Helen Gym: SRC statement: Going to war on your own soldiers

These remarks were made at the Aug. 15 SRC special meeting which stripped seniority from the teachers’ contract. This means that the District has the right to arbitrarily determine which staff to return to schools based on “need.” The SRC voted unanimously to do so.

10septLast week when you Superintendent Hite issued your ultimatum, parents across the city sprang into action on your behalf. Within 24 hours we were down at City Hall meeting with the Mayor’s office staff and City Council members. Parents wrote letters to the editor, made phone calls, contacted the media about our stories ,and turned out for press conferences for support. We stayed up late, emailing into the night, and met and planned – all on behalf of you because , foolishly, we somehow believed.

Of all the things which have run through my head in the past week, the saddest one perhaps is the sinking in that all of last week – the plea from you, Superintendent Hite, the threat not to open schools which sent parents and families across the city into a panic, the dueling press conferences – all of it was nothing but political theater to justify this.

This was never, never about educating our children.

If it were, you would have made the smallest effort to make sure the state money was on the table. But you didn’t even try to get money from the state, money which would have alleviated, if not solved, this crisis. Instead you are permitting the woeful unprepared opening of schools no superintendent or educator in their right mind would declare fit or ready for children. You allow this opening of schools  in order to provide pathetic cover for a governor who has not only failed to do his duty but has manufactured and exploited a crisis for political gain.

You normalize poverty, deprivation and inequity in his name.

The selective elimination of seniority also goes by another name – justification for institutional inequity. Your job is not to make arbitrary calls on which students are needy enough for a guidance counselor. Every child deserves a guidance counselor. Every child deserves a school aide to watch over them in the lunchroom or on the playground. (Labeling this seniority and claiming some pretense at reform to justify denying one child a guidance counselor and granting it to another is an example of the moral vacuum you live in.)

You demand standards for children to be college and career ready but deny them the resources to open functioning schools. You talk about a war for education, yet  you fire on your own soldiers who are going to fight it for you.

Your actions breed cynicism, disgust and drive away countless parents and families revitalizing this city. For the first time Philadelphia has turned the tide on five decades of population decline. We’ve done so by attracting new residents and young families, new immigrants who overwhelmingly land in our public schools. And here you stand, ripping out the heart of our schools, denying possibilities for our children and eroding a future for this city.

And yet, still we hope. The Governor holds only two votes on the SRC. The other three comprise the majority. There is still a choice.

22 thoughts on “Helen Gym: SRC statement: Going to war on your own soldiers

  1. I am so saddened by this turn of events. Thank you for expressing it so well.

  2. Yes, Helen. You once again spelled it out! I, like I did at the SRC meeting on May 28th, where the only one that voted correctly was Dvoretsky, turned my back on the SRC that night before they voted and walked out the door. While walking through the large corridors of 440, I heard the vote on the loud speaker. I didn’t have to hear it because I knew, instinctively . That’s why I turned my back to them. Tonight is just par for the course. They have to complete their agenda. Puppets they are. I have lost respect for those that fail to do the right thing. They have lost face with me.

  3. It was simply amazing to sit in the same while you so passionately expressed these well-thought-out words. Bravo and thank you for standing up for our kids and our teachers.

  4. You write, as always, extremely well to the point. As a retired teacher, I have been through very rough times in the last 40 years, but never like this. I remember when the State of PA took over the Phila. School District because they thought the Philadelphia School Board wasn’t doing a good job….and the SRC ran it right into the ground with people who had never been in a classroom and had no idea how education works. Educators have suddenly become the devil in the eye of politicians and those who benefit from them.
    I’m not sure how Hite will respond. Most of the time I feel he is very anti SDP. Then it sounded like he was fighting for the state funds by demanding they release them or schools would not open. Today, he sounds just like Corbett’s minions. He has no soul and cares nothing for the children. He will only demoralize the staff which, again will reek havoc on the children.

    1. I agree Eileen. I’ve been asked a lot about whether I “like” Dr. Hite. And to me that, question is just so irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether you like someone. One of the things I always questioned with Dr. Hite – and I do have a lot of respect for his demeanor – but my primary question was whether he was in charge of the district or whether he was a figurehead for another entity. I’ve never felt like Hite was in charge of this District. And that to me, is what is his undoing. He’s got countless different players running different agendas – many in direct opposition to the future of the district – and he’s not in control or can’t rein in any of them.

      1. Totally agree with your analysis of Dr. Hite. I really don’t think that he thought he was going to meet up with such a tough yet spirited crowd of people in Philly. We are intuitive, yet endowed with street smarts here. He can’t “pull the wool over our eyes.” I think he knows that now. He underestimated us. That, also, is his undoing.

  5. Helen, as a teacher I feel helpless. Thank you so much for saying what we wish to say. You are truly a diamond in the rough.

      1. I’m a former teacher! I love and respect the profession so much. I wish I could do more.

  6. I can’t even begin to express how disgusted I am by the words and actions of the adults, Dr. Hite among them, who are playing with the future of our children, and by extension, our city.

    This was never, never about educating our children. ~Helen Gym

  7. Helen, Thank you so much for your passion and dedication to always keeping the focus on what this is supposed to REALLY be about-The CHILDREN! Your passion has not waned since you walked the halls of Powel Elementary. I admire and respect you for that:-) Kudos to you and all those who share a collective perspective on what is fair and right for our kids.

    1. We do have a citywide meeting August 20 at Mother Bethel A.M.E. at 7 p.m. We’ll be exploring directions and strategies.

  8. Thank you Helen for taking your time and for speaking so eloquently for us — fellow teacher

  9. Thank you Helen for being the voice for so many of us. I am beyond disgusted. I am frightened by the overwhelming disregard for children, espcially poor children, by all levels of government. How will our children ever feel valued in society if this is how they are treated by their own elected leaders.

  10. My two kids are quite nervous about starting a school year with these kinds of odds against them. What’s next? The little red schoolhouse with all the kids of all the different ages in the same room? And the dunce in the corner? Those were NOT the good ol’ days. We have evolved since then, haven’t we?

    1. My children are nervous too. It’s impossible for anyone not to be impacted by all this. Thanks for writing here!

  11. When I think about what to eat at each meal, I think about what I am going to feed my child first, when it comes to the safety of my neighborhood I worry about my child’s safety first, when I make decisions about the future I think of my child first. I am sure I am not alone in this among parents. Dr. Hite is a parent and so are many at 440 North Broad. Are they thinking about how the decisions they make are affecting the children of Our district? How many at the district have children in these schools. What about a requirement that if you work in administration at the district your child is required to attend a Public school. Not some of the select schools, but a normal struggling school. Would the decisions be the same? Thank you for your timely and concise words.

Comments are closed.