With less than a week before students return to school in the Philadelphia School District, the question is whether all the teachers will be there.
The district has about 200 vacancies remaining, according to the teacher's union, but that is down from more than 1,000 positions two weeks ago. Part of the reason for the big reduction is that more than 550 teachers have been recalled. Officials say they are confident each classroom will have a teacher to begin the academic year.
"We are working very hard on it," said district spokesman Fernando Gallard, who had said Monday that the district is 300 teachers below its needed educators. "We have daily meetings in order to continue to position teachers in our schools."
Jerry Jordan, head of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said teachers are excited for a new year and new district leadership after a drama-filled summer in which the district had to close a $629 million shortfall, responded to allegations of schools cheating on standardized tests and parted ways with controversial Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.
"I think that there’s a lot of optimism when talking to people," Jordan said. "You have a new group of children and for kids they have new teachers and there’s always a sense of hope it’s going to be a good year. ... Certainly I think that people are looking forward to having new leadership in the district."
The district will likely be under intense scrutiny this year. Some city and state leaders have called for the elimination of the School Reform Commission, and there is proposed legislation in Harrisburg that would break up the district into smaller districts.
Diocese in talks with its teachers
The Catholic teachers union and its supporters will rally today as the group seeks a new contract. The agreement between the Association of Catholic Teachers and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is set to expire this week.