by Deborah Grill
The Board of Education should deny Global Leadership’s application to open a third school, a high school in North Philadelphia. First, the district cannot afford any more charter schools without further diminishing the education of the students in its existing schools, who must try to learn in understaffed and toxic buildings, with many basic resources paid out of the pockets of teachers.
Second, this application for Global Leadership Academy Charter High School (GLAICHS) is less than truthful. The applicants’ disavowal of their existing charter schools throughout the application appears to foreshadow its intention to appeal to the state Charter Appeal Board (CAB) should they be denied. An appeal–which could go all the way to the PA Supreme Court–could last for years and force the district to pay for legal fees and court costs for both the district lawyers and GLA. The applicants actually question the district’s right to ask for the information it needs to determine the academic, financial and managerial viability of the proposed school. Each attachment to the application opens with a legal statement quoting certain portions of the Charter School Law that apply to the particular information required in the application. The applicants, citing cases that came before the CAB, decide whether to provide information based on their interpretation of cases. Almost all of the legal statements challenge the district’s right to ask for specific information.
Global Leadership Academy International Charter High School
Location: 5210-18 N. Broad Street, 19140 (former Cristo Rey High School)
Grades: 9 to 12
Opening Date: August 14, 2023
Targeted area: citywide enrollment
Projected Enrollment: 600 at scale
Proposed CEO salary from Y1 to Y5 $135,000—$151,944 (from GLAICHS proposed budget)
Estimated 5-year cost to district (based on the district’s November 2021 Quarterly School Manager Report): $46,169,720 ($9,233,944 per year)
The mission of this school as stated in the application is to “provide Philadelphia youth with a holistic, purposeful, and empowering secondary education focusing on global competence, real-world learning and leadership development. GLAICHS will develop leaders who can innovate, disrupt, create, care for, build and rebuild their communities, country and their world.”
This sounds like a worthy mission, but how do you measure its success? According to the Charter School Office evaluation the “applicant did not provide specific details of observable elements” that would indicate the school had met its mission.
The applicants’ Mission and Program (p. 5) contends that this charter school is uniquely innovative while admitting that its goal of developing global competence is not unique:
“How GLAICHS is Uniquely Innovative: GLAICHS’s mission distinguishes itself within the context of already existing school options in its tri-part focus on global competence, leadership development, and real-world learning. GLAICHS is not unique in its goal of developing youth’s global competence, but the school is unique in the way it does this out in the real world – locally, nationally, and internationally – and in its coherent, consistent focus on developing and supporting scholar leadership.” In fact, the district does have a high school whose curriculum focuses on global studies, William Bodine High School for International Affairs, that incorporates the same components outlined in this application. The applicants acknowledge this, but attempts to distinguish itself from Bodine because Bodine is a “criteria-based school” while GLAICHS would welcome all students “even those with special and academic needs”. In reality, all district magnet and special-admit schools serve students with special needs and English language learners.
The application states that students must go on an international trip in order to graduate. Those who cannot would be able to complete an alternative project. The trips would be paid for both by the school’s families and through grants and fundraisers.
In recent years, Dr. Naomi Johnson Booker, CEO of both Global Academies and Global Leadership Academy Charter School, has demanded in public hearings that the district allow Global Leadership Academy to open a high school. She has said that a Global Leadership Academy (GLA) high school would benefit the students in the existing GLA elementary schools, Global Leadership Academy (GLACS) and Global Leadership Academy Southwest at Huey (GLASW). Yet, in this application for Global Leadership Academy International High School (GLAIHS), the founding coalition, led by the GLA CEO, makes the claim throughout that they do not operate any other charter school. In the opening narrative, the applicants make these contradictory statements (p 3): “GLAICHS, the applicant, has not launched any schools, and is not currently operating or managing any other schools in Pennsylvania or out-of-state…[H]owever, GLAICHS has evolved the Global Leadership Academy model already employed at GLACS and GLASW so that high school scholars may continue to benefit from its most successful components.” On page 75, the applicants, in three separate statements, deny operating any other school. Global Academies’ two existing schools score below both the district schools’ average and the charter school average on the PA School Performance Profile over the years, including the 2018-19 school year (the most recent data available).
Global Academies, founded by and operated by Dr. Booker, one of the founding members 0f GLAICHS, operates the two existing GLA charter schools mentioned above. The CEO of Global Academies also serves as the CEO of GLACS and the Executive Director of GLA Huey, a Renaissance charter taken over by GLA in 2016. Yearly evaluations show that GLA failed to improve the school academically. Twelve of the fourteen members of the Founding Coalition are current employees at GLACS and/or GLA Huey and have served in several capacities at those schools over the years.
The applicants’ proposed admittance policy indicates not only that preference is given to students from GLACS and GLA Huey but that those students will not have to participate in the lottery. The Global Academies website has a link to a petition entitled “Give us our GLA High School” in support of GLAICHS. The GLAICHS website has directions for GLA parents on how to contact city and state elected officials asking them to support the high school.
