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SRC votes to revoke charter of Community Academy

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The School Reform Commission voted at Thursday's raucous meeting to begin the non-renewal process for Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School, the city's oldest charter and a school that has existed for more than 30 years.

The SRC said that the school underperformed academically and also has a questionable financial history, assessments that were heatedly disputed by the school's founder and its lawyer. They vowed a long legal fight.

"The primary basis for this recommendation is that the school has consistently demonstrated poor academic performance," said Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn."And its financial documents raise questions about its financial health."

Community Academy founder Joseph Proietta said that Kihn had presented a "false report" that was deliberately misleading.

"It is designed to justify an end-run appeal around Commonwealth Court," he said. "It is dangerously bordering on vindictive."

The District and the school have been in a court battle since 2011, when two of the four sitting SRC members voted to renew its charter -- not a majority. But the school contends that its charter was renewed.

Proietta founded Community Academy more than 30 years ago as a last-chance high school for would-be dropouts. After charter schools were made legal in 1997, Prioetta was the first to apply for a charter and eventually expanded the school to become K-12. It serves more than 1,200 students.

Prioetta disputed the District's assessment of its academic improvement, saying that its record is  better than the District's record. The school's attorney, David Heim, said that the District was likely to lose the legal battle and was wasting taxpayers money on it.

The next step in the revocation process is a hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 25.

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Dale Mezzacappa

@dalemezz
Dale is a contributing editor at the Notebook. She has reported on education since 1986, most of that time with The Philadelphia Inquirer.