by Diane Payne
In our own evaluations of new charter applications over the years, APPS has encountered a disturbing waste of public funds. Entrepreneurial Development Academy (EDA) is no exception. The CSO found numerous components of this application that had been lifted verbatim from previous applications submitted by Aspira Inc. and Pride Academy, all denied by the Board, and from Franklin Towne Charter, a school that has little in common with this proposed charter school. An inability to formulate their own unique application points to the obvious lack of educational background or training of EDA’s “visionary” or of their founding members. How would a high school whose foundation is built on plagiarism teach students about the perils of plagiarism in its own classrooms? The inconsistencies, absence of required information, documentation referred to yet non-existent, lack of overall understanding of what students and schools need to function adequately, and plagiarized information are truly alarming. EDA’s applicants were so sloppy in their plagiarism that they forgot to change the name of the school. The CSO notes:
When describing the admissions process, the Applicant lists the proposed Charter School’s website as http://www.franklintowne.org and In the Narrative, it states “PACS will strive for excellence in fiscal management” (p. 72, Narrative). “PACS” which stands for Pride Academy Charter School is referred to a few times throughout the Narrative.
The CSO’s entire report can be found on the New Application webpage.
Philadelphia Entrepreneurial Development Academy Charter High School
Location: 5210-5218 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19141
Grades: 9–12 high school
Neighborhood: Logan neighborhood of North Philadelphia. (The applicant incorrectly designates this neighborhood as the “Northwest section” of Philadelphia.):Enrollment: 600 at scale
Management Company: None listed for school operations. However Omnivest will manage the school’s business and financial aspects. Many charter schools contract with Omnivest to manage those aspects of their schools. Of note is the fact that Mr. James was a summer intern for Omnivest in 2019. The appearance of Omnivest potentially coaching for new business is hard to ignore. Estimated Cost for 5 years: The Board of Education declines to attach short- and long-term costs to both new applications and 5-year renewals before they vote on them, denying the public the right to know and comment on their financial impact. The costs are buried in District budget paperwork under an unalphabetized list of “vendors”. In an attempt to estimate by comparing EDA to a school (Philadelphia Electrical and Technology H.S.) with comparable enrollment numbers, the District would allot $8,985,802 to Entrepreneurial for one year and approximately $44 million for the first 5-year term.
The founding coalition consists of six members, none of whom have any educational training or educational background. One founding member is a child psychologist. The CSO reports that none of the founding members lives in Philadelphia and may not even live in the Philadelphia area (a possible explanation for their incorrect neighborhood designation in the application.) The application notes, along with Employer Identification Number (EIN) used for tax purposes, that the trade name of the founding coalition’s organization is “WorkNard”. The depth of system abuse possibilities here are considerable. WorkNard was founded by Bernard James in 2019 and is based in Atlanta. There is no explanation of the relationship between WorkNard and EDA.
Bernard James is the self-proclaimed “visionary” in this application. James holds an undergraduate degree in Business Management and is currently in a Master’s program for a degree in Human Resource Management. As he admitted in his closing remarks at the January 24th new application hearing, James has no experience or training in education, followed by his declaration, “I have a vision.” Visions do not take the place of research, training, and the expertise gleaned from actual work in the field and should not be allowed to experiment on our children or be funded by taxpayer dollars.
Dr. Sharmon James is a Doctor of School Psychology. Not mentioned in the application narrative but disclosed at the January 24th hearing is the fact that James is on the staff of Franklin Towne Charter High School as Director of Student Services and School Psychologist.
The applicants do not declare whether they are related but the CSO states that two of the proposed board members share the same address.
Andrea Allen has degrees in Project Management, Information Systems Management, and Applied Project Management.
Quantral Fletcher, Jr. holds degrees in Police Science, Technical Management, and Management and Leadership. Fletcher’s work experience has been with several local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. The narrative proudly highlights Fletcher’s advanced skills as an interviewer and interrogator. A lack of educational expertise cannot be replaced with experience in policing.
