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As Renaissance match process gets underway, intrigue begins

By Benjamin Herold on Mar 7, 2012 06:18 PM
Photo: Source: School District of Philadelphia

Turnaround teams have declared which schools they will be competing to manage during this year's Renaissance match process. 

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks
 

In a new twist on the District’s process for converting low-performing schools to charters, six pre-approved turnaround teams have publicly declared at the outset of the Renaissance match process which schools they will – and will not – be competing to manage.

Two developments stand out:

  • Mastery Charter, the city’s largest charter operator, will put all of its considerable resources into competing for just one school, Cleveland Elementary.

District Deputy for Strategic Initiatives Thomas Darden said that all the schools, even Jones, have good options.

“More than one option is an option,” said Darden. “I think they have a great choice between either of these two turnaround teams.”

In the first year of the Renaissance initiative, the District required potential turnaround teams to compete for all eligible schools, even those they had no interest in managing. That policy was intended to give School Advisory Councils at each school the greatest possible range of options to choose from.

Last year, the process was supposed to work the same way, but Mastery quickly declared it would only compete for two schools. Other operators followed suit, and began pulling out of the running at Simon Gratz, Martin Luther King, and Olney High schools. Although the King SAC was left with just two, instead of five, options to choose from, the District voiced no public opposition at the time. 

This year, said Darden, the District sought to avoid such confusion by giving its turnaround teams “more voice.”

“If a turnaround team doesn’t want to pursue a particular school, we don’t want to force them to,” he said. “We also don’t want to force a turnaround team on a school that doesn’t want that team.”

Mastery, meanwhile, has clearly targeted Cleveland as part of its effort to establish a complete K-12 feeder pattern in the Hunting Park/Tioga/Nicetown section of the city.   

While the District is interested in “executing the Renaissance Initiative in complete feeder patterns,” Darden stressed that there will be an open competition at Cleveland and that the District is not invested in which operators control which schools within a given feeder pattern. 

“We are very pleased to have five operators competing to manage [Cleveland],” said Darden. 

Last year, Mastery pursued a similar strategy, winning the right to manage the only two schools it competed for: Simon Gratz High and Clymer Elementary, both of which are near Cleveland.

Mastery’s strong foothold in that neighborhood was one reason that newcomer String Theory Schools chose to focus its efforts elsewhere, said Executive Director Angela Corosanite.

“Our strategy was that if there are other organizations that are closer to these schools who want them, we might have a better chance elsewhere,” she said.

String Theory hopes to establish its own foothold in the Northeast before seeking schools in other parts of the city, said Corosanite. As a result, the group, which operates the Performing Arts Charter School in South Philadelphia, will compete only for Creighton and H.R. Edmunds.

This week, District officials are hosting informational meetings at the four schools targeted for conversion to charters. Wednesday’s meeting is at H.R. Edmunds at 6:00 pm. Thursday’s is at Jones Middle at the same time.

The District has also made public its rules of conduct for prospective turnaround teams.

Comments (38)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2012 6:07 pm

"More than one option is an option." I guess this is the vending machine version of the free market model.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2012 6:57 pm

This is such BS....follow the money people, of course Mastery only wants Cleveland because it feeds to Gratz, which they already have....money from k-12.......What a disgrace!!!!!!

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on March 7, 2012 7:58 pm

Why are we giving those schools away without an opportunity for public comment and for those school communities to voice their opinion or provide alternative proposals?

Isn't that a violation of the Sunshine Act and the School Code? What is the real difference between a school closing for facilities and a school closing to be turned over to a private organization? It is still a closing of a public school and the decision-making process must be done in the light of day.

Mosaica has no track record of success whatsoever, so why are they giving them a school to profit off of when our children's money can be spent in far better ways? Do you all know that Mosaica is a "for profit" company? How about the American Paradigm company? Who are they and where did they come from? Are they legitimate educators or profiteers? It certainly looks like the behind closed doors political agendas are unfolding before our eyes and the privatization movement is being railroaded down our throats.

This stuff is getting more farcical by the week.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2012 9:13 pm

MONEY---hook ups--Politicians-Did I say MONEY !! Yes, Mosaica is run by John Q. Porter who was chased out of Oklahoma City for misuse of funds. The Queen named Ackerman once worked for him. He, Gamble and Evans are feasting on the poor even while playing the race card. Yes, it doesn't get more farcical that this.

Submitted by Old Man Warner (not verified) on March 8, 2012 7:06 am

It's putting the kids on the money-go-round.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 8, 2012 7:55 am

It's segregation 101 and guess which kids will pay the biggest price.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2012 9:36 am

We see what's happening. WE NEED TO FIND A WAY TO STOP IT!!!!!
Look at the support the Koni video has created. There is no reson why WE the
99% can't do the same thing. I know there is someone out there with the technological know how to create a media frenzie across the country that will stop this political agenda to profit from education.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2012 10:37 am

We have the power of numbers which has the potential to trump these slithering types but we must band together and ACT, not complain with horror stories. Time is not our friend.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2012 11:20 am

I am not complaining....I AM ready to act. I was at 440 last Thursday for the rally. I looked around and didn't see much support. Tell me how to ACT and I'll be the first to do it. This has nothing to do with complaining. I will be at the SRC meeting and will do whatever it takes to expose the truth. The message I am trying to convey is that when WE act, WE can make a difference. What is happening to public education is HORRIFIC!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2012 11:17 am

People are beginning to wake up at last. I agree with you. This is very dangerous stuff. Look at the Nazi beginnings and see the similarities for example.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2012 11:09 am

Creighton School will be holding a rally on Tuesday, March 13 at 5:00 pm to show our disagreement over the decision to turn our school into a charter. The school district will be holding a second meeting(6:00) at our school returning to bring answers that they failed to give out at our first parent info meeting last week. If you want to ACT, come and support us.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2012 12:17 pm

I will be there to support you and your school :)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2012 12:23 pm

Thank you!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2012 3:26 pm

I shall be there too.

