When budgets are presented to the SRC and to the public, there is no addressing the fact that not all expenditures of the SRC are wise ones. APPS members often testify about money which is misspent on questionable programs such as Relay Graduate school. We testified that the SRC should get its $200,000 back from Cambridge Education, as its report was completely inadequate and misleading.
The Renaissance program represents possibly the greatest expenditure on a failing program by the SRC. Few schools have proven to be “turned around” after being taken over by a charter company. Kenderton is the most recent example.
Last year, resolutions for renewals of seven Renaissance charters were posted in April: Aspira Olney, Aspira Stetson, Universal Audenried, Universal Vare, Mastery Clymer, Mastery Gratz, and Mastery Shoemaker. The Charter School Office strongly recommended non-renewal for both Aspira schools and both Universal schools. One year later, and no action has been taken on any of them. The Universal resolutions were postponed, and not a word has been spoken about them at any meeting since then. The Mastery resolutions were postponed after the Charter School Office recommended renewing with conditions. If Renaissance charters are actually turning around schools, why would any conditions need to be made? Again, the public has not been updated on this matter or told what kind of conditions are being considered.
Attorney Kenneth Trujillo testified at the May 2016 meeting, for 25 minutes, about how he had been hired by Aspira to work out some of their financial issues with the SRC. He admitted that Aspira had misused public funds, although he referred to it as “cross-collateralization”. Commissioner Green stated that these issues could be worked out quickly, and if they could not, the SRC would be taking action in a timely matter. Since then, there have been news reports of Aspira CEO Alfred Calderon settling a sexual harassment lawsuit for $350,000 and the announcement of the PA Attorney General that his office is investigating Aspira.
The charter law stipulates that charters are given 5-year terms. The school board, in this case the SRC, must renew before a new 5-year term is approved. If the board cannot complete the renewal process in that time, a one-time, one-year extension can be granted. The SRC continues to fund these schools even though it has not approved them for renewal. In fact, Aspira Olney was supposed to be considered for renewal in January 2015.
On the topic of this budget, I agree that the SRC should not pass a budget which does not provide for what our students really need. The SRC is a political body and can make a political statement.
Lisa’s additional remarks were made after a resolution from the floor was proposed by Commissioner Jimenez. The settlement reached between the SRC and APPS in the Sunshine Act case stipulates that members of the public must have the opportunity to speak on any resolution posted just prior to the meeting or introduced at the meeting.