Northeast: Teachers and School Employees Become ‘Faces of the Layoffs’

Students hugged David Sokoloff goodbye.
Students hugged David Sokoloff goodbye.
Students hugged David Sokoloff goodbye. gives a voice to the thousands of Philadelphia School District employees who’ve been told they would not have jobs this coming fall.

It was organized largely by Larissa Pahomov, who was inspired by Anissa Weinraub’s layoff, and the Teacher Action Group. The website emphasizes that they are just “handful of full-time teachers who know that staying silent equals giving up.”

David Sokoloff, a history teacher at Northeast High School, who is featured on the website, was on his way back from running a 5k with his running club in Ocean City, N.J., when text messages from his colleagues who had received layoff notices in their mailboxes began to pour in. He said he was sure he would have one upon his arrival, and he did.

Sokoloff wrote a post on his blog about his feelings regarding the layoff.

“This layoff notice is because of a budget shortfall in our district which the State, City and my union haven’t helped to fix.  But it feels much more personal right now.  I interpret this layoff notice as a message that I’m not wanted or needed and despite evidence to the contrary, I fear that I will not be wanted or needed as a teacher in the future.”

Barbara Smith's Faces of the Layoff photo.
Barbara Smith’s Faces of the Layoff photo.

And while the post itself is a testament to how he has eventually come to terms with his situation, the true gems for him are the comments from the students that will miss him, like this one:

“This is such heartbreaking news. I’m very sorry and hope that you will get through it. You’re an excellent teacher and it’s the school’s and our loss. You have reached out and changed many of the students’ lives. Thank you for everything you have done! I wish you the best of luck and remember, good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

While everyone is focusing on the unemployment and protesting at the Philadelphia Board of Education, these kids are left unsure on how their education will be handled next school year, Sokoloff said. His students are also unsure of how to attack the issue at hand. While they’re starting up petitions, they’re not quite sure how effective, if at all, they will be.

Barbara Smith, the secretary at the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, said she’s pretty sure that money will be found and she will be able to keep her job, as she doesn’t see how they can continue to run a school with no secretary.

“I can’t really comment on the site,” she said, “but, it seems like a neat place for people to vent.”

While the wording of the layoffs said individuals like Smith were nonessential employees, Sokoloff said that, “without these people education doesn’t work.”

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