Stop filling any Philadelphia School District vacancy on the basis of teacher seniority. Overhaul recruitment policies. Get rid of ineffective principals. Tie school safety to administrators' ratings.

Calling the coming teachers' contract a "nearly once-in-a-generation opportunity" for change, a group of local education advocates has formed to lobby for reforms in both the contract and district management practice.

The newly formed "Coalition for Effective Teaching," made up of nonprofits ranging from the Philadelphia Education Fund to Aspira of Pennsylvania, says it isn't trying to take sides in the negotiations that began recently.

But its members did say that the district's initial financial proposal - that 15,000 teachers and support staff take a pay cut of up to 13 percent - was "harsh, and should be avoided" with resources from both the city and state beyond even what the district has proposed, said Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth.

Still, "when we talk about the bottom line, let's talk about the whole bottom line," said Jill Michal, CEO of the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. That is, it's about much more than money.

Some of the group's key proposals, some of which require contract changes and others that need only management reforms:

Effectively eliminating seniority by moving to full "site selection" - allowing principals and their teams to hire any district teacher they choose, rather than filling some vacancies by straight seniority.

Keeping current class size limits - the district had initially proposed eliminating them - but allowing for exceptions when technology might allow for innovative instruction.

Cutting the practice of automatically increasing teacher pay for advanced degrees and certification. The coalition wants only degrees where research has shown a correlation to increased student achievement to receive pay bumps.

Reforming the way teachers and principals are hired and retained, including moving up the hiring timeline so the district isn't hiring long after other districts and schools have made offers or relying only on the candidates that come forward, rather than recruiting strong candidates on its own.

Removing ineffective principals, evaluating them more effectively, and emphasizing a stronger tie between safe schools and principal rating.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan reserved judgment on the group's platform, but warned that site selection is "no panacea."

The district has long had trouble recruiting teachers to some struggling site-selection schools, he noted, and site selection committees have varying degrees of effectiveness.

Spokesman Fernando Gallard said that some of the group's proposals dovetail with things already proposed in Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.'s action plan, released earlier this year. The district, Gallard said, "welcomes the input from the coalition. These are the types of conversations that we want to have."

Weekly PFT contract negotiations are ongoing, he said.

Contact Kristen Graham
at 215-854-5146, kgraham@phillynews.com or on Twitter @newskag. Read her blog, "Philly School Files," at www.philly.com/schoolfiles.