Teachers union questions safety of schools that lost monitors

Posted: June 11, 2008

The president of the city's teachers union is questioning how the Philadelphia School District can ensure the safety of students and staff after terminating contracts with two companies that provided safety workers in the schools.

"If those positions have been eliminated and no one has been put in to replace the [workers] who were removed, it does pose a problem when we don't have the human resources in the building," Jerry Jordan, head of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said yesterday.

On May 9, the School Reform Commission terminated $1.1 million in contracts with We Overcome, based in Overbrook, and Security Universal, based in East Germantown. The two had been among eight so-called communty-based organizations (CBOs) with contracts to provide "safety support workers" in schools.

We Overcome and Security Universal together employed at least 50 people who monitored hallways and lunchrooms and generally helped keep order in about 24 city schools.

Now, many of those employees are no longer working.

And at least one teacher who said he worked at Gillespie Middle School in Hunting Park complained that it has been harder to maintain control in the school since the district terminated the contracts.

The teacher, who did not want to identify himself because of fears of retaliation, said that students have been out of control since the school went from six safety workers to two.

It was at Gillespie, on Pike Street near Pulaski Avenue, where a 19-year-old male We Overcome worker was found inside a woman's bathroom with a 15-year-old girl on April 30, two weeks before the contracts were terminated.

James B. Golden Jr., the district's chief executive, said Gillespie now has several school police officers in place.

He said the district decided to shift school police from nearby Gratz High School to cover Gillespie on an "as-needed basis."

Todd McIntire, regional general manager for Edison Schools Inc., which manages 20 city schools including Gillespie, said district and Gillespie officials "are making arrangements to ensure things are running as smoothly as they can while they are understaffed."

Although the district told workers from the two fired companies that they could apply to work as per-diem, or daily, employees through the remainder of the school year, a number of workers said the district appears to be tightening its requirements.

Golden said some workers who have clean criminal-background checks on file are continuing to work, but many other workers have not been hired.

He said he could not say how many of the 50 former contract workers are still working in the schools.

"From the outset, these [community] people were not security staff," Golden said. "They were safety support staff and they augment the existing school police and school security. They're a third layer of support."

In the last two weeks, several former safety-support workers told the Daily News that they had been ordered to leave schools in which they were working, even though their criminal records were more than 20 years old.

Rodney Clark, 56, who said he had worked for Security Universal for nearly two years, said he and another worker were told to leave the Harding School, at Wakeling and Ditman streets in Frankford, because of long-ago criminal records.

He had been charged with burglary and trespassing in the 1970s and had been placed on probation, he said. "I haven't had any contact with the police in the last 20 years," Clark said. He also questioned why the district permitted him to work for the last 18 months and now was ordering him and others with old criminal records to leave.

At University City High School, at 36th and Filbert streets, a teacher who didn't want his name used said: "With this purge, some good people are getting pulled out with the bad." *

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|