Alexis Martin earned a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology from Drexel University and a Master of Science in Cybersecurity at Drexel in 2020. The application cites no actual post-graduate work experience, nor does it cite any training or experience in education.
Dominique Marsh has a degree in Business Finance; his work experience is in managing big money assets. He works for an Atlanta, GA company; it is not clear whether he lives in Atlanta or Philadelphia. Marsh has no educational background or training.
The EDA application indicates that the school’s board will consist of seven members including a voting parent member. The only other information EDA provides about the proposed Board: “Once the charter school application is approved, PhilaEDA Charter School will elect a separate Board of Directors that will also encompass one parent member.” There was no explanation about who will elect or how and when this election would happen. The Board is where the buck stops for accountability and good stewardship but no information is provided about how this Board will be formed.
EDA would require 28 credits for graduation compared to the District’’s 23.5 credit requirement. Neither in the Narrative nor under questioning at the January 24th hearing did EDA representatives make clear how students coming into the school after 9th grade would have a pathway to graduation with the 28-credit requirement. In addition, the chart displayed on Narrative pages 19 and 20 showing how the credits are spread out over four years lists inconsistent freshman credits (credits listed totalled 7 but the total column lists 6). As there is no explanation, this appears to be a mistake.
Narrative page 20 notes four career transition pathways: Youngpreneur, Pathway 2 College, Innovation, Critical Thinkers. A chart identifies each pathway with only one sentence. There is no additional information in the Narrative to explain how the school would handle students who desire a change of pathways or who transfer into the school after 9th grade. Words in the Pathway descriptions such as “must seek, must apply, must be accepted” are not followed up with alternative steps for students if these “musts” do not or can not happen. At the January 24th hearing, when Hearing Examiner Allison Petersen asked Mr. James to explain EDA’s proposed internship program in the Youngpreneur pathway, Mr. James replied, “Have you ever seen Shark Tank?” The narrative fails to indicate how much funding would be allotted to the Shark Tank-like pathway. The application provides no details about who, if anyone, has committed to the funding or how it will be structured to ensure transparency, fidelity, equity, and continuity.
In reference to promotion and retention, the Narrative section on promotion and retention includes statements about whether “that present grade level can appropriately accommodate the pupil”. What happens if the school can’t accommodate? Will those students be forced to transfer out of EDA?
The Narrative notes six different approaches to instruction for English Language Learners. Instruction for EL students must follow state regulations and include significant school planning. The first approach listed, Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE) , is instruction in the child’s native language. There is no indication how the school plans to deliver this kind of instruction. The entire EL section seems to lack any knowledge about EL state regulations and necessary school planning for EL students.
Curriculum and Culture
The CSO report notes that the application failed to adequately address the full scope of curriculum information needed to comply with state standards or effectively educate students. No specific curricular material or resources were identified. The applicants appear to be selling “visions” of education rather than actual programs.
The application cites a Positive Behavior Support (PBS) program in which students are ranked, from highest to lowest, as: Executive, Lion, Pledge, Positive, Neutral, and Concern. Each year students begin in Neutral ( unless they were in Executive the previous year, then they stay in that top tier.) This sentence, perhaps written by law enforcement officer Fletcher, raises alarms for those who have seen the devastating effects of the “no-excuses” discipline policies of many charter schools and its place in the school-to-prison pipeline: “In order to increase in rating, students must show compliance with the Student Code of Conduct and the dictated school norms.” [bold added] Field trips and other out-of-classroom instructional activities are tied to these tiers of behavior. There is nothing innovative in PBS; in fact, there is much recent research that questions discipline systems based on extrinsic rewards.
EDA wishes to occupy a shuttered Catholic school on North Broad Street in the Logan neighborhood. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia owns the building; other charter start-ups have attempted to occupy it in recent years.