While the application states that the majority of eighth-grade students from both GLACS and GLA Huey will apply to GLAICHS, the CSO evaluation stated that there were only 25 signed “intent to enroll” forms submitted with the application–a small fraction of GLA’s current combined enrollment. That may be because parents are choosing to leave the GLA network for any number of reasons, including GLA’s substandard performance, or because parents may not want to send their children from Southwest Philadelphia to North Philadelphia, which would necessitate a long commute on SEPTA buses and rail lines.
In attachment 43, a form that asks the applicant for reports on existing charter schools, GLAICHS denies that they operate any other schools. They seem to be covering all their bases when they also say: “CAB has repeatedly rejected the argument that a charter application should be denied due to alleged performance deficiencies or flaws of a management company or the like…[T]he proper test for whether a charter school may serve as a model for other public schools is whether it presents areas of innovation, not whether the applicant has demonstrated that it will improve student performance.”
The applicants are actually asking the district to give them another school where academic achievement will not be a priority. They are arguing that innovation that doesn’t improve student performance is acceptable. What is the point of innovation if it is not to give students a better education?
GLAICHS states that it does not plan to contract with a Charter management Organization. It will contract with third party providers for support services and will engage Global Academies1 in a vendor services and licensing agreement for the use of the Global Leadership Academy model at GLAICHS. Global Academies will advise GLAICHS on developing independent systems for the following:
- Staff leadership training; Assisting with credentialing of staff, subject to GLAICHS’ oversight
- Proposing policies for GLAICHS’ Board of Trustees to consider and approve
- Supporting any GLAICHS’ initiative to renew its charter agreement
- Providing tools to the GLAICHS’ School Leader to evaluate school leadership
- Assisting GLAICHS’ with its Human resources management
- Advising GLAICHS’ review of compliance issues with the Department of
- Education and School District of Philadelphia
- Review of GLAICHS’ preparation of annual reports
- Development of marketing materials/brochures
- Public relations and marketing
- Grant writing
- Providing resources to GLAICHS in order to ensure data compliance
- Assisting GLAICHS to warehouse and analyze data
- Professional development”
The proposed budget does not specifically indicate how much GLAICHS will pay Global Academies for these services. The Charter School Evaluation Report comments:
“…it is concerning that an agreement with Global Academies was not submitted; it is not clear which specific services would be provided, under what terms and at what cost.”
GLAISCH did submit a draft (Attachment 14) of a contract to hire Santilli & Thomson, a legal and business consulting firm. “to provide the school with comprehensive financial and business services.” The firm contracts with many charter schools, both inside and outside of Philadelphia, and its service practices have come into question on several occasions. Santilli & Thomson was featured in an 2015 Philadelphia Inquirer article focusing on the amount of taxpayer money that goes to consulting firms that do business with charter schools and how difficult it is to follow that money trail. In 2019, an Allentown charter school sued Santilli & Thomson for failing to indemnify the school against losses and expenses incurred at the hands of a payroll contractor that Santilli & Thomson secured for the school. That same year, Santilli & Thomson’s practices were called into question during American Paradigm’s application for a 5th charter school. Mr. Santilli was both the CEO of American Paradigm and a partner at the firm. The firm’s website at one time listed its clients, its representatives and its services. Now it offers little to no information about the firm or its clients. Why?
Attachment 35 contains a commitment from Global Foundation to offer a $250,000 line of credit to GLAISCH. According to its listing on GuideStar, a website that reports on nonprofits, the foundation was granted tax-exempt status in 2010 to provide distributions to organizations that qualify as exempt organizations under the federal tax code and to operate exclusively for the benefit of Global Leadership Academy Charter School. The address of the foundation in the letter is the same address as Global Academies, but the address listed on the 990 is that of Santilli & Thomson. The most recent 2021 IRS 990s of both GLACS and GLASW show that the legal firm of Sand and Seidell, which is affiliated with Santilli and Thomson, were paid to provide legal services at the schools.
The CSO evaluation found other problems with the GLAICH budget:
“There are errors in the assumptions about both revenues and expenditures in the Applicant’s budget that negatively impact the Applicant’s proposal. These errors will lead to deficit spending in at least Years 1 through 3, and will cause the proposed Charter School to default on a proposed line of credit by Year 1.”
The budget does include proposed salaries for each classification of employee. The proposed salary for the CEO of the school is listed from $135,000 in year 1 to $151,944 in year 5. That would be a relatively low salary for a GLA CEO. According to the 2021 IRS 990s of Global Academies existing schools, the CEO of GLACS received $453,727 in salary and compensation; the CEO of GLA at Huey $292,067. In comparison, the Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia receives $335,000 for overseeing 217 district schools.
