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Audenried's future a big topic at SRC

Photo: Benjamin Herold

Audenried junior Onika Richardson told the SRC that the District has "characterized us as a failure without ever giving us a chance."

For the second time in as many days, Audenried High School students converged on District headquarters to voice their displeasure with the District's plans to convert their school into a charter as part of its new "Promise Neighborhood Partnership" with Universal Companies.

This time, however, a parade of civic and community leaders from South Philadelphia were on hand to vouch for Universal and urge students to hear out the company's plans.

"What we want to say to the young people is give us a chance," said Al Brown, president of the Point Breeze Performing Arts Center, a partner in Universal's Promise Neighborhood planning initiative.

"They're not going to be left out of this process," he vowed during Wednesday's marathon School Reform Commission meeting.

But Audenried junior Onika Richardson said they already have.

Backed by over 40 sign-waving supporters, Richardson outlined the complaints of some Audenried students and staff during testimony before the commission.

"First, we have justified concerns regarding our identification as a Renaissance School, as we do not believe we fit the criteria or the description of a chronically underperforming school," said Richardson.

"Secondly, we have justified concerns about the lack of choice we have been given in being turned over to Universal Companies, who has failed our community in the past."

In January, officials from Universal, the City of Philadelphia, the District, and other partners hosted a press conference at Audenried to announce the launch of Universal's Promise Neighborhood planning initiative. With a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education and hundreds of thousands of dollars in matching grants from local donors, Universal aims to spend the next year conducting research and developing plans to turn the Grays Ferry and Point Breeze neighborhoods of South Philadelphia into a Promise Neighborhood modeled on the Harlem Children's Zone.

Just a few days later, District officials announced their plans to turn Audenried and Edwin Vare Middle School over to Universal as part of a new school turnaround model developed as part of the District's Renaissance Schools initiative.

And last week, during two contentious community meetings, District officials presented the new arrangements as a "done deal," despite a noticeable lack of detail as to what the partnership will involve and a torrent of complaints about lack of community involvement in the District's decision-making process.

Wednesday's exchange of testimony left SRC member Johnny Irizarry frustrated.

"The scene that we saw today tends to repeat itself over and over again," said Irizarry.

"We consistently do not engage young people in the beginning [of such efforts]...and they feel excluded."

Wednesday's speakers waited for over four hours to provide their testimony, which began after 9:00 p.m.

Universal founder and music legend Kenny Gamble was scheduled to speak but had to leave before public testimony finally began.

SRC Chair Robert Archie, a partner in the law firm of Duane Morris, LLP, publicly disclosed his longstanding connections to Gamble and Universal, saying the two had known each other for over 30 years, that Archie's firm had represented Universal, and that Archie had previously served on the board of Universal Community Homes.

After the meeting, Archie confirmed that he will be required to recuse himself from the eventual SRC vote on the District's Promise Neighborhood Partnership plan. With the commission already down one member following the resignation of David Girard-diCarlo last month, that means all of the three other commissioners will likely be needed to approve the plan.

Brown and other community representatives on hand were hopeful that the Promise Neighborhood Partnership moves forward.

"I think it will bring tremendous benefits to the school," said Brown. "I think the most important aspect of this is we take the strength of those young people you saw here today and add it to the resources the Promise Neighborhood will bring."

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Comments (6)

Submitted by supertizer (not verified) on February 17, 2011 2:39 pm

What the SRC needs to consider is that the School District has been unable to produce data that supports the decision to make Audenried a Renaissance School. On the other hand, Audenried's staff has been able to collect data (from the District) that proves the school does not meet the criteria for a Renaissance school.

Submitted by Audax (not verified) on February 17, 2011 2:08 pm

But as you said Mr. Herold, it is only a planning grant. What if the plans fall through, what happens to the kids and the schools without that money? Also, with Obama and Congress talking about not even funding the neighborhood grants because there is not money, there is a very real possibility they won't be one of 4 neighborhoods chosen. Also, Universal talk about having the community organizations come in, but PBAC acts as if it hasn't already come in and worked with the students of Audenried, which is has as have other mentoring groups.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 17, 2011 8:51 pm

How is the grant money going to be used? What percentage will go to salaries - that is, investments into personal bank accounts rather kids?

Submitted by Daniel Eppihimer (not verified) on February 19, 2011 7:19 pm

Anonymous:
We need more charter schools and vouchers for parents who elect to send their children to private and parochial schools. In that way, schools can compete for students. Everyone wins. After we get the union abolished, the inept teachers can be fired and the good ones be given pay raises. All the money going to the union coffers will go right into the teachers' pocket, the students will get a better education, and the whole system will be more efficient

Reply to Anonymous:
If what you said is true how come is hasn't happen in over a decade of charters running in this city? Inept teachers are snatched up by charter schools once they are fired by public schools because charters are so desperate to keep teachers. The high turnover at charters shows that something is very wrong with your carpetbagging claim, "Everyone wins". You mean charter shils like you win. How does money from union coffers go into teachers' pockets? Explain where you have gotten your data for this claim. Why should the public pay for religious indoctrination and private schools? They are businesses and should pay their own way. Your anti-union stance is a joke. Good teachers will not get anything more than the minimum amount by the carpetbagging CEOs that draw their outrageous salaries and pay shils like yourself to post crap like this on the Notebook. If you want competition then demand that charters, private and parochial schools take ALL STUDENTS just like public schools are having to do now. How come your kind never has the guts to talk about principal unions if you're so anti-union? There are lots of lousy principals in Philly that exist because the administration and their unions protect them. Let's see you go after them for a change you gutless wonder.

