Testimony of Deborah Grill to the BOE, October 22, 2020
Good evening. This week I spent 2 days sitting through a current non-renewal hearing.
Both of the schools in question are Renaissance Charter schools, neighborhood schools that were abandoned by the School Reform Commission and turned over to charter operators. The 2 schools in question are operated by a CMO that boasted of its ability to dramatically increase the academic achievement of the students entrusted to it. However, when confronted with evidence that sustained dramatic changes in achievement never materialized and that academic, organizational and financial standards were not met, the basis of their defense so far has been “the Charter School Office is picking on us and tricked us into agreeing to stipulations we now don’t want to honor.” My impression was that the CMO felt it was entitled to keep these schools in no matter what.
The PA charter school law if flawed. It was written for the financial benefit of charter operators and charter management organizations take well advantage of this.
Since they were to function as neighborhood schools, Policy 141 provided for more accountability for Renaissance charter schools and gave the District the discretion in renewing them or intervening in a Renaissance charter when warranted. I saw the changes in Policy 401 that Dr. McColgan referred to this evening in reference to Renaissance charter schools. While it is more specific it does not include the language from Policy 141 that concerns the district’s discretion to renew or not, or the specific reasons for intervening in those schools and the types of intervention. When that language is not included in a revision of charter school policy those powers and your responsibility will also disappear. I understand that you have postponed any action on Policy 141 until Board member Fix-Lopes returns. When you do take it up, I urge you NOT to eliminate Policy 141.