Transcript of the testimony of Deborah Grill

Click the picture above and move the slider to timestamp 26:15 to view Debbie’s testimony.

Debbie grill

First and foremost, this district cannot afford to approve any more charter schools.  Your CFO, has stated that charter costs are the biggest item in the district’s budget. Students in district schools have had to sit in crumbling buildings and do without basic resources and supports while each year charter expenses consume more and more of the district budget.  You must put the need of the students in the district schools first before the needs of charter operators.

David Lapp, formerly of the Education Law Center, has testified that you can legally take into account the impact that the added costs of any new charters  would have on district school students when considering new applications.  He pointed out there is no dispute that the district currently is not in a financial position to afford more charter schools without damaging the “existing system,” and that the statutory text of the  charter school law specifically contemplates the impact on the “public school system.” He advises that not only is there no risk to doing this, but that you may be hurting the district by not raising these issues.  I urge you to deny approval of the recently submitted revised applications.

Second, the Franklin Towne Charter Middle School application. The proposed board is so politically connected that it makes on wonder if their application so weak that they needed to stack the deck. There’s the former chief of staff for Pa. Senator, now Lt. Governor Mike Stack; the daughter-in-law of former Councilwoman Joan Krajewski; the former chief of staff of Councilwoman Krajewski and former chief legislative aide to Councilman Bobby Henon;   the current chief of staff for Senator John Sabatina who, incidentally, supported Commissioner Green in his recent congressional campaign.  I expect that Commissioner Green will recuse himself from the vote on FTC’s reapplication.  

In their revised application FTC states that the staff of the new school will be one where all students, regardless of their ability or background will learn and thrive.  However,  the enrollment demographics of the existing schools make clear that FTC has very little experience educating minority students, ELL students or students living in poverty.

There have been questions about their business practices.  In 2010 then city Comptroller cited FTC for circular real estate dealings.  In 2016,  the board of FTC and founders Joseph Venditti and Patrick Fields were named in a whistleblower lawsuit suit which included allegations of billing the district for full-day kindergarten when it only had half-day , for nepotism in hiring, and for paying the wife of a former board member $80,000 for a nonexistent job.  

Finally, FTC already has a K-8 elementary school.  Why would they need a new middle school other than to give OmniVest Properties and Mandell Construction more business?