The SRC also took action involving several charter schools.
It voted, 4-0, to deny the application from KIPP Philadelphia to open a new K-8 school in the Parkside neighborhood. The charter office recommended the denial based on concerns about when the school would open, adequacy of its organizational capacity, and level of community support.
KIPP Philadelphia CEO Marc Mannella said that he had a waiting list of 3,000 students, including more than 500 for kindergarten. The new school would give preference to students in the zip codes 19131 and 19139.
But DawnLynne Kacer, head of the District’s charter office, said that waiting lists do not constitute evidence of a commitment to attend the new school. She said that among the formal “letters of intent” to enroll, only 17 were from the targeted zip codes.
Mannella disputed that there is not a need for KIPP in the area.
“This unmet need in our community is still profound, and it will not be alleviated by actions other than us opening more schools,” he said.
KIPP operates five schools now in North and West Philadelphia that enroll 1,725 students.
In its application, KIPP offered to delay opening of the school to 2018 as a gesture of good will in working with the District, considering its financial issues, Mannella said. But the SRC used the possibility of a 2018 opening as a reason to deny the application because the charter law specifies that charters must open only in the next school year or the year after.
“I think they found a technicality by which they felt they could deny,” he said.
He said KIPP would pursue one of several avenues open to it to reverse the decision, either submitting a revised application in November or taking the case to the state’s Charter Appeals Board.
The SRC renewed the Russell Byers Charter School's charter for five years, through 2020, and approved a charter amendment for Boys' Latin to add a new location. Several other planned charter renewals were pulled from the agenda by the staff.
In other news from the meeting, Hite said that the District had hired more than 700 new teachers and that a lower than usual number are leaving or retiring. As a result, he has hopes of opening this school year with minimal vacancies. More than 500 new teachers attended an orientation earlier this week.
In 2015-16, vacancies persisted throughout the school year, subjecting thousands of students to inconsistent instruction.
“I am proud to say the School District of Philadelphia begins this school year in its strongest position since I became superintendent in 2012,” Hite said.
This is due, he said, to $50 million in additional funding this year from the state, as well as Harrisburg’s consent to continue the city’s cigarette tax past 2019, when it had been due to expire. “The state has given the School District of Philadelphia part of the reliable long-term funding sources we need,” he said.
As a result, the District is planning to make $440 million in “new investments” over five years, including “additional counselors, nurses, new books, laptops to teachers, and modern computer labs.”