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Philadelphia School District's longest-serving teacher to retire after 47 years

A beloved educator in the School District of Philadelphia will retire at the end of the school year after nearly 47 years.

Frances Wilson started with the district on Sept. 1, 1974, as a classroom assistant. She is the district’s longest-serving teacher. Her last day at school will be June 15.

“I’ve had some amazing teachers from elementary school to high school. When I think of them, I get the same smile that my kids give me,” Wilson said.

“I truly believe what has sustained me as an educator is not the income, but the outcome,” she added. “Knowing that the kids I taught over the years are successful, reaching their full potential, and inspiring the next generation.”

Wilson, 65, became a teacher in 2008 at the Henry H. Houston School in Mount Airy. After five years at Houston, she would leave to become a teacher at Chester A. Arthur School in the Graduate Hospital area of South Philadelphia. She is currently the dean of students at the school.

“As the dean of students, Miss Wilson supports students and teachers who are having issues with technology,” said Chester A. Arthur principal Mary Libby. “She also supports students, teachers and parents who are struggling with anything emotionally, physically or academically.

“She also helps people who are not struggling by helping them see their future and strive for their aspirations,” she added. “She helps them see beyond what they can currently see in the moment.”

Libby, who has known Wilson for over two years, said that she’s excited to celebrate Wilson’s accomplishment with her.

“She has not only taught generation after generation after generation of families, but she also made an impact in their lives,” Libby said. “She’s a part of so many people’s families and that is just phenomenal.”

“We are eternally grateful to her and her commitment to us and the community,” she added. “We’re excited to celebrate this accomplishment with her for the next few months and beyond. We can’t thank her enough for everything that she has done.”

A native of South Philadelphia, Wilson is a graduate of the now defunct Parkway Program Alpha Unit, which was at 1801 Market St.

After a brief stint at the University of Connecticut, Wilson came back to Philadelphia. Under the suggestion of her mother, she sought employment in the school district. However, Wilson said it was never in her plans to be an educator.

“While I was at Parkway, I was a public relations officer,” Wilson said. “I was one of the kids that went out and spoke at educational conferences. I wanted to be either a public relations officer or a manager of a professional football team.

“The closest I got to that was part owner of a women’s professional softball team, but we’re not around anymore,” she added. “Being an educator was never a part of my original plans.”

Wilson became a classroom assistant at the original Amy School in Rittenhouse Square before transferring to Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School in Center City.

She later got an associate’s degree from Community College of Philadelphia and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Drexel University.

“I was told I couldn’t teach with just an associate’s degree, so I ended up going to Drexel University to get my bachelor’s degree,” Wilson said. “I was still a classroom assistant, so it took me 10 years to complete my degree because I was going to school at night. I finished with honors.”

Wilson said she would tell future educators to “be true to yourself, love your students, and make a difference.”

“It’s not an easy job and it doesn’t end when the school bell rings,” Wilson said. “You’re always thinking about your students every day and wondering if you made a difference.

“The advice I would give future educators is to be true to yourself and know who you are as a person,” she added. “Make a difference in someone’s life every day and learn to love the person who is in front of you.”

Next, Wilson said she plans to travel, learn a foreign language and catch up on some reading.

“I definitely want to travel and Rome is my No. 1 place to visit on my bucket list,” Wilson said.

“I’m thinking about getting together with some teachers and doing a podcast,” she added. “I want to learn a foreign language and just read books just to read books. I’m looking forward to it.”

Pfizer COVID-19 shot expanded to U.S. children as young as 12

U.S. regulators on Monday expanded the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12, offering a way to protect the nation’s adolescents before they head back to school in the fall and paving the way for them to return to more normal activities.

Shots could begin as soon as a federal vaccine advisory committee issues recommendations for using the two-dose vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds. An announcement is expected Wednesday.

Most COVID-19 vaccines worldwide have been authorized for adults. Pfizer’s vaccine is being used in multiple countries for teens as young as 16, and Canada recently became the first to expand use to 12 and up. Parents, school administrators and public health officials elsewhere have eagerly awaited approval for the shot to be made available to more kids.

“This is a watershed moment in our ability to fight back the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president who’s also a pediatrician, told The Associated Press.

The Food and Drug Administration declared that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and offers strong protection for younger teens based on testing of more than 2,000 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15. The study found no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared to 18 among kids given dummy shots. More intriguing, researchers found the kids developed higher levels of virus-fighting antibodies than earlier studies measured in young adults.

The younger teens received the same vaccine dosage as adults and had the same side effects, mostly sore arms and flu-like fever, chills or aches that signal a revved-up immune system, especially after the second dose.

Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. “Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech recently requested similar authorization in the European Union, with other countries to follow.

The latest news is welcome for U.S. families struggling to decide what activities are safe to resume when the youngest family members remain unvaccinated.

