People for People Applies for Second High School: Frederick Douglass Charter High School

By Lisa Haver

Frederick Douglass Charter High School
700 North Broad Street and 1415 Fairmount Avenue    19130
Francisville
Enrollment:  Year 1, 2019-20— Grades 9-10, 250 students; Year 5— 500 students in grades 9-12
Cost to SDP for 5-year term:  $29,741,677

Members of the People for People (PFP) organization have applied to open an additional high school, Frederick Douglass Charter High School (FDCHS), at two different locations—700 No. Broad Street and 1415 Fairmount Avenue.
The opening narrative of the application enumerates issues that hinder student achievement, including “pervasive poverty…poor housing conditions….single parent households”, then goes on to imply that granting this application would solve those problems: “…FDCHS will be founded to serve as the innovative high school educational arm of People for People, Inc.—a community development corporation devoted to breaking the vicious cycle of poverty in the lives of North Central Philadelphia residents by providing them with positive alternatives to gangs, drugs, welfare, and crime.”  The application states that allowing PFP to open a new charter will help to “break the cycle of intergenerational poverty”. It’s a lofty goal, and one that its existing charter, in operation for 17 years, has not made a dent in. The narrative asserts: “FDCHS will enroll students of all abilities and needs. Our goal is to ensure our students’ academic growth is consistently higher than the national average during the charter term.” That is doubtful in light of the fact that PFP has failed to do so in its existing school.

Concerns cited by the Charter Schools Office at the January 22 hearing include:

  • Application lacks specific detail in many sections
  • Text-messaging program is not coupled with human social workers
  • Insufficient evidence of clear academic approach to subgroups
  • Budgetary concerns
  • Use of two addresses:  1415 Fairmount and 700 N. Broad
  • Neither building is ready for use as a school
  • Three members of Founding Coalition are employed by existing operator or related entities
  • Section on Founding Coalition in application not complete
  • There is no gym in the proposed floor plan
  • Amount of credits required for graduation would be hard for students to complete
  • In general, application failed to present compelling case for new charter

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