Press Contact: Dr. Robin Cooper Phone: (215) 205-5147 Email: [email protected]
(PHILADELPHIA) – Today, Philadelphia school principals, vice principals and other administrative staff held a press conference at Teamsters Local 502 where they called on the School District of Philadelphia to immediately improve how it is handling findings of asbestos, lead and mold in Philadelphia schools.
Philadelphia principals and other school-based administrators are members of the Teamsters Local 502/CASA union. The principals detailed their concerns for the safety of their schools and how the school district is mishandling problems with asbestos, lead and mold in school buildings. Union leaders and members joined with elected officials to urge school board officials to properly address the unsafe, toxic conditions currently facing students, faculty and staff.
“Principals and other school administrators feel that their top priority is to keep students, teachers and staff safe in their schools. It is unacceptable and horrifying for any student or staff to be exposed to these extremely toxic hazards,” said Dr. Robin Cooper, President of Local 502/CASA.
In a letter sent this morning to Philadelphia School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and School Board President Pamela Wilkerson, Cooper urged the school board to implement a comprehensive solution to the crisis unfolding in Philadelphia schools. The discovery of elevated asbestos levels has led to the shuttering of six schools and an early childhood center since the beginning of the school year, resulting in several weeks of school closures and two reported cases of hazardous exposure to asbestos and lead paint chips. To date, two schools remain closed.
“The district is taking steps that we believe are unsafe,” Cooper said. “One of our demands is for the district to stop asking principals to conduct environmental assessments. We are not qualified to assess our schools for asbestos or mold hazards, and the district should not use us as scapegoats. There must be licensed environmental experts doing those assessments. We cannot keep our kids safe without trained professionals.”
“Our letter also asks the district to ensure we have access to the testing data and to environmental experts who can help us answer the many questions that parents and staff have for us,” Cooper said. “All we are asking for is a more collaborative, transparent process. I am hopeful this will be a moment to evaluate our environmental policies and to make critical policy decisions to address these serious safety concerns.”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf met with Local 502 members and Teamsters International Vice President William Hamilton in Harrisburg yesterday to discuss the growing crisis in Philadelphia schools. Wolf pledged one billion dollars in the state budget to properly address the health and safety issues facing the district.
“I applaud Governor Wolf for his commitment to school workers and students in Philadelphia,” Hamilton said. “We are hopeful that with the proper funding and oversight we can restore health and safety for everyone who works and learns in our city schools.”
Cooper and Hamilton were joined at the press conference by Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan, State Senator Vincent Hughes, State Representative James Roebuck, State Senator Tina Tartaglione, State Senator Lawrence Farnese, Philadelphia Councilwoman Helen Gym, Philadelphia City Councilman David Oh, Philadelphia City Councilman Derek Greene, SEIU Local 32BJ President Ernie Bennett, School Police Association of Philadelphia President Royce Merriweather, Laborers’ District Council of Metropolitan Philadelphia Business Manager Ryan Boyer, Unite Here Local 634 President Kiara Coleman and Robin Roberts of Parents United/Philadelphia Healthy Schools Initiative.
Teamsters Local 502/CASA represents 700 school administrators who work in the School District of Philadelphia as principals, assistant principals, facilities area coordinators, climate managers and school police, food service supervisors, early childhood supervisors, lead academic coaches, school trainers and curriculum specialists.