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District delays one school's Renaissance charter vote

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In a surprise move, District officials announced today that they will delay the vote scheduled for Thursday to determine the future of Muñoz-Marín Elementary in Kensington and are considering whether to postpone the vote at Edward T. Steel Elementary in Nicetown.

Spokesperson Raven Hill said the consideration was "due to the number of requests from parents." No new date has been set for the Muñoz-Marín vote. 

Hill did not offer any details on those requests or on parents' specific concerns. She said the District can't say today exactly when it will make a final decision on the voting process or how long the delay might be.

When parents do vote, they’ll be asked to either approve their school’s match with a charter provider or opt to stay under direct District management.

Kendra Brooks, the head of the Steel School Advisory Council, called the possibility of a delay “ridiculous.” Steel will be voting on whether to be managed by Mastery Charter Schools.

“This is just further torture and torment for parents – we’ve been going through this for 30 days, and now we’re going to go through it for another 30 days?” Brooks said. “They haven’t told us what additional information they’re going to share.”

Charisma Presley, a community organizer with Concerned Neighbors of Nicetown, said the decision was “not acceptable.” She believes the District is considering a delay because it’s concerned that Mastery may lose the vote at Steel.

“I think they realized people are learning more and more,” she said. “This is just another ploy to get us to accept Mastery.”

However, Tanesha Bolt, a Steel parent who has said she’ll vote to support Mastery, said the possible delay would be a good thing, allowing parents more time to visit Mastery schools and consider their options.

“Time is everything,” Bolt said. “I think they should delay it. I don’t think they should have sprung it on so many individuals at such a fast pace.

“But also, for the parents, they have to be willing to take the time to visit.

“It’s a two-way street. The District is trying to do its job, and the parents have to do their job as well.”

LaToya Butler, another Mastery supporter, said she was disappointed in the possible delay.

“It will probably make it harder [for Mastery], because it seems like the teachers are out there rallying the parents up against Mastery.” On the other hand, she said, when report cards come out in June, “parents might see how poorly their children are doing,” and that could tip the scales in the charter school’s favor.

A delay makes life harder for parents, Butler said. “They were prepared to come out on May 1,” she said.

Mastery officials said they preferred not to comment on the possible delay before learning more.

However, in a recent interview conducted before the possible delay was announced, Mastery CEO Scott Gordon said that the compressed timeframe of the 2014 Renaissance process has made for a tough campaign.  Matches were announced on April 1, with votes scheduled for just a month later.

“It’s been very difficult introducing ourselves to parents in this timeframe,” Gordon said.

District officials say that Tuesday night’s meeting at Steel, where Mastery officials and Steel’s principal will present their respective plans for the school, will go ahead as planned.

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Bill Hangley Jr.

@BillHangley
Bill Hangley Jr. is a freelance contributor to the Notebook.

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