Mastery Wister

  • 67 E. Bringhurst Street, Germantown
  • Grades   K- 5  
  • Opened as Renaissance charter:  2016   
  • CMO Fee: $471,871 to Mastery Charters
  • CEO Salary/Compensation: $261,154
  • Enrollment:  503 (authorized 516) 
  • Projected cost to District over next 5 years:  $ 39, 912, 228.

Despite Mastery’s promise to “effect dramatic change” when it took over Wister as a Renaissance charter, Wister’s performance has actually declined in a number of areas.  The 2021 CSO Renewal Evaluation Report shows that Academic achievement is down, and student absenteeism and teacher turnover are up. In fact, Mastery, with a 33% score, rates “Does Not Meet” in Academics. Why would the Board renew Mastery’s contract after it failed to improve the educational opportunities for the families in this neighborhood? 

When Superintendent Hite placed Wister on the Renaissance list in 2015, parents launched a strong and sustained effort to keep the school as a neighborhood public school. Wister’s  principal pointed out that her school made AYP for years until the District allotted fewer resources to the school. Parents asked why resources would only be restored if Mastery took over–why not skip the middleman and restore resources to the school community?  APPS members supported Wister parents and students in their fight to maintain control of the school.  APPS analyses  used District data to prove that Wister’s academic performance was actually improving. Dr. Hite admitted on the record that his staff had mistakenly used another school’s data .

Hite then withdrew Wister from the proposed Renaissance list. Near the end of the next SRC action meeting,  Commissioner Sylvia Simms overrode his decision by making a last-minute motion to give Wister to Mastery. The SRC, in violation of PA Sunshine Act requirements, allowed no public comment before voting for Simms’ motion.  An Ethics Violation was filed with the State Ethics Commission by a Germantown resident and Democractic ward leader.  The complaint alleged that “Simms should have recused herself” as her sister was employed by a Chicago-based public relations firm with ties to the Philadelphia School Partnership and stood to benefit from Mastery adding Wister to its management company.

The 2021 CSO Renewal Evaluation shows that  Wister was meeting the standard for Academic Progress during SY 2016/17 as a District school.  Since the takeover, Mastery has not met the Academic Standard in ELA, Math or Science. PSSA scores have declined since 2016 when Wister scored 25% in ELA;  in 2018 that score was 22%, lower than both District and charter schools. Math scores show a similar decline from 7% in 2016 to 5% in 2018. Their SPR scores place them in the Intervene Category.

Renaissance Charter Schools took over neighborhood schools with the intent to enroll students from that neighborhood. The CSO report Mastery Wister has not continued to operate as a neighborhood school.  The District’s School Profile page shows that only 67% of students reside in the catchment area.

In addition, there is no evidence that there is a Certified School Nurse in the building. Under this column it simply states “Data unavailable”. Every school should have a Certified School Nurse.

Mastery did not have Wister employees participating in PSERS for the first two years of its management.   The 2020 CSO Annual Charter Evaluation (ACE),  in its  Audit Findings, reports:  “Significant Deficiency: The internal control structure did not prevent the incomplete reporting of February 2019 PSERS covered payroll information and employee contributions by the required deadline.” How does the CSO determine that Mastery meets the financial standard with the omission of this information and other necessary information? 

Mastery Wister Suspension rates, at 12%, are far higher than both similar charter schools (6%) and District schools (2%).  Teacher Tenure at District schools median is 13.2 years whereas Mastery Wister’s is 4.9%.

Of the two conditions noted in the CSO Report, one has already been addressed with an updated student Code of Conduct.  The other condition is failure to meet the Enrollment Attendance Zone requirement of presently enrolled students not falling “ below 75%”. 

Since Mastery has failed to improve Wister, in many areas performing at a lower rate than before, the Board should vote to restore Wister to community control.