As part of her sweeping changes, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has created a separate regional office for alternative and discipline schools, appointing Benjamin Wright, a former official with Victory Schools, to oversee it.
At the same time, the School Reform Commission approved one-year renewals of the contracts with the private providers who run Philadelphia’s alternative and discipline schools and in August put out a call for new proposals, due October 14. The current providers will have to compete to keep running programs.
The District’s request for proposals seeks to expand the number and types of alternative schools available to students wanting to return to school or in danger of dropping out. Specifically, it is looking not just for stand-alone accelerated and discipline schools, but also for programs that would be located within larger schools.
Such programs, which the District calls “Oasis,” will be for students returning from placement and those with several dropout indicators, including low academic achievement and behavioral problems.
In June, the SRC slashed its budget for its discipline schools by $5 million – nearly 20 percent – with most of the bite coming from Community Education Partners (CEP), its oldest, largest, and most expensive contractor on a per-pupil basis. Other companies that operate discipline schools are Camelot and Delaware Valley High School.
In the wake of the cutback, CEP will close its discipline school this year at 12th and Allegheny. Company officials, however, said that programming at its two remaining discipline schools – Hunting Park and E.S. Miller– would not be affected.
CEP also operates three of the District’s six alternative schools for overage students.