachers Not Happy

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PHILADELPHIA -

A unanimous vote by the School Reform Commission sent a packed room of parents, teachers and community members into an uproar.

In a move to get schools open and running for September 9th, the board voted to suspend certain school codes. The most controversial decision deals with how staff is hired and placed. The plan will bring back about 1000 of the more than 3000 staff laid off. But who is brought back won't be based on seniority, but instead, on the need and the best fit.

"To use those staff who are familiar with students, the schools in their communities," says Superintendent William Hite. "It wasn't about trying to wholesale change or attack some provision in the contract; it was really about how do we manage the fewer staff that we have,"

Parents worry that their children's safety and education are being compromised because not every school will be fully staffed.

"No one in their right mind would open schools without the adequate number of school aides, without a guidance counselor for every child, without nurses," says Helen Gym, a parent. "You talk about a war on education, and you fire on the soldiers who are going to do it for you."

Teachers are angry about losing seniority and forfeiting pay increases.

"Destroying teacher seniority is removing the professional educators who have experience and shown years and years of dedication to a school district. That blames us for every possible problem," says Gail Kantor, a teacher.

Retired teacher and parent Diane Kayne agrees.

"You want to eliminate step increases for teachers. Is this good for children when you constantly make Philadelphia a second and third class place to work?"

Superintendent Hite says the changes are only to manage through the opening of school under the current situation, not to define new school practices.

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