Edward Steel and Luis Muñoz-Marín elementary schools were this year’s targets for turnaround under the District’s Renaissance Schools initiative. But, after a decisive vote in a first-ever parent election, Steel will remain under District control.
On May 2, Steel parents voted, 121-55, to reject Mastery Charter Schools as a turnaround provider and stay within the District. But the School Advisory Council voted 9-8 in favor of a takeover by the charter operator. Some parents challenged the SAC vote, alleging that District officials manipulated the process to favor Mastery. Mastery then withdrew from contention to run the school, saying they respect the parents’ decision.
On June 5, parents at Muñoz-Marín will decide whether to hand over their school to ASPIRA Inc. or stay under District control. The parent vote was postponed for a month, District officials said, because some felt the process was moving too quickly. Others speculate that the vote was delayed because parents would have rejected ASPIRA.
“They were about to lose, and [City Councilwoman María] Quiñones-Sánchez rode to their rescue and got the vote moved,” said Ron Whitehorne, a coordinator for the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools.
“The only reason they’re extending the vote is to give ASPIRA more time to organize,” Whitehorne said. “There was no sentiment among the rest of the parents to extend the process; it’s being done at the behest of a couple of parents.”
Quiñones-Sánchez represents the Seventh District, which includes Muñoz-Marín, and is former director of ASPIRA. She defended the delay, saying there was a lot of “misinformation” among parents: “Parents are going to make an uninformed decision, because of the amount of time [given] to the process.”
According to District spokesperson Raven Hill, ASPIRA scheduled small meetings throughout May to address parent questions related to special education, English language learners, and discipline.