“All this stuff about Kenny Gamble and Universal saving the community – they ain’t done [anything] for nobody but rich people,” said longtime community activist Charles Reeves, 67.
“We ain’t part of [anything],” an emotional Reeves added. “You already did it.”
In addition to the furor over the lack of public input into Audenried’s future, many expressed dismay at the lack of information provided by District officials during the meeting.
The initial presentation delivered by Silverman, intended as a 25-minute “Promise Academy Overview,” lasted less than 10 minutes.
When he concluded, one audience member asked aloud, “That was it?”
During the question-and-answer session that followed, attendees repeatedly asked Silverman and Darden to provide more information on how Audenried was selected to become a Promise Neighborhood Partnership school.
The District officials indicated that a combination of factors, including School Performance Index (SPI) scores, AYP status, school climate data, and neighborhood characteristics, were used to identify Renaissance Schools this year but did not have those numbers on hand.
Many in attendance expressed shock that Audenried was included in part based on performance data from students at the school’s previous facility, closed in 2005. Because it just has its first class of 11th graders this year, the new high school has not had any students take the PSSA exam since its reopening in 2009.
“You shouldn’t even use that [old] information,” said Outlaw. “You should base it on these kids, not somebody that should be about 32 years old now.”
District officials did not respond to a Notebook request for the historical data used in deciding Audenried’s fate.
Associate Superintendent David Weiner later provided further detail to The Notebook about the data used in designating Audenried as a Renaissance School.
"In general, we tried to look at schools in more of a historical context," explained Weiner, confirming that the District looked at academic performance and school climate data from the old Audenried.
Weiner also said that "leading indicators" from the new facility were cause for concern to the District.
Over the last three years, he said, Audenried has seen significant declines in the number of students who finish 9th grade on track to graduate and has had one of the lowest average daily attendance rates in the District.
During the meeting, District officials also sidestepped many requests for more information as to what the Promise Neighborhood Partnership model will entail, repeatedly telling attendees that “there will be [another] meeting within 30 days when representatives from Universal will come out and speak to you about the details.”
Universal President and CEO Rahim Islam was in attendance for part of the meeting, but did not address the audience.
In an earlier interview, Islam described Universal’s efforts to engage the community in its efforts to improve the schools in the Promise Neighborhood area.
Islam stressed that Universal has brought a wide range of community stakeholders to the table in its planning process. But he said “it’s always going to be a challenge to have real community participation” and was clear that any specific discussions of Audenried and Vare becoming charter schools were “incidental” to the planning process.
“I think fundamentally most of the leaders in the community agree with us,” he said then. “We need change, we need drastic change, and we need immediate change.”
Islam declined to comment on the concerns raised by parents and community members Tuesday evening.
Similar informational meetings are scheduled for Vare Middle School on Wednesday evening, Smith Elementary on Thursday, and Alcorn Elementary next Tuesday, February 15. All meetings are at 6:00 p.m.