Talent rather than seniority

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Changes made to the Philadelphia teachers' union contract last year have greatly reduced seniority as a factor in hiring teachers for the upcoming year. The change gives principals the authority to "make decisions based on talent rather than seniority," said Paul G. Vallas, the chief executive officer of the Philadelphia school district. The school district of Philadelphia has filled 555 upcoming teaching positions through the site-selection process as a result, compared with 386 filled through the seniority-based process.

Many feel that the new process is a step towards obtaining better teachers for the district. Ruth Curran Nield, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's graduate school of education said, "It's hard to imagine any business in any industry that would want to hire an employee without finding out about their interests, background, their qualifications, and how they would fit into the existing employee culture." However, Jerry Jordan, the vice president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, is not convinced that the new contract is for the betterment of students. Jordan said that letting schools choose their hires does not mean that better teachers will want to work in the most challenging schools. Despite the skepticism, however, Vallas is convinced that, "when principals are allowed to hire the best candidates, they go out and get the best."