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Philadelphia Teachers Hold Town Hall Meeting With Experts

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Philadelphia teachers are taking it upon themselves to improve their financially strapped schools.

They're having a town-hall meeting tonight with national experts to talk about what they can do until the city finds the money to fully fund the district.

Before the meeting began, teachers and support staff talked to FOX 29 about their struggles holding class with all the budget cuts.

"My school, Roxborough High School: we have a bare-bones staff. We have a principal, we have no counselors...[and] there's me. That's all the support staff we have at this moment," says Eileen Difranco, a school nurse.

"The district, itself, has been given a very hard time by the state government and absolutely shows no willingness to stand up for the school children in Philadelphia," says Joan Taylor, a teacher.

Experts at tonight's meeting include former DC Public Schools Chancellor and StudentsFirst Founder Michelle Rhee, author and Capital Preparatory Magnet School Principal Dr. Steve Perry, and former teacher and Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker.

Elementary computers instructor Jeanne Ferrell says that times are tough at the A.S. Jenks school in South Philadelphia, no thanks to current budget problems.

"We've lost some key positions, a reading specialist a counselor, most importantly, we don't have a counselor. We have someone coming in, we don't even have her schedule yet," says Ferrell.

She finds herself taking on more duties too and attended the teacher town hall meeting at Temple University, hoping for answers on Philadelphia's education troubles from national leaders in the field.

She listened to the former leaders of the Washington D.C. school district and liked what she heard.

"One of the main points is getting the politics out of education. To really start getting funding and changes made," she recalls.

The meeting touched on everything from teacher salaries to contract negotiations, and parents we talked to were satisfied as well.

"I felt that it was good we held this dialogue. I feel that we should do more of this," says Maureen Fratantoni.

But protesters outside the town hall scoffed at the list of speakers, doubting whether school reforms in Washington D.C. Could work in Philadelphia.

"I have to question whether these people are experts," says a protestor.

Some folks who were protesting outside wanted to express their belief that Rhee isn't a proper voice to tell Philadelphia what to do.

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