by Diane Payne
June 4, 2018
All four sitting commissioners were present for this meeting. Three members of APPS and several community members spoke in defense of public education, including six who opposed Dr. Hite’s plan to close Strawberry Mansion as a comprehensive high school. They cited reasons why the Strawberry Mansion community needs to keep a high school open in the rapidly gentrifying area.
Commissioners Attempt to Justify Failing to Carry Out Their Public Duty
Two Commissioners offered justifications for voting to approve charter schools despite having serious concerns about them. Commissioner Fran Burns read a statement at the beginning of the meeting about the SRC’s approval of another Franklin Towne Charter school. Chairwoman Estelle Richman, along with Commissioner Burns, admitted that there were several areas in which the Philadelphia Hebrew Charter School (PHCS) application was deficient–just before voting to approve it.
At the previous meeting, APPS co-founder Lisa Haver asked the Commissioners to explain why they approved the Franklin Towne Charter Middle School (FTCMS) re-application after it had denied virtually the same application in February. APPS had sent the SRC a letter asking for an explanation but received no response. Haver pointed out that FTCMS had failed to address concerns raised by the Charter Schools Office (CSO) in over thirty areas. Burns said she had an explanation but would not answer until the next meeting (even though Haver had ceded most of her time so the SRC would answer then). At this meeting, Burns said that she voted to approve even though there was serious concerns because she felt the “conditions” imposed by the CSO addressed those concerns. That is, a charter operator can submit a seriously flawed application, not once but twice, and the CSO will rewrite it for them, adding conditions that the charter company had not yet agreed to, paving the way for the charter to begin to collect tax dollars.