RETIRED TEACHER Linda MacNeal is no longer a member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, but yesterday she found herself back in the union's office to vent.

The school district's new system of placing substitute teachers had been introduced at a morning informational session, prompting frustration and anger among some teachers over a cut in compensation.

The new per-diem rates teachers would earn under Source4Teachers is "just insulting to me. And it says that [the company] doesn't value teachers," said MacNeal, who worked for the district for 34 years.

The School Reform Commission approved a three-year, $34 million contract earlier this month with the Cherry Hill firm Source4Teachers and moved on from their longtime partner, the PFT.

District officials say the move would save $2 million per year and increase the number of teachers in empty classrooms.

The PFT, meanwhile, has filed an Unfair Labor practice against the district and the SRC, claiming it did not bargain in good faith.

Source4Teachers, which will lease space inside district headquarters, "will pay the market rate" for substitute teachers, said district spokesman Fernando Gallard.

Company spokesman Owen Murphy said certified teachers, any grade, will be paid $90 per day; non-certified teachers, any grade, will be paid $75. And special-education positions pay the highest rate at $110 per day. Any certified teacher who takes a special-education position does not have to be certified in special education, Murphy said.

"We feel that the rates we are offering are comparable to neighboring school districts," he said.

Under the PFT contract, the substitute teacher daily rates were: $75 per day for certified teachers who had worked 22 days or less. After that, their daily rate shot up to $160; $209 to $239 per day for retired teachers, depending on their educational degrees and college credits; and $212 to $242 per day for retired special ed teachers. Non-certified teachers earned $47.63 for the first 22 days and then the amount increased to about $126 per day under the PFT contract.

Seventy-two percent of the PFT's 400 substitute teachers were paid at the higher rate, Gallard said.

Retired teacher Kenneth Schamberg says the district promised something else.

"They assured the teachers that their pay would be 'similar,' that was the word they used," Schamberg said. "Since when is a 61.9 percent pay cut similar?" He walked out of the morning meeting, in frustration, he said.

"I love what I do, but all of a sudden they're pulling the rug out from under us," he said.

Gallard said Source4Teachers will improve the 55 to 65 percent rate at which vacancies were filled by substitutes and noted the company has been successful filling classrooms with teachers in other districts. It has pledged to increase the fill rate to 75 percent by September.

"Given their track record," he said, "they will do an excellent job here in Philadelphia."

More Source4Teachers information sessions will be held today and tomorrow at West Philadelphia and Lincoln high schools.

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