Patrick Naughton is an enthusiastic social studies teacher and the dean of students at Robeson High School in West Philadelphia, but the first thing he did Wednesday morning was look for a new job.
Naughton had read about the Philadelphia School District's initial contract offer to its teachers union - a 13 percent pay cut for those making over $55,000, an end to seniority-based positions, and smaller provisos such as an end to a guaranteed adequate supply of textbooks - and felt a great sense of urgency.
"My background is in urban education, but I'd like to go to a place where the deck isn't stacked against me," said Naughton, a district teacher for six years. "If you're an experienced teacher and you really like the profession, if you're not looking, you're crazy."
Details of the district's opening proposal to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers - whose contract expires in August - range from a pay cut of 13 percent, and a 13 percent contribution to benefits, for those who make $55,000, to an end to the seniority-based system of filling teacher vacancies.
"Steps" that give teachers higher pay for more experience and education would be eliminated, and schools of all sizes would no longer be required to have librarians or counselors.
Some said they viewed the proposals only as a stark lowball and a wake-up call to set the tone for negotiations, with such items as an end to guaranteed provisions for water fountains and desks for teachers. Others said they took them very seriously.
District officials have declined to comment on specifics, but have said that their intent is to treat teachers as valued professionals and ultimately create a district where people want to come and work.
That sentiment rankled Christa Parlacoski, a special-education teacher at Welsh School in North Philadelphia, who called the proposal "a slap in the face, a punch in the stomach, and a stab in the back, all at the same time."
"If they stick to most of it, even half of it, I have no idea what is going to happen," said Parlacoski, a fifth-year teacher. She said she would look elsewhere for a job and consider a noneducation position.
One provision that jumped out at Parlacoski was the elimination of teachers' right to use "reasonable force" to protect themselves from attack or injury.
"Ridiculous" was Parlacoski's assessment.
Barbara Fried, a veteran social studies teacher at Washington High in the Northeast with 40 years in the district, was already planning to retire at the end of the year.
She doesn't feel quite ready to leave, Fried said, but the contract proposal is among the things that makes it clear it's time.
"This was always coming, but we're just not ready for it," said Fried. "You saw what was happening nationally - we're going to be like 8-to-5 workers, and we have to accept that. Other companies have been downsized and they haven't touched us. Now they're finally getting to education."
On Wednesday, the contract proposal was the talk of her school, Fried said.
Teachers were shocked, worried, angry, she said - many senior teachers feel that they're being targeted, that the district wants less expensive and less experienced employees. Schools need a mix of veterans and rookies, Fried said, and it would be a blow to lose big numbers of veterans.
The district is in financial distress, projecting a $1-billion-plus deficit over five years without corrective action. It plans to close 29 schools and give three more to charters, and officials have said they expect no teacher layoffs. A high number of retirements and other teacher departures seems key to achieving that goal.
News of the contract proposal threw Rebecca Poyourow, a district parent whose children attend Cook-Wissahickon School in Roxborough.
"I was devastated," Poyourow said. "I've been upset all day. I just can't believe the level of disrespect being shown by the district and the SRC for my children's teachers."
Those teachers, she said, work long hours for less pay than their suburban counterparts, in much more challenging circumstances.
Poyourow, a member of the group Parents United for Public Education, was troubled by a number of points, including the possible lifting of class size caps and mandated private space for counselors.
"All I see in this contract is worse outcomes," said Poyourow. "They're trying to deprofessionalize teaching and make them feel like peons. You've got to ask yourself, 'What's the strategy behind that?' "