Student Achievement Committee Report: April 11, 2019

by Lynda Rubin

The Board of Education denied three new charter applications in February. The question now is whether they will continue the SRC’s practice of allowing back-door charter expansion through yearly amendment requests from charters and whether they will make this an open process for full public engagement.

Present: Committee members Chris McGinley, Angela McIver, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Maria McColgan and student representative Alfredo Praticò; Committee member Mallory Fix Lopez was absent. Board President Joyce Wilkerson sat in the audience.

Dr. McIver announced that Kindergarten registration begins May 31, 2019. The Board Budget Hearing will be held on April 25, 2019, 4:00 PM in the 2nd floor auditorium prior to the regularly scheduled Action Meeting at 5:00 pm.

The minutes for the March 14, 2019 Student Achievement Committee Meeting were approved.

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How many lawyers does it take to shut down a failing charter school? | Opinion

How many lawyers does it take to shut down a failing charter school? | Opinion

When the School District of Philadelphia targeted Germantown High School for closure just one year before its 100th anniversary, there was no legal recourse for students or families. No law required the district to conduct an inquiry or call witnesses in order to hear testimony from those fighting to save the school. While the administration of Superintendent William Hite did hold an informal meeting at the school, the community’s pleas fell on deaf ears. Germantown High, along with 23 other neighborhood schools that had served generations of Philadelphians, was closed by vote of the School Reform Commission in a matter of months.

Closing a charter school is a very different story. The Pennsylvania Charter Law mandates a lengthy legal process, beginning with weeks of hearings at the district level. Thousands of pages of documents are entered into evidence. Should the hearing examiner rule in the district’s favor, the charter school can appeal to the state’s Charter Appeal Board in the hope that the six-person board of political appointees, most of whom have ties to the charter sector, will overrule the decision of the local board. Should that fail, the school can appeal to Commonwealth Court.

A recent story by Inquirer reporter Maddie Hanna detailed the costs involved in current efforts to shut down two city charters.

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Student Achievement and Support Committee: February 21, 2019

By Diane Payne

Chris McGinley and Angela McIver co-chaired.  Also present were committee members Julia Danzy, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Mallory Fix Lopez, and the two student representatives, Julia Frank and Alfredo Pratico.  Board Member Wayne Walker attended this meeting and although Committee Member Maria McColgan was absent, she watched the meeting via livestream and texted questions to co-chair McGinley.

Five members of APPS attended this meeting and three spoke in defense of Public Education.  (Meeting agendas and power-point presentations can be viewed on the SDP website by going to the BOE page and clicking on “meeting materials.”   A large number of people attended this meeting.  As the room filled, members of the public had to sit in the atrium and watch the meeting on a screen.  Several public speakers had to come from this overflow room. If this first-floor meeting space constantly overflows for this meeting, it is hoped the Board will accommodate the public by moving to the larger, second floor auditorium where everyone can feel included.

Minutes of the January Student Achievement and Support Committee were approved.

District Presentations

Recruitment and Retention of School-Based Staff

Chief Talent Officer Louis Bellardine and the Deputy Staffer Teresa Ritz reported on three categories: school leaders, teachers, and support staff.  They listed the challenges and strategies in staff recruitment and retention for each of the categories (which can be viewed on the PowerPoint presentation).  Not mentioned in this presentation: the professional conduct, school-based resources, and building conditions that so many members of the public testify about before this Board (as well as its predecessor, the SRC).  Recruiting and retaining quality staff must begin with the heart and soul of the District’s philosophy–not just jargon on a PowerPoint.

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APPS Urges Board to Hold Hearings on Charter Renewals

During the 17-year reign of the SRC, charter renewals have been approved without any public review.  Charters failing to meet standards in academic, financial and organizational areas were routinely renewed without any opportunity for the public to review the Charter School Office evaluations and make meaningful comments.

We have written two letters to the Board asking for them to create a new process for charter renewal, one that is open to the public and is not simply a rubber-stamp for charters that have failed to educate their students.  We have also raised the issue in our testimony in Board committee meetings.

So far, we have received no answer to either of our letters.

March 19, 2019

Dear President Wilkerson and Members of the Board:

We write to you concerning the numerous charter renewals that have been postponed indefinitely by the School Reform Commission and the Board over the past three years.

The District has allowed several charters to operate past their 5-year terms. In most if not all cases, this is because the charters have refused to accept the remedies for deficiencies, referred to as “conditions”, that the District has recommended.  The Board should discontinue the SRC’s practice of allowing charter operators to use their own refusal to address their schools’ deficiencies as a means of extending their 5-year terms. Several of the schools in question failed to meet academic, organizational, and financial standards.  Because of the dearth of public information on these matters, we can only assume that the District has suspended all efforts to have these operators sign new charters. Thus, the idea of a 5-year term for charters becomes meaningless.

In 2016, Universal Audenried and Universal Vare were recommended for non-renewal by the Charter Schools Office. The SRC renewed Vare last year, but Audenried’s non-renewal remains on hold for three years now.

In 2017, twenty-three charter schools were up for renewal (see list below). The SRC voted to renew eight of them at its May 1 Action Meeting. No resolutions were posted for the fifteen who had refused to sign a new charter; thus, no pubic action was taken on them.

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