Educators & edu-crats: And the award goes to ...

Posted: June 26, 2013

THE SCHOOL year has just ended, and it's a good time to take stock of those who have done good things to help kids and parents, and those who are my edu-crats of the year. "Edu-crats" is my word for those educators or policy makers who have negatively affected kids and parents.

Let me start off with my not-quite rookie of the year award to Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite. I think he has settled in nicely into managing the dysfunctional public schools. I like the fact that he understands that to get more money from Gov. Corbett, he has to produce some reforms involving the teachers' union, and I definitely liked his proposal to remove teacher tenure as a way to increase the effectiveness of teachers. He will be a key player in the ongoing negotiations, and I believe a very effective one.

My number of the year is seven hours and four minutes. That's the contract workday for Philadelphia public-school teachers. I predict that number will be seven hours and 30 minutes once the negotiations with Gov. Corbett and the state Legislature are resolved.

The One Hundred Years' War Award for edu-crat obstinacy goes to Louise Boyd and the Neshaminy Teachers Union members. For five years, the teachers taught under an expired contract. Now they will finally pay 16 percent of their premiums for health insurance during the second year of the new contract. The new contract also extends the workday from 7 hours to 7 1/2 hours. The most amazing perk that was removed is that, previously, teachers who worked in the district for 10 years or more could get free health care until age 65. Boyd is a very good interview and tough advocate, but her union finally was hit with a dose of reality.

My MVP award goes to Scott Gordon, who heads up the Mastery Charter Schools. We've all seen the college signing-day ceremony, when a coveted high-school athlete fiddles with several hats of different colleges and then puts one on and then announces his choice. As reported by Vernon Clark, of the Inquirer, Gordon took thousands of Mastery Charter School students, along with parents, mascots and cheerleaders, to celebrate 450 high-school seniors headed off to college to pursue higher education. This is exactly what every school in our area should be doing.

This celebration is just the latest example of the success that Gordon and his teachers have had in turning around schools like Simon Gratz. I have visited Gratz, and the transformation is remarkable. Let me know if your school celebrates academic achievement in the same way that athletic achievement is celebrated, and I'll publicize it.

Speaking of publicity, my Underrated Award goes to the drop-out-prevention program of Sue Corbett, first lady of Pennsylvania. I interviewed her recently and found that she is making good progress with centralizing all the best practices that have been studied to lower dropout rates. She is pushing intervention programs to target kids who are potential drop outs as early as the middle-school years.

My Panderer of the Year award goes to Councilman Jim Kenney. As part of his package of reforms to be more equitable to gays in Philadelphia (a lot of which I support) Kenney decided to remove the terms "mother" and "father" from all city-related documents and replace them with "parent 1" and "parent 2." Why not allow people the option to designate themselves as "mother" or "father" or "parent 1" or "parent 2"? How is this discriminatory?

The absolute dumbest idea of the year is for the Free Library of Philadelphia to do away with fines for overdue books for kids under 12. If they feel that the fines are so crushing, why not lower them but still keep something in order to teach a good lesson about accountability?

Finally, my last two awards go to Mayor Nutter. I give him the Legacy Award for still churning along trying to decrease the city's high-school dropout rate and increase our anemic college-grad-living-in-Philadelphia rate. However, with July Fourth around the corner, how about emulating cities like Boston and Washington and making our history, through our big nighttime event, the star? The Boston Pops draw 500,000 people to downtown Boston on the night of July Fourth. I know we draw to the Parkway, but our draw consists of B-level acts that have nothing to do with July Fourth and are just another glorified party.

The school year of 2012-2013 was a very interesting one. I hope these awards reminded you of some of the major issues. The school-funding crisis is the drama of the summer and I'll be there to take you inside.


Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano is heard weekdays 10AM to 2PM on WPHT-1210 AM Radio. Contact Dom at domgiordano.com.

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