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Help wanted: Teachers for Philly district, charter and private schools

TeachPHL aggregates open teaching jobs in traditional public, charter and private schools across the city, a rare joining together of sectors that have historically been sharply divided.

Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, shown in this file photo, helped launch a new website to attract teachers to schools of all sectors across the city.
Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, shown in this file photo, helped launch a new website to attract teachers to schools of all sectors across the city.Read more--- Michael Bryant

Want to teach in Philadelphia? A new website will make it easier to find a job in hundreds of city schools.

Launched Tuesday and backed by Mayor Kenney and Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., TeachPHL lists open educational positions in traditional public, charter, and private schools across the city. It’s a rare step for Philadelphia, where there have traditionally been sharp divisions among the sectors.

Connecting prospective teachers to open jobs is a central aim, said Mark Gleason, executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership, which organized and bankrolled the website. But more important is selling Philadelphia as a destination for educators.

“We need Philadelphia to be a place that teachers want to work, a place that teachers want to live, a place that teachers feel connected to the positive momentum the city has moving forward," Gleason said at a news conference in City Hall. “Launching this website is really intended to catalyze an effort to attract and keep teachers in Philadelphia.”

The teaching profession struggles with high rates of turnover; the problem is particularly acute in Philadelphia, which has a higher teacher-mobility rate than the national average.

Kenney said he backed the site, which he hopes will capitalize on “a lot of positive momentum in our schools right now.” The effort, he said, was crucial.

“Teachers have the most important job in the city,” the mayor said.

In the past, there was no central clearinghouse for Philadelphia teaching jobs. The Philadelphia School District is one of the nation’s largest school systems and is by far the largest employer in the city, with 220 schools and over 8,000 teachers. It offers the highest pay, and with a strong teachers' union the most job security.

Small schools sometimes struggle to attract a large pool of candidates, said Laurada Byers, founder of the Russell Byers Charter School and chair of Philadelphia Charters for Excellence, a group that advocates for high-quality charters in the city. “Having this resource so we’re on the same footing as the district is really exciting,” said Byers. “I’m thrilled.”

The superintendent also said he was “excited” by the effort, which could help the district fill dozens of existing job vacancies and recruit next year’s crop of teachers.

Hite said he was not worried about competition for candidates.

“We think that by drawing more individuals into the pot who may be interested in Philadelphia, we think it increases not just the number of candidates, but the quality,” he said.

The website concentrates professional development and scholarship opportunities, tells teachers where they can get discounts, and sells the city -- hard. (“Don’t even get us started on the food!” it claims, as well as: "Getting around the city is a breeze. Philly has an expansive network of public transportation and pedestrian-friendly streets, allowing for travel to almost anyplace in the city without the use of a car.”)

The challenges of teaching in Philadelphia are well documented, from building conditions to student need.

“Teaching is a hard job, especially in urban contexts,” said Gleason, whose nonprofit spent just under $50,000 on developing and producing the site. “In many ways, teachers don’t get rewarded at the same level as folks in other fields.”

But, Gleason said, the aim with TeachPHL was to think creatively about how to promote the city as a place where educators plant roots, despite challenges.

“How can we all work together as partners to create a situation where teachers stay for 10 years, not five? Or 15, not 10?” Gleason said.