Philadelphia high school junior Alyssa Bey says she's not getting an education and it's not because she doesn't want to, it's because she doesn't have a teacher to give her one.
"We don't have a teacher in my class, so students just roam the halls or sit in the auditorium and do nothing all day," Bey said. "It's frustrating because I really want to learn."
According to Bey, her 6th period health class at John Bartram High School in Southwest Philadelphia has not had a permanent teacher since the first day of school. Instead, another teacher has been filling in, but Bey says that teacher has not been instructing the class at all. In fact, she took a photo of the teacher earlier this week, which appears to show him sleeping on the job.
Bey's mother, Ricarda Burrell said she was disappointed when she saw the photo.
"My daughter has been coming home every day saying she's not learning anything. It's disappointing because if you're fortunate enough to have a job, you shouldn't be sleeping on these kids," Burrell said. "My daughter was doing really, really well at this school, but this is just unacceptable."
Burrell said the same health class was run very differently last school year. She believes the changes are due to the districts funding crisis, which left most of Philadelphia's public schools with bigger class sizes and smaller staff resources.
"Last year she had a health class, and they had the classroom set up like an ER, and they had someone come and train them about health education, and just really trying to introduce them to the medical field. To go from that last year to this this year is so unacceptable," Burrell said. "I'm sure it’s because of the funding issues. It has to be."
On Thursday, Bey says no one showed up to teach the health class at all, so the students were instructed to go home early.
"It's supposed be like a two-hour class, but we didn’t have a teacher today, so we just walked out in the hallways. The security guards told us to find a classroom to go to, but when we told them we had nowhere to go because there was no teacher in our class, they told us to just go home," Bey said.
Burrell said she contacted the school about the incident and was instructed by a secretary to call the school district office. When she contacted the district, she says she was unable to reach anyone after waiting on hold for 46 minutes.
Philadelphia School District spokesman Fernando Gallard confirmed that the picture does show a teacher sleeping, although the district will not identify him and doesn't plan to give out any additional information about the teacher.
Gallard said the district is investigating to determine whether the incident warrants disciplinary action.
Gallard said the previous teacher resigned at the start of the year, but says that resignation was not related to budget cuts or teacher reductions. Gallard said the teaching position for the Health Related Technologies Class requires a registered nursing degree and that it is difficult to find candidates for the job.
As a result of the picture, Bey's health class is being canceled for the semester and students will be reassigned. The school plans to offer the class again next year.
According to Gallard, as of last week, there were fewer than 40 vacancies out of an approximate 9,000 teaching positions in the entire district.
Photo Credit: Bey Burrell