City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. chats with Beeber students over breakfast on the first day of school.
Philly teachers made it through their first day back at school on Monday, in many cases without counselors, assistant principals, librarians and nurses. How they’re going to make it through 179 more of them isn’t totally clear.
Take Robeson High School in West Philly, which received students from closed schools, including Bok and University City. It is sharing a counselor with six other schools, according to English teacher Andrew Saltz. That’s already presenting problems: One stu-dent had experienced a death in a family, but the school has no grief counseling. Saltz scrambled to come up with an external referral. And many of his other students need fee waivers for the SATs, and they need the counselor to apply for them. The part-time counselor, though, “said that was not on the list of things she was doing,” Saltz says. “I don’t know who’s going to send out transcripts — kids are already applying. … And some schools require a letter from a guidance counselor. So I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
“I found this app for their smartphones, which helps them search scholarships, and I got really excited,” he adds. “And then I got really depressed, because I’m trying to replace a guidance counselor with a dollar smartphone app.”
That wasn’t the only change at Robeson, whose student body rallied just to keep the doors open after being on the closure list last year. “We had to announce to [the kids] that we have no AP classes.” Pre-calculus is also eliminated.
Over at Bache-Martin, a K-8 school in Fairmount, Kristin Luebbert’s eighth-graders were also upset to learn there was no guidance counselor. “They said, ‘What do you mean? We need someone to help us pick a high school. Our parents don’t know how to do this.’” Luebbert says there’s a limit to how much she can help. For example, she doesn’t have access to transcripts.
The school’s assistant principal, librarian and violin teacher are gone. “The library’s there, but no librarian, so it’s a dilemma as to what to do with a library that doesn’t have a person to keep it up. If every teacher uses it, does it become the sort of tragedy of the commons?” Parents also learned that cuts to school-security staff meant that many schools that previously opened early to let kids in off the streets and give them breakfast can no longer do so.
The elimination of aides at Beeber Middle School means teachers have to escort kids between classes now. Sam Reed, a teacher there, also noticed that the principal is now on lunchroom duty. On Monday morning, the media spotlight was on Beeber: Mayor Nutter and Superintendent William Hite stopped by for various events. That attention, says Reed, kicked off “a year of promise as well as apprehension.” Reed says things went OK, all things considered. The most interesting moment came when, “a parent had Nutter’s and Dr. Hite’s ear, and she said, ‘It’s really great that you guys are here. But after you guys are gone, when these teachers need you or they need resources, are you going to be there for them?’ … It’s an important question.”
This story orginally appeared on our blog, The Naked City.
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