Transcript of the testimony of Debbie Grill

Debbie 1
Click the picture to view Debbie’s testimony. She is at timestamp 28:20.

Speaking as a community member and as a taxpayer, I urge you not approve any new charters. As you well know, charter costs are the number one expenditure in the district’s budget. Moneys that should be going into district schools are diverted to charters, some of whose CEO’s make well over $200,00 to manage from 1 to 14 schools, while district schools go without the resources they need to succeed.

Aspira is applying for two new charters despite the fact that two of their current charters have not been renewed due to poor academic performance and serious organizational and financial irregularities. It would be ludicrous, if not unconscionable, to give more taxpayer money to Aspira to mismanage two more schools.

MaST and Franklin Towne tout their academic success. But their high test scores may have something to do with the fact that their student body is predominately comprised of students from the middle class who don’t suffer the crippling effects of poverty. Their academic edge may just well be the product of enrollment rather than innovation. MaST’s new application promises that this new school will be diverse both ethnically and socioeconomically. One wonders if this is in reaction to complaints concerning the lack of a diverse student body in MaST’s 2 existing schools, or just the result of a dwindling supply of white, middle class students in the Northeast.

In their application Mastery states that they have had a very successful track record of turning around unsuccessful schools; however, according to the 2015-2016 SPRs, on which they based their application data, all but 3 of Mastery’s Philadelphia charters schools are in the Intervene or Watch performance tier in the Overall and Achievement categories including Lenfest Middle School and High School which Mastery has been managing for 16 plus years. Mastery still has a school waiting in the wings —Gillespie— for which it received a charter in 2015 but has yet to open. When asked at their application hearing why Gillespie still isn’t open, Scott Gordon replied that their takeover of Wister, a hostile takeover that tore a community apart, set them back. It is clear that Mastery is more concerned about expanding their business empire than concentrating on improving their existing schools.

As we have seen with the Universal and Aspira charters, it is almost impossible to close a failing charter, especially if they are well-connected. I am asking you not to renew any of the charter applications that are on the table.

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