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Mastery Simon Gratz opens its doors

By the Notebook on Aug 29, 2011 12:15 PM
Photo: Benjamin Herold

Rising senior Niambi Brown waits to sign in on her first day at Simon Gratz High School, now run by Mastery Charter.

by Katrina Morrison and Benjamin Herold
 

Mastery Charter welcomed students to Simon Gratz High on Monday morning, opening the doors at the first of three neighborhood high schools being converted to charters under the Renaissance Schools initiative this year.

As early as 7:15, students and parents began arriving at the school's main entrance at 17th and Hunting Park to register. 

"It's a great day. We're ready," said Mastery CEO Scott Gordon, who said that his organization has poured roughly $800,000 into facilities improvements at the school and will spend roughly $3 million all told at the school this year.

Mastery CEO Scott Gordon

Most District schools won't open until September 6, but Mastery hopes to use the extra week to continue registering students and orienting students to what they hope will be a new way of doing business at the school, which is seeking to get off the state's list of persistently dangerous schools.

Gordon said that about 25 percent of Gratz's teachers this year are returnees. 

A few hours in to Gratz's new life, the changes seemed to be resonating.

"It's a whole different ball game this year," said Kimberly Jessie, the parent of a rising 9th grader at Gratz who had a 12th grader at the school last year. 

Abdur-Rahim Furquan took in the scene with his daughter, also a rising 9th grader.

"Mastery is definitely a draw," said Furquan, adding that he would have sent his daughter elsewhere had Gratz not been taken over.

As students lined up to enter the building, Mastery staff inspected their uniforms, making sure every shirt was tucked in.

Saida Mohammed, a 15-year old 9th grader, said she didn't mind.

"Some kids need the order," said Mohammed. "If you are not ready for people to be hard on you, then you are not ready for Mastery."Gratz's principal

Though the day's emphasis was on change, Gordon said Mastery was making a special effort to build on Gratz's heritage and history.

For the first time, Mastery has altered its usual blue and white color scheme, a staple of the organization's brand. Like most of the male staff members outside the school, Gordon wore a necktie in Gratz's traditional cherry-and-white, which will remain the school's colors. 

"This is a community school," said Shayna Terrell, the school's new community engagement manager.

Next week, Audenried High will open under the management of Universal Companies, and the newly re-merged Olney East and Olney West Highs will open as one school managed by ASPIRA, Inc.

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Comments (27)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 30, 2011 9:06 am

The Joke is on !!! Let's TRY to unionize and watch the SMURF explode. Money, Money everywhere but not for the working people.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 30, 2011 9:15 am

The Joke is on !!! Let's TRY to unionize and watch the SMURF explode. Money, Money everywhere but not for the working people.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 30, 2011 9:16 am

The Joke is on !!! Let's TRY to unionize and watch the SMURF explode. Money, Money everywhere but not for the working people.

Submitted by Sandra McLeod Humphrey (not verified) on August 30, 2011 2:55 pm

I had never heard of Mastery Charter or Scott Gordon before, so I'm going to have to Google them. I didn't even realize there was a list of "persistently dangerous schools," so that also was new to me. I'm going to have to follow Mastery Simon Gratz as it progresses as a new charter school. Thanks for your post and I'll be back for more visits!

Submitted by anonYmOUs TEACHer (not verified) on August 30, 2011 4:11 pm

The list is at the PA Dept. of Ed. site. Recently (always?) only Philly schools have been on it. :(

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on August 30, 2011 5:14 pm

Emetrics has PSSA data for charters but it hasn't been updated for 2011 - http://paayp.emetric.net/ I also live near Mann and am interested in 2011 results.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 30, 2011 4:41 pm

I have always been personally somewhat skeptical of Mastery, but they've really taken the plunge here that very few (any?) operators have successfully done in Philly -- taking over an existing neighborhood high school.

I hope people look at the actual results rather than the usual ideological debates (on both sides). And in any case, look at what really works (and doesn't) for Mastery here and learn from it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 30, 2011 5:42 pm

YES< but the problem is the Public doesn't get to see the real results, just what Mastery wants people to see. What kind of accountability is that??? Furthermore, I agree, Charters are generally anti union which is code of anti people's rights. The whole thing stinks and that little guy who runs it, is a nasty little thing.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 31, 2011 6:17 pm

Mastery Charter takes the same tests as the state of Pennsylvania. The scores are calculated in the same. manner. They have not weeded out students in the last 4 years unless the student is deemed a threat to the safety of the students, the teachers, or the staff.

The argument that they are not accountable is ridiculous. The place runs on numbers and the culture is dependent upon the results.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 31, 2011 4:45 pm

"Success" = Dump the kids who won't "cooperate"

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 3, 2011 4:47 pm

""Success" = Dump the kids who won't "cooperate""

Well, you might have a point, but dumping people who will not cooperate is probably a key to success for most organizations. That very practice (or the threat of it) is what kept the Catholic schools more successful than the public schools for many years. Why should an incorrigible few ruin the opportunities for the willing majority?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 5, 2011 12:05 am

No one should have to accept incorrigibles, that's the whole point public school teachers have made for years. Why are public schools still allowed to become dumping grounds for the incorrigibles that both private and charter schools can't or won't handle? Even the Marines don't take everyone who applies, why should public schools have to do it?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 31, 2011 6:20 pm

Either you're the midget who runs it or the cool aid has overcome you. Keep both eyes open.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 1, 2011 2:27 am

I don't know much about Mastery, but if calling the CEO a "midget" and accusing the above poster of drinking Kool-Aid (misspelled, no less) is your argument against Mastery, then it's pretty tough to take you seriously.

