Diane Payne testimony transcript from the May 1st meeting of the SRC

Diane Payne SRC testimony 5-1-17

Where to begin today regarding this process of charter school renewal?? There are so many questions once again about transparency and public engagement. I do want to acknowledge the work that has gone into these reports by the Charter School Office. However, it is hard to understand why complete information about these renewals and transparency on how recommendations are determined is not easily gained by the public. After all…it is public tax dollars funding these schools. These are dollars that our own Chief Financial Officer has repeatedly identified as the biggest drain on our district budget leaving our public schools starving for scant resources.

Let’s just take one school on today’s list for illustration purposes. Creighton is one of 8 schools run by the Universal Company. It was recommended for renewal with conditions. It approached standards in Academics and Organization and did not meet standards in Financial. Since it is public tax dollars funding these schools, it is a matter of public concern about what is happening with those tax dollars. Yet it is impossible to understand how it is determined that this school should be given a five year extension? If it did not “meet standards” in any of the three categories…what makes it worthy of renewal? How is that determined? Why is there not a complete resolution listed for this school? Is there a formula applied to each school? If so, what is it? And finally, why are the “conditions” not available for public review?

Back to Creighton…the Universal Company is owned by Kenny Gamble. His name appears on the boards of the company as well as the charter school boards. Another interesting name on the Universal Board is Chris Bravacos. Bravacos was one of the earliest board members of the pro charter Philadelphia School Partnership. He has his own lobbying company and is noted as one of the most influential, republican lobbyists in Harrisburg and is described as a “mainstay” in Harrisburg on internet searches. Universal has been in the news lately for closing schools in Milwaukee and laying off staff here in Philadelphia, hinting at financial trouble.

Could the influential players in this company have any influence in decisions about renewal and how do we the public know that is not happening? Adding to the speculation is the disappearing of two other Universal Schools that are overdue for renewal…Audenreid and Vare. They have just disappeared off the radar even though the CSO recommended NONRENEWAL for those two schools over a year ago for a laundry list of problems.

Creighton is a renaissance school. This school was taken from the public domain and handed to this charter operator to work those supposed miracle of “choice.” Where’s the awesome achievement and management?