“I can’t feel totally comfortable because my boys aren’t vaccinated,” said Carrie Vittitoe, a substitute teacher and freelance writer in Louisville, Kentucky, who is fully vaccinated, as are her husband and 17-year-old daughter.

The FDA decision means her 13-year-old son soon could be eligible, leaving only her 11-year-old son unvaccinated. The family has not yet resumed going to church, and summer vacation will be a road trip so they do not have to get on a plane.

“We can’t really go back to normal because two-fifths of our family don’t have protection,” Vittitoe said.

Pfizer is not the only company seeking to lower the age limit for its vaccine. Moderna recently said preliminary results from its study in 12- to 17-year-olds show strong protection and no serious side effects. Another U.S. company, Novavax, has a COVID-19 vaccine in late-stage development and just began a study in 12- to 17-year-olds.

Next up is testing whether the vaccine works for even younger children. Both Pfizer and Moderna have begun U.S. studies in children ages 6 months to 11 years. Those studies explore whether babies, preschoolers and elementary-age kids will need different doses than teens and adults. Gruber said Pfizer expects its first results in the fall.

Outside of the U.S., AstraZeneca is studying its vaccine among 6- to 17-year-olds in Britain. And in China, Sinovac recently announced that it has submitted preliminary data to Chinese regulators showing its vaccine is safe in children as young as 3.

Children are far less likely than adults to get seriously ill from COVID-19, yet they represent nearly 14% of the nation’s coronavirus cases. At least 296 have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. alone, and more than 15,000 have been hospitalized, according to a tally by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

That’s not counting the toll of family members becoming ill or dying — or the disruption to school, sports and other activities so crucial to children’s overall well-being.

The AAP welcomed the FDA’s decision.

“Our youngest generations have shouldered heavy burdens over the past year, and the vaccine is a hopeful sign that they will be able to begin to experience all the activities that are so important for their health and development,” said AAP President Dr. Lee Savio Beers in a statement.

Experts say children must get the shots if the country is to vaccinate the 70% to 85% of the population necessary to reach what’s called herd immunity.

In the meantime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says unvaccinated people — including children — should continue taking precautions such as wearing masks indoors and keeping their distance from other unvaccinated people outside of their households.

Recovery's stumbles leave Americans confronting unfamiliar inflation risk

Widespread shortages and production snags are driving prices higher for many everyday items, as an uneven economic reopening leaves Americans facing the unfamiliar risk of inflation.

Significant price increases have affected used cars, medical care, appliances, energy, food and cigarettes in recent months, according to government data. Gas prices headed higher on Monday — before ending the day almost unchanged — after a cyberattack forced the closure of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline.

Most economists expect prices for many goods and services to show continued gains on Wednesday when the Labor Department releases its next monthly inflation report.

The Federal Reserve insists that today’s rising prices — up 2.6% over the past 12 months — will not blossom into anything like the economy-wide, double-digit inflationary spiral of the 1970s. Some economists, including Lawrence Summers, a former treasury secretary, however, warn that President Joe Biden’s free spending could ignite inflation that would outstrip wage gains and leave consumers struggling to make ends meet.

The Fed, backed by most private-sector economists, says a temporary period of higher prices represents just the latest twist in the coronavirus pandemic’s unprecedented bust and boom. Fueled by government stimulus checks and pent-up consumer demand, the U.S. economy is galloping ahead. Yet many industries have not adjusted to the pandemic’s reshaping of demand, meaning that some factories cannot satisfy all potential customers.

“What we’re seeing right now is an economy struggling to recalibrate,” said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist for Stifel Financial in Chicago. “This is not a seamless process and it’s certainly not something that happens overnight.”

Even as the Fed reassures investors, expectations of future inflation, which over time can contribute to sustained price increases, reached their highest mark since 2013. A market gauge called the U.S. Treasury 10-year break-even rate reached 2.5% on Friday, up sharply from 1.99% at the beginning of the year.

The fast-growing economy is battling shortages of labor and raw materials. Freight costs are soaring. And executives are scrambling to maintain profit margins by passing on the higher costs to customers or by developing less expensive production methods.

Price gains are expected to peak in the second quarter, before easing later this year as production bottlenecks are cleared, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

But Friday’s disappointing jobs report — and the computer attack this weekend that idled Colonial Pipeline’s main East Coast fuel artery — underscored the daunting uncertainty surrounding the economy’s revival.

“What worries me the most is we don’t have any historical examples of how long bottlenecks persist or the damage they can do,” said Frances Donald, global chief economist for Manulife Investment Management. “This is one of the most complicated periods in modern economics.”

To date, the increase in inflation remains modest. Comparing current prices to those one year ago also overstates what’s actually in the economy. During the pandemic’s first months, many prices — including for hotel rooms, airplane tickets and men’s suits — collapsed. So year-over-year comparisons exaggerate the degree of change. Such distortions will become less significant over the remainder of this year.

