District exiles outspoken Audenried teacher

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

For the past week, a group of students, teachers, and community members at Audenried High School have been vocal in their opposition to the District’s plans to convert their school into a charter.

Today, say some, the District struck back.

Hope Moffett, a third-year English teacher at Audenried who has been particularly outspoken in her criticism, told the Notebook that she received a letter today from the District informing her that she is "being temporarily assigned to the High School Academic Division (AD-1) located at 3133 Ridge Avenue."

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan, reached late tonight, confirmed that a second staff member at Audenried was also reassigned today.

The Notebook has obtained a copy of the terse four-sentence letter to Moffett, which is signed by Assistant Superintendent for High Schools Linda Cliatt-Wayman.

It states that Moffett faces further sanction for disclosing the letter’s contents.

"You are directed not to discuss this matter. Failure to follow this directive will result in disciplinary action," it reads.

Asked to comment, the District provided a written statement.

"As a standard practice the District does not comment on personnel matters," it said.

"Academic time is intended to be used for just that. … We believe in creating institutions of greatness. To do this we believe teachers must be responsible and provide a safe and academically focused environment for all students, especially during classroom time."

Several teachers at the school, all of whom wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, spoke highly of Moffett.

"Everything I’ve ever seen her do has been about and for those kids," said one colleague.

"She is possibly the most passionate teacher I’ve ever worked with," said another.

Despite the threat of further discipline, Moffett said she feels compelled to speak out.

"I honestly just am tired of the District coming in and trying to intimidate our teachers, principals, and students," she said.

"I knew exactly what I was getting into. I [am speaking to the press] because I think what I did was right."

PFT President Jordan, who was traveling Thursday, said he would be briefed by his staff on the situation Friday."If there was an attempt to intimidate the teacher, we will not tolerate it – absolutely not," he said. "I will be personally involved in this case."

Over the past nine days, Moffett has on several occasions publicly criticized the District’s plans for Audenried under the Renaissance Schools initiative.

This week, Moffett was one of five Audenried teachers to sign a guest blog post on the Notebook‘s website in which they questioned the District’s justification for designating Audenried a Renaissance school.

Moffett also appeared with students who protested at Wednesday’s School Reform Commission meeting, and she was vocal in her criticism of District officials during a District-run informational meeting at Audenried last week.

During one of several emotional public statements during that meeting, Moffett chastised Deputy for Secondary Instructional Programs Michael Silverman and Deputy for Process Improvement and Compliance Thomas Darden for the lack of information they provided to those in attendance.

"The fact that you came to this meeting without data is unacceptable," said Moffett.

"I expect my students to come to my class prepared to defend their arguments."

As part of its new "Promise Neighborhood Partnership" with Universal Companies, the District is directly awarding both Audenried and Edwin Vare Middle School to Universal to be run as charters, bypassing the recent practice of soliciting parent and community input into the selection of external managers that has been used at other Renaissance Schools.

Under the District plan, all teachers at the two schools will be let go, then given the opportunity to reapply to Universal for their jobs – minus the union protections they currently enjoy.

Prior to the news, Moffett, 25, taught 11th grade English at Audenried.

She began her career as a Teach for America corps member at the school in 2008, the same year Audenried was re-opened in its new facility.

"I purposely followed my students from 9th grade to 10th grade to 11th grade so that I would be with them as the first graduating class [in the new building]," said Moffett in an earlier interview.

Moffett stressed that she did not organize the student walkout at Audenried earlier this week, although she said she did "educate the students about the issues."

"The students of Audenried are the ones who are protesting. It is absolutely not the manipulation of teachers or staff," said Moffett.