Budget cuts reach bone for Philadelphia schools

Lauren Williams's picture
Monday, June 17, 2013

When a second grader came to the Andrew Jackson School too agitated to eat breakfast on Friday, an aide alerted the school counselor, who engaged him in an art project in her office. When he was still overwrought at 11, a secretary called the boy’s family, and soon a monitor at the front door buzzed in an older brother to take him home.

Under a draconian budget passed by the Philadelphia School District last month, none of these supporting players — aide, counselor, secretary, security monitor — will remain at the school by September, nor will there be money for books, paper, a nurse or the school’s locally celebrated rock band.

“I am worried sick,” said Lisa Ciaranca Kaplan, the principal, whose homey school in South Philadelphia serves 410 students, speaking 14 languages, all of whom qualify for free meals. “How do I relieve teachers for lunch if I have no one in the lunchroom? I’ll be the only person in this building who’s not in a class.”

Pink slips were recently sent to 19 percent of the school-based work force, including all 127 assistant principals, 646 teachers and more than 1,200 aides. Principals are contemplating opening in September with larger classes but no one to answer phones, keep order on the playground, coach sports, check out library books or send transcripts for seniors applying to college.

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