Written Testimony of Diane Payne to the BOE, June 25, 2020

Introduction to June Charter School Renewal Items 60, 61, 62, 63, 64

This testimony is in response to the manner in which the Board of Education and the Charter School Office manages Charter School Renewals. There is no public hearing on Charter School renewal applications. Negotiations on those renewals are conducted in secret between the CSO and Charter School operatives. When the Charter renewal Action Item appears on the Board agenda, there is NO ACCOMPANYING TEXT. The Board proceeds to vote on that Item despite the lack of text which according to the Sunshine Act is illegal. If the full text is not provided nor a public reading of the full text at the time of the vote, it constitutes a vote in secret. To compound this violation, the Board then proceeds to falsify public records by adding the full text following the meeting thereby making it “appear” as though this information was available to the public at the time of the vote when it was NOT.
The Board passed a resolution in April in support of Governor Wolf’s efforts to reform Charter School funding and transparency. This is an important step but the Board does not have to stop there. The Board can make public and transparent what happens with all aspects of Charter School business. Our District can be a model and lead the way in holding public hearings, asking hard questions, requiring Charter operators to publicly answer questions, and fulfilling their legal obligations in regard to Sunshine Act votes.
After a review of these five schools up for renewal, here are questions the CSO should report on clearly and the BOE should demand. I hope the Board can address these questions.

Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School Renewal – Action Item 60 Questions not asked by the Board

This school is a K-8 and H.S. which opened in 1997. CSO renewal report recommends a five-year renewal with a condition regarding the lease.

Question: The CSO renewal report lists the K-8 as “Approaches Academic Standards” and the H.S. as “Meets Academy Standards”. However, the SPR report lists the K-8 in the academic Intervene category with scores at 11%, 18%, and 18% in the last three years. The H.S. is also listed in the Academic Intervene category at 9%, 10%, and 11% respectively. Why does the CSO note approaching or meeting standards when scores are in the Intervene category? Why does the Board not question these scores?

Question: The May minutes indicate this school is a “Targeted Support and Improvement School” enforced by the PA DOE. How can a school be in this category and meet or approach standards?

Question: The May minutes indicates the Board discussed its security plan in executive session. Why is this an executive session item and not an item for the school’s community to hear and discuss?

Question: Five of this one school’s administrative staff (as per the latest IRS 990) make six figure salaries: CEO’s combined salary – $248,736, COO combine salary – $209,544, Employee (related to CEO) combined salary – $176,307, Employee combined salary – $176,532, and CFO combined salary $156,958. Why has the Board not questioned the generous salaries of a school that has been in Intervene for at least the last three years?

KIPP Philadelphia Charter School Renewal Action Item 61
Questions Not Asked by the Board

KIPP Philadelphia Charter School is one of five schools in the KIPP portfolio. Looking for information on KIPP schools is confusing on both the Board website and seeking online information about an individual KIPP school.

Question: The Charter School renewal report lists the Academic achievement as “approaches standards” yet the SPR for the achievement score for the E.S. is in Intervene for three years with scores 10%, 21%, and 21% respectively. Why does the CSO not explain this discrepancy?

Question: Only 49% of the teachers were retained last year. What is happening with teacher turnover?

Question: 65% of teachers are appropriately certified. Why not 100% properly certified as the CSO report states is expected?

Question: The CSO renewal report notes only 50% of special ed teachers are certified. Why did the Board not ask what steps were taken to ensure the school met this important goal?

Question: The CSO renewal report notes that 75% of teachers should be appropriately certified but this school has 65%. Why did the Board fail to ask what steps were taken to ensure the school met this important goal?

Question: The CSO renewal report notes that 0% of EL teachers were appropriately certified. Why did the Board not ask what steps were taken to ensure the school met this important goal?

Question: Why is the last viewable minutes from the KIPP’s Board meetings September, 2019? Where are the December, March, and June minutes?

Question: The school leader for this school is listed on the last available IRS 990 at a combined income of $186,457. Why is the compensation not questioned for a school leader of one school which is in an academic Intervene category?

Question: Why does the KIPP name have slight variations that do not match when looking up information? The name on the Action Item and the name on the Budget list vary.

Global Leadership Academy Renewal Action Item 62
Questions Not Asked by The Board

This K-8 school was established in 2000.

Question: Why does the CSO renewal report indicate the school Approaches Academic Standards when the school’s latest SPR indicates it has been in Intervene for the last three years at 16%, 13%, and 11% respectively?

Question: Why does the CSO renewal report indicate a recommended 5-year renewal with no mention of conditions when the school is consistently in Intervene?

Question: Why are there no Global Leadership Board minutes available on the school’s website since August 29, 2019?

Question: Of the 12% special education population at this school, how many of the 84 students are classified as low incidence?

Question: Why does the CEO of this school have an outsized income of $302,525 + $100,559?

General Birney Charter School Renewal Action Item 63
Questions not asked by the Board

This school has been a renaissance charter school since 2011. It was handed over to a charter operator to improve its academic outcomes. The District abdicated its responsibility for this school in order to experiment with a “belief” that a charter operator could affect transformational academic changes. In 2015, the school was turned over to American Paradigm. It has been on the Charter School Renewal list since the 2016/17 SY. The academic achievement for this school is consistenly in the Intervene category; the charter operator has failed to make any transformational change.

Question: Why is the last SPR information available on the District website from SY 2016/17? Where is the information from SY 2017/18 and 2018/19?

Question: Why is there no Achievement information for the SY 2015/16? This is the year American Paradigm took over. Does that mean testing was optional that year?

Question: The SPR Achievement scores for SY 2014/15 and 2016/17 were 2% and 8% respectively. How does this translate into “approaching academic standards” on the CSO renewal report?

Question: Why has this school been in renewal limbo since 2016/17 with no explanation to the Board and the public?

Question: The last available IRS 990 (2018) lists on page 1 a principal/CEO as Dr. James Capolupo. On page 7, it lists CEO/Principal as Kareen Thomas with a salary package of $128,830 + $45,090. What is the salary for the current CEO Margery Covello?

Question: This is an American Paradigm school. The 2018 IRS 990 lists American Paradigm as the management company. This company received $584,821 for that year. What is the fee received in 2019?

Question: The ACE report lists 13% of the population as students’ with disabilities. So of the approximately 92 students, how many of those are classified as low incidence?

Question: In the 2016/17 SY, the CSO narrative notes 46% of the teaching staff returned. Why is this school experiencing such an incredibly high staff turnover rate?

Question: No “conditions” are mentioned in the Action Item. Are conditions attached to this renewal and if so what are they?

Question: Why is the approximate cost of this five-year renewal of _ not included in the Action Item?

Question: Why did the school not explain why it failed to meet the enrollment quota of 67.5% catchment area students? The school was at 63% of students coming from the catchment area.