The recent uptick in prices comes after decades of generally quiescent inflation. On an annual basis, the consumer price index has not been above 6% since the early 1990s.

Since the end of the financial crisis, in fact, the Federal Reserve often has worried about deflation — a self-perpetuating cycle of decreasing prices that erodes demand and employment. Over that 12-year period, the consumer price index rose by an annual 1.6%, below the Fed’s 2% price stability target.

Even now, prices are not rising in a uniform way.

In a $21 trillion economy, the prices of some goods are always rising while others are decreasing. But the past year’s price mosaic is unusual.

In some sectors, such as semiconductors, the problem is too much demand, outpacing available supplies. In others, such as restaurants and airlines, there is plenty of supply, but not enough demand.

Energy prices are up more than 13% in the past 12 months, as resurgent demand from the economic recovery collided with weather-related disruptions to the petrochemical industry in Texas. Meanwhile, the cost of women’s dresses decreased by more than 11%, as people opted for casual attire while working from home.

Apples and oranges are up more than 7% over the past year. Canned fruit and vegetables also have risen by more than the overall average.

“The structure of the economy has changed. We recognize the new economic reality and market challenges we face, specifically the inflationary pressure we are facing on all fronts which is forcing us to increase our prices,” Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, chief executive of Fresh Del Monte Produce, told investors Wednesday.

The pandemic has rearranged the market for new and used cars from the factory gate to the showroom floor. A semiconductor shortage is hobbling auto plants even as consumers spooked by public transit risks rush to buy personal vehicles. With new cars in short supply, more consumers are turning instead to used models.

That has driven used car prices up 37% over the past year, according to Manheim Auctions, the world’s largest automobile auction company.

“I never thought we’d see a market like this in a million years,” said Warfa Isse, general sales manager for Koons Tysons Toyota. “Some common used cars are selling at more than their original sticker price when they were new.”

During the first quarter, General Motors’ average transaction price in North America was up 9% year over year, including a 10% gain for full-size pickup trucks and 20% for sport utility vehicles, Paul Jacobson, the automaker’s chief financial officer, told investors on a recent call.

White House to work with states on reimposing work search requirements

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Monday that the White House will “make it clear” that Americans on unemployment must take a job if offered a “suitable” one or lose their benefits, wading into an issue that Republicans have seized on in the past week.

The White House said it is directing the Department of Labor to work with states on reimposing work search requirements for Americans collecting unemployment benefits. The Labor Department will soon issue a letter to “reaffirm” the rules of unemployment to ensure that workers, employers and states understand the rules of the program, the White House said.

In remarks in the East Room, Biden reiterated that the administration disputes GOP claims that April’s jobs data, released Friday, shows that unemployment benefits are too generous and causing workers to stay home rather than rejoin the workforce.

The White House did not announce a departure from prior policy on unemployment benefits. Still, the president’s remarks suggest that the White House is sensitive to the growing political criticisms over their handling of the issue. Several GOP-run states are moving to cut the unemployment benefits on their own.

“We’re going to make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment,” Biden said in remarks in the East Room. “There are a few COVID-19 related exceptions. ... But otherwise that’s the law.”

The White House has been forced on the defensive over some worrisome economic news this month, with the April jobs report showing a slowdown in the pace of job gains. Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have said the supplemental unemployment benefits approved by Biden in March are discouraging workers from rejoining the workforce and stalling economic recovery. Democrats and the president have responding by urging patience and noting other factors, such as ongoing concerns about the coronavirus, which can cause the illness COVID-19, and the lack of available child care for working parents.

Biden’s new message on Monday was primarily to demonstrate how the unemployment system works and underscore that the White House does not believe the benefits are to blame for the labor shortage, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly. States waived their work requirements for unemployment benefits at the start of the pandemic, but 39 of them have reimposed or are planning to reimpose them.

About 18 million Americans are collecting some form of unemployment benefits.

The White House also sees this week as an important gauge for whether Biden can gain any bipartisan support for his $2.3 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan — which comes in addition to a $1.8 trillion proposal for expanding services such as child care, education and paid leave.

Biden is scheduled to host the four top congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday, and plans to meet with six Senate Republicans on Thursday as he makes one of the most concerted efforts at winning Republican votes since he took office.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said last week that he was focused “on stopping this new administration,” but on Sunday he told a PBS station in Kentucky that he could support up to $800 billion in infrastructure spending. Biden is also meeting privately on Monday with two more moderate Democrats who are vital to his efforts, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. Manchin has expressed concern over Biden’s proposed level of spending as well as the White House’s push to raise corporate tax rates.

This week will test Biden’s ability to keep his party united; he is trying to persuade Republicans to support some of his proposals. He has frequently pledged to unite the country and usher in a more bipartisan era, but none of his major plans have attracted Republican votes. And while White House aides often point to public polling to show that his plans have support from Republican voters, they are eager to also show that he can also win over GOP lawmakers.