At its January 19 meeting, the School Reform Commission:
- Heard an update about the District’s facilities master plan. Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery and Danielle Floyd, deputy of strategic initiatives, revealed in their presentation that the number of empty seats is greater than the earlier estimate of 45,000. According to the latest calculation, conducted by URS Corporation and DeJong-Richter, excess capacity is 70,000 empty seats. Buildings currently owned and maintained by the District are on average nearly one-third empty. In dealing with this excess capacity, Nunery said that the District is considering school closings, consolidations, and co-locations – a shared space between a District school and charter school. Community meetings to discuss the options, originally planned to start Feb. 1, began Feb. 3 – there were two postponements due to inclement weather – and will continue through Feb. 17.
- Heard a progress report about the District’s Promise Academies. Associate Superintendent of Schools Penny Nixon and Associate Superintendent of Academics David Weiner presented results from the first few months of the six Promise Academies – University City and Vaux High Schools; Ethel Allen, Dunbar, and Potter-Thomas Elementary Schools; and Clemente Middle School. Weiner said that benchmark testing indicates rising reading scores at all six and rising math scores at four of the six schools. Commissioner David Girard-diCarlo said that while “the evidence is very encouraging,” the District should not rest on its laurels; it should not “declare mission accomplished too quickly” and should “be very rigorous” in its evaluation. Superintendent Arlene Ackerman said that it costs about $1 million to operate each Promise Academy, but later the District indicated that the one-year amount invested for the first six schools was closer to $9.7 million.
- Approved a $45,000 contract with PROACT Search, LLC, for executive search services, with a focus on recruiting principals to oversee school turnarounds.
- Approved a plan under which the School District’s Food Services Fund will pay off an accumulated $12 million liability to the District’s general fund by 2015, including a commitment that the District will limit the indirect charging of expenses to the Food Services Fund.
- Voted to expel 23 students out of 38 expulsion resolutions originally on the agenda.