Founding Coalition Members
Dr. Naomi Johnson Booker: CEO of GLA Charter and CEO of Global Academies, Executive Advisor at GLA Huey.
Bar-Rae Choice: Chief of School Operations at Global Academies since July 2021. Previously: Assistant Principal at GLA Huey, Climate & Culture School Safety coordinator, Dean of Students at GLA. Also Summer Enrichment Program Director for the City of Philadelphia Department of Recreation (since 2009).
Orrika Blanding-Choice: Interim Assistant Principal at GLACS. Previously: Academy Director, global Studies and Fine Arts Coordinator, Site Administrator at GLACS.
Tamika Michelle Evans: CEO of GLA Huey. Previously: Principal and Assistant Principal at GLA Huey, Founder/Owner of Reading Corner Cafe After School Program, Philadelphia School District grade teacher.
Kimberly A. Johnson: Global Academies Compliance Officer. Previously: Project Officer and Regional Coordinator of OIC of America, Inc., Program Coordinator and Educational Advisor for Communities in Schools of Philadelphia Inc.,Community Ombudsman at School District of Philadelphia.
Trina Jones: Executive Director Global Academies. Previously: GLA Business Development Manager; Director of Management Services, Business Development and Compliance Officer; KIPP Regional Compliance Manager; Owner BOSS Consulting.
Richard Walker: Information Systems Coordinator at Global Academies. Previously: GLA Academy Leader/Tech Coordinator, Teacher and or Lead Teacher at Lotus Academy, West Oak Lane Charter, Renaissance Advantage Charter and Harambee Institute.
Paul Kennedy, Sr.: Director of Scholar Advancement/PBIS Coordinator at GLA Huey. Previously: GLA Huey Academy Leader, Health and Physical Education teacher School District of Philadelphia.
Alicia Kennedy: Director of Social Services at Global Leadership Academies. Previously: Coordinator of Social Services at GLA, Special Education Compliance Monitor for PA Department of Education, Director of Special Education/Assessment Coordinator and Special Education Teacher at the Charter High School for Architecture and Design.
Kim Fuller: Family Life coordinator/liaison at Global Academies. Previously: Parent Life Coordinator at GLA, legislative assistant to PA Representative Mike Horsey.
Gregory Wright: Educator at GLA
Zenobia Nicole Story: Principal GLASW at Huey. Previously: Assistant Principal , Director of Instruction, Academy Leader, and teacher at GLASW Huey, Assistant Principal at Universal Daroff, Principal and Assistant Principal at Chester Community Charter School, teacher in the DeKalb County S.D.
Barlow Enterprises: Omar Barlow, lead facilitator of Be More Excellent University, previously Founder, Principal, CEO of Eastern Academy Charter School (closed after non-renewed by district), Instructional Coach/Associate Professor of English at Eastern University.
R4 Education Consulting Services: Deborah Stern, principal at R4 since 2006: previously independent consultant at R4, Academic Director of Education Plus Academy Cyber Charter School, Director of Education and Co-Founder Mastery Charter School, classroom teaching experience from 1 to 5 years in 6 different schools over the course of 13 years, experience teaching at university level as instructor, co-instructor, adjunct instructor and pre-service Teacher Advisor.
Proposed Board Members
President: Dr. Colona Roberts: simultaneously certified trainer at PA Quality Assurance System and principal of Sharon Christian Academy & K. W. Reed Boys Academy, owner of the Smart Center for Childhood Development Education & Technology, Consultant C. Roberts Consulting
Vice President: Elvita Quinones: Associate Director, Center for Undergraduate Advising at Temple Fox School of Business, Academic Advisor, Center for Undergraduate Advising
Secretary: Vanessa Nedrick: principal, regional manager of Remington and Vernick
Treasurer Stacey French: IT Manager, Server, Support Team Automated Financial Systems, Inc., 2004 to Present, past: Senior Network Technician, Desktop Support Coordinator
The CEO will function as Head of School in years 1 and 2. When the school is at capacity, the leadership will consist of the CEO, the Head of School, Assistant Head of School, School Climate and Culture Coordinator, and four “Real World Leaders”. The applicants state that they have no candidates for those positions and will begin recruitment once the application is approved.
The Charter School Office Evaluation also points out: The application does not include a complete comprehensive set of curricular materials to demonstrate that the proposed Charter School would meet grade level requirements as required by Chapter 4, Title 22 of the Pennsylvania Code…[T]he submitted materials for core subject areas did not demonstrate a full alignment with the Pennsylvania Core and Academic Standards.
The Board must deny this application.
1From Global Academies website: “To ensure the equity of resources and learning opportunities at GLA-W and GLA-SW Dr. Booker established Global Academies, a non-profit education services organization that provides academic and business services. In 2020, Global Academies made its services available to other public charter schools, school districts, private schools, non-profit organizations, and for-profit businesses.”