Testimony of Deborah Grill to the Board of Education, May 30, 2019

I urge you to deny American Paradigm’s application for Tacony Academy Charter School at St. Vincent’s.

First and foremost, the initial application included inconsistencies and omissions in many areas including curricula and staffing—two of the most important parts of an instructional program. Since American Paradigm already has 4 schools they should know that, and they should have known how to fill out the application correctly and completely on the first try. And yet given a second try, there are still deficiencies in the revised application—deficiencies for which the Board rejected the application in the first place.

American Paradigm’s existing schools are not exactly model schools. Three are in the Intervene category in Achievement according to their School Progress Reports with scores of 19%, 11% and 2%. The 4th school is in the Watch category. Why allow them to open a new school when they still have so much work to do in their existing schools— three of which are operating on expired charter agreements because American Paradigm has refused to agree to renewal conditions which might actually improve the schools and their governance?

This application makes it obvious that American Paradigm is more interested in acquiring real estate than in educating children. Why else would they propose to open a school in such a remote hard to access area adjacent to a superfund site and on a property which contains an onsite cemetery and yacht club? Is mortuary science and sailing part of the proposed curriculum? And, why would they agree to deed restrictions by the seller, a religious institution, that would constrain what is taught at the school?

Because, it is all about real estate and profits. At the February Student Achievement and Support Committee meeting American Paradigm’s CEO Gerald Santilli indicated that the property has been in their sights for 10 years. He also noted that the city is building waterfront parks along the Delaware and will probably buy (with taxpayer money) part of their property along the river via eminent domain. Additionally, American Paradigm intends to enter into another circular agreement where their own foundation will buy the property and lease it back to the school thereby profiting from state reimbursements for charters that rent—more taxpayer money going into American Paradigm’s pockets.

Deny this application and show these charter investors, who stand to profit, that the Board will not act as their real estate brokers and will not divert more taxpayer money into their pockets.