500 City Teachers Win Exemption On Residency They Had Been Misled By A District Official, The Board Decided. Still, It Promised Better Enforcement.

Posted: August 19, 1992

Nearly 500 Philadelphia teachers who live outside the city and had been cited in an audit for violating residency requirements were granted exemptions yesterday in a Board of Education vote amending its policies.

The school district took into account that about 75 percent of 491 employees cited in a May audit by the city controller had thought they were exempt from the residency requirement because of a mistake by an administrator, said school district spokesman William C. Thompson. The other 25 percent were genuinely exempt under existing regulations, he said.

In its resolution, which passed unanimously, the school board also vowed to better enforce its residency rules, requiring closer monitoring and more frequent justifications in cases where exemptions are considered necessary.

Many school employees are not bound to live in the city, a situation that has rankled other municipal employees who are required to do so. City Controller Jonathan A. Saidel seized upon the issue and in a May audit criticized the school district for permitting too many teachers to live outside the city.

Saidel estimated that 6,400 school district employees - mostly teachers and administrators - lived outside the city, while an additional 8,000 were in exempt categories and could live outside if they chose.

Anthony Radwanski, Saidel's director of special investigations, said he had not seen yesterday's board resolution and could not comment. The City Controller's Office had been seeking a "workable," more consistent policy and better enforcement, he said.

The first residency requirement, voted by the board in August 1983, exempted all employees hired before then. Later - in 1986, 1989 and 1991 - the school board exempted broad categories of teachers from city residency requirements, citing difficulty in recruiting and keeping qualified employees.

Hundreds of teachers were permitted to live outside the city because of a mistake by an administrator in the district's personnel office who assumed that exemptions enacted in 1989 were retroactive for three previous years. The 1989 exemptions covered nurses, elementary school teachers, bilingual teachers and English teachers for primarily non-English-speaking students. Those hired after 1986 were notified by the personnel office that they were exempt from the residency requirement when they were not.

In 1986, the board exempted teachers of computer science, mathematics, science, special education and vocational subjects, as well as physical therapists.

In 1991, the board broadened exemptions to include "any area for which the Superintendent of Schools determines a shortage to exist." Elementary school principals, industrial-arts teachers, bilingual school workers and the director of comprehensive day care were added to the list.

In other action yesterday, the board approved several new appointments.

Kathleen Conner was named to replace Nancy Reid, the associate superintendent for instruction, who is taking a six-month sabbatical. Conner was named acting executive director of instruction and curriculum support.

Mary Jane Clancy was named to head the complete reorganization and decentralization of the district's vocational education programs.

Three new high school principals were appointed: Barbara Braman at Lincoln High School, L. Jerusha Logan at University City and Geraldine Miles at Girls High. Logan and Miles had been acting principals in their schools.

The board also voted to expel 15 students, most for either drug or weapons possession on school property.

It heard presentations about three programs for students over the summer, two of which offered advanced mathematics to students who otherwise would not have taken such courses.

Temple University professor John Chen said that this summer, nearly 900 students completed algebra, geometry, elementary functions or calculus courses in eight weeks. Nearly 1,700 applied for the courses and 1,054 were accepted. Chen's program, which involves novel instruction techniques, also trains teachers in his methods. A high percentage of the more than 400 students who took his courses last year passed their math courses during the regular school year, he said.

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