Submitted by Gratz Biology Teacher (not verified) on September 4, 2011 10:43 pm

As a new teacher at Simon Gratz Mastery Charter, I can testify firsthand to the incredible dedication and hard work being put into this endeavor, by the teachers, administrators and already many of the students. My tolerance has run out for the ignoramuses who post comments without any information to back it up. Here are some clarifications: the board of trustees for Mastery Charter schools is non-profit, Mastery spends the same amount of money per student each year that the School District of Philadelphia spends, teachers are paid the same as SDP teachers and extracurricular activities are being done on a volunteer basis. Most importantly, it IS a public neighborhood school and all a parent has to do is enroll their child. What Mastery does right is hire and fully support the best teachers around and engages the community around the school. We work together as a single unit, without the corruption and lack of communication that is rampant in so many failing district schools.
Dear Ignoramuses, If your opinions are nothing but sound bites you picked up from some anti-charter source, you should get your facts straight. If your opinions have no basis in factual evidence, perhaps you should look into educating yourself. Even if a handful of kids can't hack it at Mastery Charter Schools, we are talking about a population who previously had about a 50% chance of becoming high school drop outs. So please clarify why you are so angry about a school turnaround that results in over 90% of these same students getting into college. Mastery is different and you better get used to them being around. PS...if you are going to post a comment, please try to spell correctly and refrain from pointless personal insults.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 5, 2011 1:08 am

Really? I applied and interviewed for a position at Mastery. Guess they did not want my 10 years of teaching experience. Oh, I get it. I was too old. Take a look around and see the ages of the teachers that they hire. They do not want experience. Rather, they want young blood in order to control and feed the mind games b/s too. Blatant age discrimination if you ask me.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 6, 2011 8:53 pm

Hahaha!!!! I wonder how long it'll take this "new" biology teacher to become a "former, burnt-out" biology teacher.

I taught at that school for three years. If you're really admitting kids as a neighborhood school, and really dedicated to kicking kids out who are "threats" (which can be conveniently applied to threats to the learning environment), then you have NO idea what you're getting into.

So get off your high horse and put in some time before you admonish ANYONE who was in the muck and mud at that place or any difficult school. And don't fool yourself...the "best" teachers are in the suburbs, where you likely applied, didn't get the interview and hopped onto a charter school job so you could start paying your student loans. Ignoramus.

Submitted by Hezekiah Merchant (not verified) on November 25, 2011 9:26 pm

Say your name when you comment next time you dead beat. I was in the old gratz for a few months. i am currently a senior in Simon Gratz Mastery Charter. First elected Student Ambassasdor, and one of the best spanish speakers in the whole 12th grade. I like the new Simon Gratz. The "bad" kids that was once there is no longer there. So now YOU have no idea what your talking about now. Good thing your not in the school, we don't need negative people like you to try and bring us down.

If you disagree, please say so. Or you know where to find me. :P

and btw, idk if you know this but GRATZ is just a name of a building loser!

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on November 26, 2011 10:43 am

Where are the "bad" kids who were at Gratz last year? Did Mastery kick them out? If yes, then Mastery is in violation of its charter. Mastery is suppose to accepted everyone in the Gratz catchment.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 7:33 pm

I'm not really sure how Mastery Gratz engages the community, because they don't communicate with the parents. I received a phone call for the 1st time on Friday, 8/26/11 informing me about the first day of school which was 8/29/11! Where was the prior communication? It appears that rules and order are first and education is 2nd. I visited this school last week and I thought I was visiting a prison. My daughter was given a roster with all the wrong classes and she was told that she had to wait until 9/19/11 to be put in her correct classes.

Submitted by Gratz Biology Teacher (not verified) on September 6, 2011 9:17 pm

Wow, I was merely responding to the sophomoric posts that offered no support for them, so perhaps YOU should get of your high-horse and realize that you're arguing with yourself. Hey, it's tough for everyone out there...sorry if things aren't working out for the previous two posters. And by the way, teaching is a second career for me and have nothing but old blood coursing through my veins, ok? AND, I got into teaching solely to teach in the worst "urban" schools and wouldn't dream of teaching in a privileged suburban school...I am a Philadelphian and would bet that I know more about its young denizens than you. Relax guys...life is great. But is it at all possible that you are not the amazing teachers you think you are?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 6, 2011 9:44 pm

A career changer??? Ha, and here I thought you would make it the whole year! At least you'll have plenty of cool inner-city stories to tell your former coworkers in January!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 6, 2011 10:28 pm

Looks like more trolls came out from under their bridge.

Must have something to do with all the flooding lately.

Submitted by Gratz Biology Teacher (not verified) on September 6, 2011 10:04 pm

Gee, thanks for the advice Mister! And here I thought I had finally found my calling. : (

Submitted by Gratz Biology Teacher (not verified) on September 6, 2011 10:22 pm

haha, I like the troll post, too.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 26, 2011 8:53 pm

Wow, I was looking for real reviews on the school, but it sounds like there are just bitter teahers that use to work there, bashing it instead of being happy that someone will actually teach the students...sounds like Mastery got rid of the right ones....I'm just observing!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2014 6:40 am

Most area schools to wait until September 6 will open again, but by these students, for students, the school hopes that they can continue to do business and it is looking for the next new way to look for the list of dangerous schools.  mccord

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