SRC to consider suspending seniority, other state rules

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Protesting parents, students and clergy line the steps of school district headquarters at Broad and Spring Garden streets yesterday. The funding crisis threatens to delay the opening of schools.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Protesting parents, students and clergy line the steps of school district headquarters at Broad and Spring Garden streets yesterday. The funding crisis threatens to delay the opening of schools.
Posted: August 16, 2013

IN RESPONSE to the school-funding crisis, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. says he wants to nix union seniority rules for laying off and rehiring teachers, and to block incremental guaranteed pay hikes.

With almost no movement to meet his ultimatum of $50 million in new funding by tomorrow to ensure the safe opening of all schools on time, Hite plans to ask the School Reform Commission to approve the plan at an emergency meeting this afternoon as a way to stretch the district's thin resources.

Hite will seek to suspend sections of the Public School Code that affect seniority, the requirement to hire certified nurses, and the continuation of step wage increases, district spokesman Fernando Gallard said last night.

The suspensions would be temporary, Gallard said.

Eliminating seniority, a basic labor-union value, "would allow the district to recall certain employees based on the specific needs of students rather than the length of service of employees," Hite told The Notebook website.

The suspensions of the code, allowed under the 2001 state takeover that created the SRC, "gives the district the greatest flexibility possible when recalling staff back to work," Gallard said.

Suspending the code would also allow the financial flexibility on hiring school nurses who aren't certified for the position. Current school nurses would remain, but upcoming openings could be filled with lower-paid nurses, Hite told the website.

School-nurse advocate Eileen Duffey said she wasn't surprised by the news and suspects Hite has been working on such a plan in the background for months.

Hite, she said, will "stoop to whatever level to save money . . . He's been looking for ways to get nurses for cheaper."

Bob McGrogan, president of the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators, said he's already placed a call to the union's attorney.

"If these adjustments the SRC is making would interfere with the reduction in force and restoration rights that are explicitly dealt with in our contract, then that is certainly something we would contest," McGrogan said.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan said in a statement the SRC was "sending many messages" with the last-second meeting, "none of them good for schools, children or families."

"By seeking to suspend work rules even as we talk every day at the bargaining table, they are negotiating in bad faith," Jordan said in the statement.

"The PFT will pursue all legal options to address the SRC's latest maneuver."


On Twitter: @ReginaMedina

Online: ph.ly/DNEducation

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