Delaware Valley - whose records have been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury - in July abruptly laid off 50 members of its teaching and administrative staff at the four alternative schools it operates in the region.
Teachers and administrators said lawyer David T. Shulick, whose company operates Delaware Valley, owes them each thousands of dollars for work during the 2011-12 academic year. They said they had been expecting to get back pay in July but got furlough notices instead.
The layoff letters they received said the action was necessary because Delaware Valley did not yet have a signed, one-year contract extension with the Philadelphia district to run a disciplinary school and a program for at-risk students for 2012-13.
"The school district has its own issues at the moment," Casnoff said. "We're still waiting for it to be signed."
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission in April approved one-year extensions for Delaware Valley and other alternative-education firms. None of the agreements has been signed. District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the district hoped to have the issue resolved soon.
The extension the SRC approved calls for Delaware Valley to be paid $3.6 million to operate its disciplinary school on Kelly Drive for 300 students and an accelerated program in Southwest Philadelphia for 200 teenagers and young adults who have dropped out of school or are at risk of doing so.
While some Delaware Valley teachers have been instructed to report for work this week, Casnoff said he was not sure how many had been contacted. "I think most everybody is going to be called back," he said.
Casnoff said the program that provides alternative education services for students from Reading has moved from a site in Pottstown to a building owned by the Reading school district at that district's request.
Delaware Valley sources said the staff in Reading had been asked to return Monday while those at the two Philadelphia sites and Warminster are scheduled to report to work Thursday.
It is unclear, though, how many of the furloughed employees who said they are owed thousands of dollars will return.
Under the terms of their one-year contracts, Delaware Valley staffers are paid over 12 months for their work during the 10-month academic year. Teachers and most of the administrators who were laid off have not been paid since June.
Meanwhile, the school has been advertising for new teachers and other staff.
While Shulick's company has furloughed a small number of employees in past years, longtime staffers said he had never before imposed massive layoffs.
Three former teachers who were laid off last summer after working at the Kelly Drive site in 2010-11 have a suit pending against Shulick's firm that alleges they are owed a total of nearly $20,000 in back pay.
And in late July, a former teacher who was laid off from the Southwest Philadelphia site Jan. 25, filed a suit alleging Delaware Valley breached her contract and owes her $5,100 in back pay.
Delaware Valley's contract with the school district shows teachers receive salaries of $45,000 plus benefits. Copies of teachers' contracts indicate the school pays $36,000 if they waive their benefits, $31,000 if they want them.
In late February, the FBI raided Shulick's Logan Square law office, searching for documents related to Delaware Valley's relationship with Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr., 29, whose father is U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, a Philadelphia Democrat. They also interviewed Shulick.
Delaware Valley had paid 10 percent of its $4.5 million contract with the Philadelphia School District for the 2010-2011 school year to 259 Strategies L.L.C., a minority firm owned by Fattah Jr., who had an office in Shulick's law firm. After firing Fattah Jr. last summer, Shulick rehired him in December but did not renew his subcontract.
Federal authorities are investigating whether political influence helped Delaware Valley obtain contracts, according to sources, and whether Fattah Jr.'s involvement shielded the school from deeper cuts amid the Philadelphia district's widening financial problems.
According to district sources, the district has received a sweeping subpoena for five years' accumulation of documents, contracts, and all communications - including e-mails - related to Shulick and Delaware Valley High School.
Sources said the federal investigating is continuing.
Contact Martha Woodall
at 215-854-2789 or email@example.com.