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Philadelphia is still struggling to fill key jobs a month into the school year

Schools in the Philadelphia district still haven’t filled all of their teaching positions three weeks into the school year, and there are a significant number of vacancies for crucial positions like nurses, bus drivers and school climate staff.

Talent manager Larissa Shambaugh told the Board of Education on Thursday that teaching positions were 98% filled, up from 97.4% last month. But based on his past statements, that means almost 200 places are still vacant.

Nearly a quarter of jobs for climate staff — workers who keep order during lunch and recess among other duties — remain vacant, along with 8% of nursing positions, Shambaugh said. The district’s goal this year is to have one full-time nurse in each school; in the past, some schools shared nurses.

At the same time, Shambaugh said, new teacher recruitment policies appear to have paid off. During the 2021-22 school year, the district offered bonuses to teachers who announced their intention to leave relatively early. This resulted in a 46% increase over 2020-21 in the number of people who notified the district in January, February and March, she said.

A greater share of staff announcing in those months that they will be leaving, as opposed to later in the year, helps give the district a head start in hiring for the upcoming school year.

She also said progress has been made in filling positions in schools that have traditionally been harder to staff. Of 17 high-need, high-poverty schools that began hiring as early as January, 11 have better staffing rates this year than last, and five were full. And the overall attendance rate for those schools was 95.5% this year, up from 92% last year, Shambaugh reported.

Teacher shortages are particularly acute in Pennsylvania. Over the past decade, new state-issued teaching certifications have dropped by two-thirds, from more than 15,000 to nearly 5,000, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The council also approved a contract with 32BJ, its service workers’ union, which represents caretakers, cleaners, bus drivers and other maintenance staff. The union authorized a strike last month before reaching an agreement with the district.

The new contract will increase salaries by 11% over the four-year contract, change work rules and improve training to make it easier to recruit for some hard-to-fill positions, Shambaugh said. The union has already voted to approve the pact.

During public comments, several speakers voiced their opposition to the practice of moving teachers around after the school year begins to match actual enrollment rather than forecast. For example, if a school scheduled three kindergarten classes of 30 students each, but only 60 students showed up, a teacher would transfer to another school, instead of creating three classes of 20 students.

After a hiatus in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, the district announced it was resuming the practice – known as “leveling” – this year, although it was renamed “resource-based review.” registrations”. The leveling has always been done in the name of efficiency, but critics say it is disruptive for students who have to get used to a new teacher for much of the school year.

“Our children have been through so much trauma… how does destabilizing classrooms and removing their teacher help our students? asked retired teacher Diane Payne, a member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools watchdog group.

Due to union rules, less experienced teachers are more likely to transfer.

“I shouldn’t have to live in fear of having my teacher kidnapped every year,” said Gwendolyn Roth, a seventh grader at Kearney Primary School. “Leveling should be removed forever.”

Love Speech, left, and Sophia Roach, the two student representatives on the Philadelphia Board of Education for the 2022-23 school year.

Philadelphia School District

Council welcomes non-voting student representatives

The council also welcomed two student representatives for this school year: Sofia Roach, senior at Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, and Love Speech, senior at Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School.

CAPA director Joann Beaver called Roach an “extraordinarily stunning young woman” who is pursuing a final year internship at the Mutter Museum and studying gun violence and its impact on communities.

She is also a founding member of the School’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and edits The Megaphone, a district-wide student newspaper. She focuses on creative writing, takes four advanced placement courses and has a 4.0 GPA, Beaver said.

Kensington Principal Patricia M. McDermott-Fair said Speech is an award-winning artist who is participating in a dual enrollment program at Community College of Philadelphia.

“Love was described by her teachers as a student with high personal and academic standards, a strong moral compass, and a willingness to help others,” McDermott-Fair said.

Students apply for the position, which is strictly advisory. Past board members have attended national education conferences and conducted research with their peers.

In brief speeches, the two students said they looked forward to bringing the student perspective to the board members.

“Students deserve to be heard, not just seen,” Roach said.

Dale Mezzacappa is Senior Writer for Chalkbeat Philadelphia, where she covers K-12 schools and early childhood education in Philadelphia. Contact Dale at

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