Metropolitan Philadelphia Classical Charter School

Note: This charter application was withdrawn January 18, 2017.

by Carol Heinsdorf

School web page
viewed 1/2/2017

On this web site, Mr. McKelligott’s name is consistently misspelled as “McKelligot.”
For example, on the About Us page–
“John P. McKelligot, Board President”

Concern–How involved is Mr. McKelligott, MPCCS Board President, in affairs of the school that his name is misspelled throughout its web site?

Charter Application
viewed 1/2/2017

Instructions to view:  From the SDP web page, click on Metropolitan Philadelphia Classical Charter School to download the 41 page, single-spaced Executive Summary [Charter application].  Clearly, this Executive Summary is a cut and paste job, considering the following quote from page 28.
“The headmaster will periodically evaluate Metro Philadelphia’s employees as permitted by Indiana law and school policy.”

MPCCS’s Facebook page
viewed 1/2/2017

1.  Management company is Metropolitan Philadelphia Classical Charter School, Inc. with an online address of 8 St. Albans Ave. Newtown Square, PA 19073, site of Newtown Square Veterinary Hospital, the temporary location of the MPCCS board. [NEVH is owned by Heather DiGiacomo VMD.  She is a graduate of the Academy of Notre Dame in Villanova, Colgate University in Hamilton, NY and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
viewed 1/2/2017

2.  Catchment area and public schools affected
Nearby schools–Franklin Edmonds ES, John F. McCloskey ES, Parkway Northwest HS, Samuel Pennypacker ES, West Oak Lane Charter School ES, Martin Luther King HS, Hill-Freedman, grades 6-11 in 2016-2017

Metropolitan Philadelphia Classical Charter School proposes opening a school in Cedarbrook during the 2017-18 school year. [Cedarbrook is an unincorporated community in Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County, which includes the Ivy Hill neighborhood in a 19150 zip code, although this area is referred to in the Charter application on p.36 as “Mount Airy,” a different neighborhood in a different zip code.] At peak enrollment, the school would serve 674 students in kindergarten through grade 12. It would open by serving 498 students in kindergarten through 10th grade.” John Kopp, journalist
viewe12/25/2016

“[T]he opportunity became available to Metro Philadelphia to enter into conversations to house its school in a newly renovated building which, through June, 2016, had housed another school (the New Media Technology Charter School)…[B]ecause this opportunity just arose last week [Charter application is not dated], Metro Philadelphia [sic] not yet been able to fully engage with the local community.” Charter application p.3–see instructions to view above

Concern--Why are Delaware County residents with no public school experience applying to open a Philadelphia charter school?  (The incorrect reference to Mount Airy shows ignorance of the neighborhood.)  The area has many District administered schools and is one half mile from the Montgomery County border. Is there intent to draw students from outside the city limits?

3. Philosophy and curriculum

“Mission and Vision

The mission of the Metropolitan Philadelphia Classical Charter School (“Metro Philadelphia”) is to train the minds and improve the hearts of young people through a rigorous classical education in the liberal arts and sciences, with instruction in the principles of moral character and civic virtue. ”  Charter application, p. 1

“The Metropolitan Philadelphia Classical Charter School mission was adopted with permission from the Barney Charter School Initiative.”   viewed 12/27/2016

The Barney Charter School Initiative is a project of Hillsdale College devoted to the education of young Americans. Through this initiative, the College supports the launch of K-12 charter schools.”  <http://metrophillyclassic.wixsite.com/mpccs/news-and-events>  viewed 12/27/2016

“To learn more about our [Barney Charter School Initiative] school model:
https://www.hillsdale.edu/outreach/charterschools

http://metrophillyclassic.wixsite.com/mpccs/news-and-events
viewed 1/3/2017

Concern–Hillsdale College is a private institution that accepts no federal money, so it is  not required to follow the federal guidelines for Title VI and IX.  [“The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) ensures compliance by recipients of the Department’s financial assistance with federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, sex, disability, or age…”
viewed 1/3/2017

Hillsdale College sponsors a private school on its grounds, Hillsdale Academy, which is a model for Barney School initiative public charter schools.  “To understand the purpose and direction of our work with charter schools, we must first revisit the mission of Hillsdale College…The College considers itself a trustee of modern man’s intellectual and spiritual inheritance from the Judeo-Christian faith and Greco-Roman culture…” referencing religion and only Western cultures.  Hillsdale College Mission statement
viewed 12/29/2016

Concern–Is tax payer money going to be used to promote religious teachings and exclusively Western literature and history?

