My school is closing.
My school is closing, and an entire generation of teachers is being destroyed.
I am a fifth-year teacher within the School District of Philadelphia. I am currently seeking employment in English at my third high school. My first high school turned into a Promise Academy and my current school is closing.
My school is closing.
It’s hard to say out loud and even harder to see it in print. A couple times throughout the second semester, I forgot that my school was closing. The freshmen needed to find out whether or not Romeo personified the falling action, the seniors needed their project papers to be edited, and I believe in my heart of hearts that I had the most talented players on my volleyball team I ever coached.
Yet, my school is closing, and I am currently seeking English positions through site selection.
Many of my friends are seeking employment outside of the School District of Philadelphia, because they were laid off.
It’s not fair.
In March and April, teachers at my school were given the option to fill out Right-to-Follow paperwork. That in itself was a difficult process. Do you follow the majority of your students to either Penn Treaty or one of the Kensington schools? Once you complete your paperwork, are you not allowed to site select? The CTE teachers had the opportunity to follow their students within the CTE track to Mastbaum. What if the school didn’t have the facilities to provide their CTE course like Building Management and Maintenance?
Now all of this Right-to-Follow paperwork is mute, because teachers were laid off.
In April, there were a couple meetings with our building representative, our school union representative, and two regional meetings with the School District of Philadelphia. The Right-to-Follow was comforting and promising. It made sense to many teachers who liked teaching in the diverse classroom of a school in Port Richmond and Kensington. There were many unanswered questions, but the major consensus surrounding the Right-to-Follow paperwork was clear. If you want to, you can follow your students to a couple of schools within the area.
It wasn’t until an article written by Kristen Graham in the Philadelphia Inquirer in the second week of April that expounded on the “doomsday budget for schools.” With a 304 million deficit, counselors, librarians, after school sports, secretaries, and summer school would be cut. In addition, 3,000 district employees including teachers could be let go.
It is unfathomable to operate a school without these imperatives. They are imperatives and legalities.
With this in mind, with all the financial problems facing the district and the reality that layoffs would occur before the school year is done, why seniority?
I know it’s a complicated issue, and I am only a fifth-year-teacher trying to find a position to teach English within my third school in six years. I have a lot to learn but why seniority?
My generation of teachers is being destroyed due to seniority.
Over the past couple weeks, I read a lot of longitudinal studies, case studies with quantified and qualified data, and newspaper articles from the Northeast region. I am trying to understand the union’s position on seniority-based layoffs.
In a policy brief written by researchers from the University of Albany, Stanford, and University of Virginia, seniority-based layoffs that are meant to meet budget shortfalls are more detrimental to students than a system that laid off the least effective teachers first (Boyd, 2011).
This means that teachers who are laid off due to a short number of years within a school district doesn’t mean they are unqualified or ineffective. It means they are young or didn’t teach within the school district for a long time.
There was a teacher laid off at my school that had taught for 12 years, but only taught within the SDP for three years.
It is not fair. We need to change seniority based lay offs because an entire generation of teachers file for unemployment, move out of the city, and leave this wonderful profession in which they are educated.
I am a young teacher, and I have many friends who are seeking employment because they have less than four years within the School District of Philadelphia. These teachers are effective, dynamic, and some of the best coworkers.
My argument isn’t that because we are young we are better. In addition, I am not blaming our union at all for the budget shortfalls. I just want to share my argument that teacher lay offs based on seniority isn’t the answer.
The teachers in my school who were laid off are young and very effective teachers. Why are we not focusing on their effectiveness and instead focusing on the seniority?
In short, they have no seniority. The might never have seniority due to this fixture. My generation is being laid off and there isn’t a valid reason for it.