Meg:
This post has nothing to do with reality. Charters adn vouchers do don operate witht he same rules as the rest of public education. Monies are sent to schools in the fall for the children enrolled -- then charters can clear rolls of kids who do not fit their programs. These kids show up in our public schools, then without benefit of monies to cover the cost of their education. This increases class size int he public schools and changes the feel for those schools, since many of these kids come with a lot of baggage. Newbies to buildins change the feel of the building - there is no way around this fact. They need support settling in, fitting into the program and may need lots of ther issues addressed. Yet - the charters who encouraged them to leave keep the federal money for that child for that year.
How is this fair to anyone?
As for firing inept teachers? I am all for that - but without the union's rules - who gets to say who that is? My paperwork is totally up to date, but out of my 18 currently enrolled children, 7 are at risk of failing second grade. Does that mean I am inept to use your word? NO - it means I am battling major behavior issues, lack of parental support, attendance problems and a very scripted program that does not allow me to back up to where each child is academically. These children all came to me reading below grade level and fell into a program that demands that they be there. I also have two children with IEP's for academics and must keep them included in all the academics of the room. Yes - if you do this math, I have 9 functioning on grade level. Should I be fired for that? Some would say yes - so if I had any sense at all, I would try to get out of my current site, so I can continue to feed my family... But I am good at what I do and will continue to fight for all of my kids.
And apparently contiue to justify this to people like this anonymous poster who has no clue about the reality of what is going on in Philadelphia today

Anonymous:
We should have vouchers because parents who send their children to private and parochial schools are paying taxes for a service they are not utilizing. The money that would have been spent on the public school system should be given to them to help defray the tuition costs. It's simple fairness. Then more people will send their kids to private schools and the public schools will have to get better or perish. It's called competition. It's what made this country. It's what everyone in the private sector deals with every day. Companies thrive and are rewarded. Companies fail and go out of business. The taxpayers, for whom you work, have had enough of the excuses and the resistance of any meaningful reform in the public school system. Once the union is abolished teachers will no longer have to pay union dues so the union leadership can line their pockets. They keep that money. What is happening in Wisconsin will spread across the country. The taxpayers have had enough

Submitted by Daniel Eppihimer (not verified) on February 19, 2011 7:20 pm

Anonymous:
We need more charter schools and vouchers for parents who elect to send their children to private and parochial schools. In that way, schools can compete for students. Everyone wins. After we get the union abolished, the inept teachers can be fired and the good ones be given pay raises. All the money going to the union coffers will go right into the teachers' pocket, the students will get a better education, and the whole system will be more efficient

Reply to Anonymous:
If what you said is true how come is hasn't happen in over a decade of charters running in this city? Inept teachers are snatched up by charter schools once they are fired by public schools because charters are so desperate to keep teachers. The high turnover at charters shows that something is very wrong with your carpetbagging claim, "Everyone wins". You mean charter shils like you win. How does money from union coffers go into teachers' pockets? Explain where you have gotten your data for this claim. Why should the public pay for religious indoctrination and private schools? They are businesses and should pay their own way. Your anti-union stance is a joke. Good teachers will not get anything more than the minimum amount by the carpetbagging CEOs that draw their outrageous salaries and pay shils like yourself to post crap like this on the Notebook. If you want competition then demand that charters, private and parochial schools take ALL STUDENTS just like public schools are having to do now. How come your kind never has the guts to talk about principal unions if you're so anti-union? There are lots of lousy principals in Philly that exist because the administration and their unions protect them. Let's see you go after them for a change you gutless wonder.

Meg:
This post has nothing to do with reality. Charters adn vouchers do don operate witht he same rules as the rest of public education. Monies are sent to schools in the fall for the children enrolled -- then charters can clear rolls of kids who do not fit their programs. These kids show up in our public schools, then without benefit of monies to cover the cost of their education. This increases class size int he public schools and changes the feel for those schools, since many of these kids come with a lot of baggage. Newbies to buildins change the feel of the building - there is no way around this fact. They need support settling in, fitting into the program and may need lots of ther issues addressed. Yet - the charters who encouraged them to leave keep the federal money for that child for that year.
How is this fair to anyone?
As for firing inept teachers? I am all for that - but without the union's rules - who gets to say who that is? My paperwork is totally up to date, but out of my 18 currently enrolled children, 7 are at risk of failing second grade. Does that mean I am inept to use your word? NO - it means I am battling major behavior issues, lack of parental support, attendance problems and a very scripted program that does not allow me to back up to where each child is academically. These children all came to me reading below grade level and fell into a program that demands that they be there. I also have two children with IEP's for academics and must keep them included in all the academics of the room. Yes - if you do this math, I have 9 functioning on grade level. Should I be fired for that? Some would say yes - so if I had any sense at all, I would try to get out of my current site, so I can continue to feed my family... But I am good at what I do and will continue to fight for all of my kids.
And apparently contiue to justify this to people like this anonymous poster who has no clue about the reality of what is going on in Philadelphia today

Anonymous:
We should have vouchers because parents who send their children to private and parochial schools are paying taxes for a service they are not utilizing. The money that would have been spent on the public school system should be given to them to help defray the tuition costs. It's simple fairness. Then more people will send their kids to private schools and the public schools will have to get better or perish. It's called competition. It's what made this country. It's what everyone in the private sector deals with every day. Companies thrive and are rewarded. Companies fail and go out of business. The taxpayers, for whom you work, have had enough of the excuses and the resistance of any meaningful reform in the public school system. Once the union is abolished teachers will no longer have to pay union dues so the union leadership can line their pockets. They keep that money. What is happening in Wisconsin will spread across the country. The taxpayers have had enough

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