Mathematics will be taught using the Singapore math curriculum available for purchase and used in homeschooling, which is widely lauded in news reports, but has shortcomings elucidated in more critical math teachers’ reviews.  Language arts will be taught using the Riggs Institute program. also available for purchase, which has its proponents and detractors.

Other subjects that are not available for purchase as a program are described in the Charter application.  The following is one example.

“Students may decide to continue in Latin beyond the one-year requirement for graduation, or they may study foreign languages as the school is able [sic] provide those teachers.  The school will seek out teachers who are fluent in foreign languages, as the majority of the class will be conducted in the language to be studied.  As soon as possible, students will be required to read in the language, with the intent of being able to translate classic children’s stories (at least) by the end of the first year.  In subsequent years, reading literature in the foreign language will be a significant part of the course with the goal being that students shall acquire sufficient fluency to engage the humanity of the foreign subjects of the novel or play …”  Charter application, p. 10

Concern–This paragraph was reviewed by a teacher with more than 30 years experience in public/SDP foreign language classrooms.  The assessment was that this method of teaching and expectations were totally inappropriate for children, although appropriate for juniors and seniors in college.  The remainder of the curricular descriptions could be described as vacillating between lofty rhetoric and minutiae.  What is going to be taught in this school, how, and by whom?

Read two Barney Initiative/Hillsdale College established classical charter school reviews:

http://yourhub.denverpost.com/blog/2014/10/new-jeffco-charter-applications-golden-view-classical-academy/69560/
viewed 12/30/2017

Start reading at Here Come the Koch Brothers.
viewed 12/30/2016

4.  Founding Members, their backgrounds and/or connections

Our History

In 2011, our [MPCCS] Board President traveled to Hillsdale, MI and that same year, our Vice President contacted Hillsdale College to investigate how to create a school that will address education reform.”
viewed 1/2/2017

“The Metropolitan Philadelphia Classical Charter School will seek and implement the advice of Hillsdale College’s Barney Charter School Initiative in creating and implementing the school’s academic program…To advance the founding of classical charter schools, Hillsdale College works with school founding groups, which consist of parents and local citizens who care deeply about education.”   Charter application, p.2

Concern–Mr. Kelligott, Board president, is not a local citizen.  The vice president, along with two other founders, is no longer with MPCCS.  “There were other persons who worked with these founders to assist this effort, but three of these persons had to drop out within the past three months. ”  Charter application, p. 28

5.  Board Members, their backgrounds and/or connections

Re: McKelligott and Gallagher–“Both are citizens who are employed outside the field of education, but who care deeply about bring [sic] valuable educational opportunities to the children of Philadelphia and of southeastern Pennsylvania.”  Charter application, p. 28

Board president:
“It is anticipated that Mr. McKelligott will take a compensated position in the administration of the new school, should this charter be granted.” Charter application, p. 29

Concern–Is it legal for a member of the Board to hold a compensated position in the administration of a charter school?

***John P. McKelligott, Licensed for 44 years, Attorney in Lansdowne, PA [Delaware County]
Areas of Law:
Personal Injury
Civil Litigation
Under Insured Motorist Coverage Law in Pennsylvania

Credentials:
Admission Details
Admitted in 1972, Pennsylvania and U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
1976, U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit
1977, U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

Law School Attended:  University of Pennsylvania, Class of 1972, J.D.

