Luis Muñoz-Marín Elementary School: 'Turnaround plan will tear staff to shreds'
A community rally was held on Thursday at Luis Muñoz-Marín Elementary School with more than 200 parents, students and teachers who gathered to oppose the newly proposed “turnaround” plan by the School District of Philadelphia (SDP).
Earlier in the week, SDP announced the $23.7 million plan to improve 15 underperforming schools, among them Luis Muñoz Marín Elementary School, slated to start at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.
Eric Becoats, assistant superintendent of the Turnaround Network, met with parents and teachers to present information on the new plan and answer questions from the attendees.
The model is focused on five elements: Effective leaders, high quality instruction, collaborative teachers, safer learning environment and strong family and community ties. Through the turnaround plan, the school staff is required to reapply for their jobs. Only 50 percent will be retained.
“We will flex the model depending upon where the school is, given one of those elements. We want to invest in the school, and invest additional resources to support the students that are here,” Becoats said. “When a school falls into this category all teachers have to reapply for their jobs, including the principal.”
Ximena Carreño, principal of Luis Muñoz-Marín Elementary said that the plan “will tear (her) staff to shreds.”
“Not a single Muñoz Marín employee is guaranteed their job at Marín next year. Even after re-applying for their jobs, no more than 50 percent of employees will be allowed to return,” she said. “No organization benefits from this level of turnover, and this process will not benefit our children.”
Shouting “We are not failures,” frustrated parents and teachers urged Becoats to retain the existing staff.
“You have been asking for respect but does the School District have respect for us? [...] This is a decision (taken) overnight [...] Respect for the families, for the community, I don’t see respect here,” said a member of the audience.
Councilwoman at-large Helen Gym was present at the community meeting. After it ended she said she doesn’t believe the school district presented a vision specific to the school.
“What are they offering is more upheaval,” Gym said, referring to the long battle the school faced in 2014, when the SDP proposed to convert Luis Muñoz Marín into a charter operated by Aspira Inc., a plan overwhelmingly rejected by parents.
“There are a lot of problems. For one there is no vision for turnaround other than the 50 percent removal,” Gym said. “I am deeply troubled that the essential elements of turnaround don’t include resources for schools. Muñoz Marín has already seen 33 of its 57 teachers forced to transfer (in 2014), so I don’t understand why they are trying to repeat things that have been shown to not work.”
“We have to come up with a better vision for supporting our schools other than firing teachers, closing down our schools and converting them to charter,” Gym added.