MaST III Charter report

proposed MaST III
Proposed MaST III at former Crown Cork & Seal headquarters in    NE Philadelphia



By Karel Kilimnik

MaST Charter has applied to the SRC for a third school in the district.

•Proposed location: 1 Crown Way (12345 Roosevelt Boulevard) in the Far Northeast.

•Grades:  K-12

•Enrollment: to open in September 2018 with 1,000 students in K-4, then expanding to 2600 students in all grades by the fifth year of operation.

MaST III New Charter Application

Reading this application reminds us that originally charter schools were viewed as potential models of  best practices that they would readily share with public schools. If MaST is doing such an outstanding job, why not take the money MaST wants to open a third campus and replicate this model in district schools? There would be no start-up costs as already existing schools would be used. It would serve the original function of charter schools in replicating their model unless their goal is to create an alternative to the School District of Philadelphia (see the quote below from Founder Karen DelGuercio under Board Members).  The MaST model is not that different from what many District schools are attempting to do. The difference is that MaST has the funding base that enables this to happen, while District schools are starved for money. Approving this application would take more funds from neighborhood schools.

Concerns on individual issues follow.


MaST recently sued the Neshaminy School District, and won, to open a charter in that district in 2018; that four-year legal battle went all the way to the PA Supreme Court.  MaST now seeks to open a third school in Philadelphia, also in September 2018. MaST II (K-4) opened in 2016 with K-3 and plans to expand to K-12 with a projected enrollment of 1250 students within the next “seven years from 2016”. Do they realistically have the capacity to open two new schools and continue expanding another at the same time?

Application states that preference is given to Founding Members and staff (pg 54). How is this fair and how does it promote their commitment to being a school with a diverse student body?  “Active participants in the development of the school “is defined as the Founding Board. Students of Founding Board Members are admitted to the school before the lottery takes place. This preferential treatment allows for admission of targeted students. Other charter schools have been cited for discriminatory admission policies in application and renewal evaluations by the district Charter Schools Office.

According to the MaST III New Charter School Appliction (p. 54) there will be an open lottery. What is this and what does this mean for applicants? On p. 56  MaST states, “As the year progresses and students transfer out, the next student on the waitlist in that grade is called to occupy the available seat. Should they decline the spot, the next person on the waitlist in that grade level is called, and so on. “ How does this lead to a diverse student body?

We ask again how this will create a diverse student body if both Board Members and Staff Members receive preference in admission? “Staff children and current students’ siblings (residing in Philadelphia) have preference first for available seats.” (p. 56) “Staff children and current students’ siblings (residing in Philadelphia) have preference first for available seats. Once staff children/sibling seats are placed, additional names are drawn from the lottery until all available seats are filled in that grade level. The remaining students stay on the waitlist in the order in which they were selected by the randomizer.”

This statement in the application raises several issues.  Data from both MaST I and MaST II ethnicity and economic status  (from SPP data)  show a majority of white students. 

(p. 53): “Due to demand in such a variety of zip codes and due to the school having an open lottery, we anticipate that the proposed school will be very diverse in ethnicity, socioeconomic levels, educational support levels, and population as a whole. “

Below are their projections by ethnicity for MaST III (p.54)

15% – 20% Special Education

55% – 70% Free/Reduced Lunch

5% – 10% ELL

Projected Ethnicity:

African American 41%

White 24%

Asian 17%

Latino 17%

Other 1%

(pg 5) MaST states that they intend to recruit students from these targeted zip codes:  19143, 19153, 19111, 19149, 19120, 19136, 19149, 19141, 19124.  They represent neighborhoods in Olney, Logan, West Philadelphia, South West Philadelphia and others. Traveling from SW Philadelphia to the Far Northeast would subject students to a long daily commute unless they truly do not expect families from these zip codes to enroll their students.

Conflicting Data

Under Absences Policy (p. 48): “students who are no longer registered at MaST (aged 6-17) should register with their school district of residence.” They claim to have a Waiting List in the thousands so why are they accepting out-of-district students?

MaST III (p.54) projects the following:

15% – 20% Special Education

55% – 70% Free/Reduced Lunch

5% – 10% ELL

African American 41%

White 24%

Asian 17%

Latino 17%

Other 1%

Data on existing MaST schools from the School District of Philadelphia:


White    40%

Asian    11.42%

African-American  23.1%

Hispanic  19.04%

ELL  7.61%

Special Ed  6.85%


White   69.22%

Asian    9.83%

African-American    8.41%

Hispanic   9.16%

ELL      0.9%

Special Ed 13.29%

Board Members:
Karen DelGuercio: Founder and current MaST board member as well as the Board President of Agora Cyber Charter School. Worked for decades in the SDP as both a principal and regional superintendent. Member Emeritus of the First Philadelphia Charter School for Literacy. Serves on the executive board of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. DelGuercio is quoted in the June 26, 1997 edition of the Daily Pennsylvanian as then-Governor Ridge signed the state Charter School Bill.

“Karen DelGuercio of the Philadelphia school district said reform must occur ‘school by school, class by class and block by block,’ adding that the process must be ‘grass roots up, not top down.’ She also spoke about the role of clusters — groups of elementary and middle schools which feed into one high school to form a cohesive education — under the new law. DelGuercio — who is leader of the Strawberry Mansion Cluster — suggested the possibility of converting one of the 22 clusters in the Philadelphia school district into a charter cluster consisting of only charter schools.”

Michael Thomson, Business Manager, Santilli & Thomson: Thomson and his partner, Gerald Santilli,  after working in the District, have been involved in the get-rich-business of charter consulting.  Thomson was Director of Financial Systems for the District. Santilli was Executive Director of Financial Service. Santilli serves as President of American Paradigm Charter Schools. Using municipal bonds as a way of leveraging real estate deals that enrich charter school operators who have made millions in these transactions.

Return to
Philadelphia’s Proposed New Charter School Reports: February 22, 2018