University Attended: Dartmouth College, Class of 1969

***Peggy Gallagher

“Ms Gallagher is a real estate professional, and she has been assisting the school in finding an appropriate facility.”  Charter application, p. 28

Business Address [Montgomery County]:

PG Commercial Real Estate, Inc.
P.O. Box 276
1012 Bethlehem Pike, Suite E
Springhouse, PA 19477
viewed 1/3/2017

Owner, Commercial Real Estate Broker, Tenant Rep at PG Commercial Real Estate Inc
Greater Philadelphia Area/Real Estate

Organizations:
Member of Board and Tenant Representative
Metropolitan Philadelphia Classical Charter School
March 2016  Metropolitan Philadelphia Classical Charter School is a Proposed Charter School

Education:
La Salle University, Finance, 1981 – 1989
Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Flourtown, PA, 1962 – 1966
viewed 12/25/2016

***Michael F.X. Coll

“[T]he Hon. Michael F.X. Coll, ret. of the Court of Common Pleas for Delaware County agreed to join the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Philadelphia Classical Charter School. ” Charter application, p.28

“Michael F.X. Coll is a senior judge on the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania.] Coll was elected to the court in 2003 to a term that expired in 2013. He became a senior judge in 2013.

Education:

Coll earned both his undergraduate degree and J.D. from Villanova University.
Career:
Prior to joining the court Coll was a solicitor for the Borough of Lansdowne, the William Penn School District and the Delaware County Intermediate Unit. He also served as an assistant district attorney and a council member for the Burough [sic] of Lansdowne.”
viewed 1/2/2017

Concern–All Board members are from the suburbs  and have Catholic connections.  Although the school will be located in a predominantly African American neighborhood, there are no African American Board members.

6.  Means of outreach to recruit students

“For more information, please email us at metrophillyclassical@gmail.com and add your family name and information onto our growing list of families. In the email, please write your family name, street address or zip code. This list we are producing is a list of families who live in Philadelphia, PA that will tell the School District of Philadelphia you believe in public school education and a Classical Liberal Arts Public School is the way to best achieve reform. If you live outside the City limits, your support is also WELCOME because we know you have family and/or friends who live in the city who want a safe and productive school environment.”
viewed 12/25/2016

“[W]e changed course and focused on the Cedarbrook-Mount Airy building, but that opportunity came about so late in the process that we have had no opportunity to do any marketing in that neighborhood…[I]t is our intent to market our program citywide.  Charter application, p. 37

7.  Means of teacher and leadership recruitment

In reference to a proposed Barney Initiative classical charter school in Colorado: “Hillsdale personnel will play a key role in all phases of this school – from curriculum development to teacher training to school operations. In addition, Hillsdale has found a ready market for its graduates who can and have become teachers at the Barney charters.”
viewed 1/2/2017

“Hillsdale will assist in providing [to MPCCS]:  principal candidates and mentoring, development of curriculum, teacher education, and visits to advise on the operation of the school.  Hillsdale will likewise offer assistance in hiring teachers…In particular, the following Hillsdale representatives will be assisting us:

Philip Kilgore — Director of the Barney Charter School Initiative at Hillsdale College

Rebecca Fleming — Assistant Director of the Barney Charter School Initiative, Hillsdale College.”  Charter application p.26

Concern— Will there be any Philadelphia citizens involved in the administration or teaching at the school?

Additional concerns

“[P]arents are expected to have online access to student assignment completion records and grades.”  Charter application, p. 21  How will the school provide this access to parents if it is not available in the students’ homes?

“The Metropolitan Philadelphia Classical Charter School will research and choose the most appropriate information system to manage student performance data.  The administration team of Metro Philadelphia, together with the Board, or with a Committee of the Board, will receive both annual data analysis training and consistent performance data analysis review through both an annual performance data analysis update and regional training sessions.”  Charter application, p. 26 

This is an example of the vague wording throughout this section on assessment and performance data.  Among concerns that the world of educational technology has passed by the MPCCS Board members writing and approving this, what are the policies regarding student and family privacy and how they will be upheld?  Will student data be marketed/sold?

We are a “no excuses” Classical Liberal Arts Education School Model.”    viewed 1/2/2017
What does this mean?

There are references throughout the Charter application to principals of the lower and high school, vice principals, and head of school, with overlapping duties.  What is the administrative structure of this proposed school and what are the duties of the administrators hired?

Special note

“We do expect to offer two preferences in our enrollment proceedings:  first, we will observe a preference to enroll a sibling of an existing student, so as to try not to drive families with more than one child nuts driving around to different locations for activities involving their children.”  Charter application, p.35


Also see:

Curriculum and budget questions are raised at hearing about free-market charter application | The Notebook – January 12, 2017