New Charter Application from String Theory Charters: Joan Myers Brown Academy

by Deborah Grill

Location:  3905 Ford Road (former Wordsworth Academy)
Grades:   K-8
Neighborhood:  Wynnefield Heights
Projected enrollment:   600 in year 1 (K-5); 900 (K-8) by year 4
Management Company:  String Theory Schools
Cost to District for 5-year term:  $49, 253, 959

String Theory Charter Management Company (STS) has applied to open a new charter school, the Joan Myers Brown Academy (JMBA), a K-8 school focusing on the performing arts in the Wynnefield Heights Section of Philadelphia.  The school would be located in the former Wordsworth Academy building at 3905 Ford Road and would recruit students from the 19131, 19151 and 19139 zip codes. String Theory expects to enroll 600 students in year one in grades K-5 and 900 students by year 4 with the addition of grades 6-8.  String Theory already operates the District’s largest charter–Philadelphia Performing Arts charter, a K-12 school located on 3 different campuses in 2 separate neighborhoods, in buildings owned by DeMedici Corporation and DeMedici Corporation II, companies that are described in a 2017 financial statement as “legally separate, tax-exempt component units of the School.”

The application for the  for the new charter school states  that “JMB Academy, as a K-8 String Theory Charter School, is dedicated to Growing the Next Generation of Creative Leaders. This new charter will build upon the successes of the foundational models of Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School and the Philadelphia Charter School for the Arts and Sciences at H.R. Edmunds.”  The application also says, “In order to maximize the availability of quality education options in West Philadelphia, it is our belief that it is essential to have a local enrollment preference and due to the high demand of our school model believe there will be more than enough interest to meet enrollment estimates.”

Some of the concerns presented by the Charter Schools Office Staff at the January 22 hearing include:

  • Materials omitted in Science and Social Studies curriculum
  • No curriculum for the Arts or Technology despite the presentation as a school focusing on the Arts and STEM
  • Inadequate details regarding geographic enrollment
  • Inconsistent relations between String Theory Schools CMO and the proposed charter school
  • Budget/salary/authority/health insurance details contain inconsistencies
  • Inconsistencies on services to students with Special Needs and English Language Learners
  • Insufficient information on renovation readiness
  • Flawed analysis of the community and its needs
  • Lack of inclusion of the 14 public and charter schools in the targeted zip codes
  • Inconsistencies in staffing plan

Click here to read the rest of the report

New Charter Application from American Paradigm: Tacony Academy Charter at St. Vincent

by Diane Payne

Tacony Academy Charter School at St. Vincent
7201 Milner Street         19136
Area: Tacony
Management Company:  American Paradigm Schools
Proposed enrollment: 900 students at scale
Proposed cost to SDP for 5-year term:   $39,837,160.

APPS members have attended all hearings and  reviewed all applications and attachments on this year’s new charter applications, as we have done in years past. APPS is a member of the Our City Our Schools Coalition (OCOS). Both APPS and OCOS are advocating for a moratorium on the creation of new charters and the expanding of existing ones. The District cannot afford and does not need any more charters.  Charter Schools represent the largest single item in the District’s budget–⅓ of the budget goes to fund charters. This causes direct harm to public school students as fewer resources are available to fix toxic buildings and hire more support staff. The Board has read and heard the legal opinions of several local attorneys, including Susan DeJarnett from the Beasley School of Law at Temple University, on the expense of charters, the many problems with the PA Charter Law, and the responsibility of the District to weight the financial health of the District when making decisions on charter expansion.  APPS members have cited the opinion of David Lapp, who represented the Education Law Center and is now with Research for Action, in his testimonies; links to the opinions of both attorneys have been made available to the Board.

This report is on one of the three applications submitted this year:  Tacony Academy Charter School at St. Vincent. There are several reasons the Board should reject this application, most importantly: negative financial impact on existing public school students, poor academic success over time in existing American Paradigm schools, and pressing financial questions and concerns that affect District stakeholders and all taxpayers.

American Paradigm Schools (APS) operates 4 charters in Philadelphia:  First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter (K-12) in Bridesburg, Tacony Academy Charter in the lower Northeast (K-12), Memphis Street Academy at Jones in Kensington (5-8), and Lindley Academy Charter in Logan (K-8).

To read the rest of the report click here.

Policy Committee Meeting: January 10, 2019

by Diane Payne

Co-chairs Maria McColgan and Joyce Wilkerson were present,  along with committee members Julia Danzy, Lee Huang, and Chris McGinley.  Board member Wayne Walker was in attendance as well. Three APPS members attended this meeting; two spoke in defense of public education.  APPS reports on all BOE meetings can be viewed at APPSPhilly.net.

(Videos of all Board meetings can be viewed on the Board of Education page on the SDP website. Meeting materials, including agendas and powerpoint presentations, can be found on the Board of Education website.   All of the materials of the January 10 meeting are not yet posted, but you can view the online agenda with links to each policy under review here.)

The Committee approved Minutes of its October 11, 2018 meeting.

District Chief of Staff Naomi Wyatt served as Dr. Hite’s designee at this meeting. She introduced both the policies to be reviewed and the other staff members who provided the information on each policy.

 

To read the proposed policy changes and speakers’ testimony click here.

 

Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting: January 10, 2019

by Karel Kilimnik

Co-chairs Leticia Egea-Hinton and Lee Huang were present along with Committee members Wayne Walker and Joyce Wilkerson. Board member Chris McGinley attended; Board member Angela McIver left early and Julia Danzy came in after the meeting started. Two APPS members attended this meeting and spoke in defense of public education. City Director of Finance Rob Dubow attended part of the meeting as well. The Committee approved Minutes of its  December 6 2018 meeting. Egea-Hinton announced a schedule change for this Committee’s meetings due to objections from the community about its 10 AM start time. February, April, and June meetings are scheduled for 4 PM, just after school hours. They expressed hope that this will encourage more parent participation. Two staff presentations followed: Understanding the Budget Process by Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson and Chief Operating Officer Danielle Floyd’s updates on Facilities Renovations and Remediations. (The Agenda, Power-Point presentations, and Minutes are available on the Board website under Meeting Materials.)

Continue reading here.