Submitted by EILEEN DIFRANCO (not verified) on March 14, 2012 2:01 pm

Consider attending the weekly rallies outside of 440 every Wednesday at 4PM where we publicly raise just these issues.

Submitted by Mark J. (not verified) on March 14, 2012 2:06 pm

I have been there every week and shall continue to do so. We have to stop this corruption. Where's Jerry Jordan????

Submitted by Mark J. (not verified) on March 12, 2012 10:25 am

Intrigue--My Ass !!! This has all been decided and paid for long ago. Corruption 101.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2012 7:32 pm

Not very much choice at Jones. I suspect NO choice at Cleveland.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2012 7:09 pm

In the Renaissance FAQ's distributed to students and parents, it is admitted that turnaround teams might fail and one consequence could be that the district re-absorbs the school. Why are parents / community members not given the option of "no take over" in the first place? If we are really giving them options, that should at least be on the table.

I guess the problem is that active and informed community members - those most likely to show up to meetings - are also most likely to reject takeover.

Submitted by Old Man Warner (not verified) on March 8, 2012 8:49 am

That is because anyone with their eyes open knows this is not about the benefit of the children and their community.

It is about the benefit of those who want to profit off of the children.

The questions that the district and the SRC has not answered are:

(1) Why do they want to privatize those schools in the first place?

(2) What has the district done to improve those schools prior to contracting them out?

(3) What exactly do these organizations propose to do that is so great in the first place?

(4) Why can't the district do that itself?

(5) Why do these organizations want to take these schools over in the first place? Is it for the good of the children or for the sake of personal profit?

(6) What is the district's rationale for proposing these takeovers and what is the rationale of the SRC in allowing it to happen without demanding a competent analysis of those schools prior to making the decision to privatize?

(7) When is the SRC going to to explain itself to the public?

Submitted by tom-104 on March 8, 2012 8:05 am

Diane Ravitch has an excellent column in yesterday's Washington Post which explains much about what is going on with the attack on public education nationally. The SRC is just following the playbook given to them by Corbett who is deeply involved with the American Legislative Executive Council. (Google it!)

The Ravitch column is at:
http://tinyurl.com/7cn9gwf

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 8, 2012 10:33 am

Well said. Along the lines of your #2, and #4, I think they should try moving principals (those of "high performing seats" to schools of "low performing seats" of similar demographic), and see if that doesn't improve the situation. I think that would qualify as "mandatory reorganization"... are there collective bargaining agreements that disallow this?

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2012 7:58 pm

Before more schools are given away, is there any way to ensure the SDP at least does not lose money on maintaining the buildings? Universal should not be given anything until they pay what they owe for Vare and Audenreid. The others need to assume all costs of running a building - capital, maintenance, etc. Otherwise, taxpayers lose. As a Philadelphia taxpayer who just read that property tax is (again - 3rd year in a row) going up, I expect better. We've had nearly 15% increase in property taxes in two years and now another 8- 9% increase. That is nearly 25% increase in 3 years! (Yes, meanwhile, people are still getting the 10 year tax abatement on houses worth 3 - 4 times my house...)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2012 8:32 pm

Schools should not be open for profit. What a disgrace! This is why public education is so important, the focus is on education! Money should be spent on improving public schools, not turning them over to companies. Education is not a business opportunity. I wish people would wake up! Charter schools want the general public to believe that they are failing and that they are underserved. If they say it enough, people will believe. Then they come in and pretend to "rescue."

Submitted by tom-104 on March 7, 2012 8:41 pm

Diane Ravitch says it all in today's Washington Post:

"Ravitch: A war on public education in Louisiana"
http://tinyurl.com/7cn9gwf

Also see these recent columns:

"Teacher job satisfaction plummets — Survey"
http://tinyurl.com/6rgp242

"Firing of D.C. teacher reveals flaws in value-added evaluation"
http://tinyurl.com/7d77kq2

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 7, 2012 9:59 pm

For the 51st Time------everybody gets it so where do we go from here??? Where's Jordan in all this ?? Maybe he knows something we don't. That may or may not be good.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 8, 2012 1:22 am

What about Dwight "like a bulldog on a bone" Evans and Foundations??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 8, 2012 8:56 am

Nobody wants Jones..... I don't blame them!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 8, 2012 12:21 pm

now that everyone has acknowledged the fraud and flaws about charter school takeover, we need to spread the word, so that the general public understands. Education is power.....how do we go about this??

Submitted by tom-104 on March 8, 2012 1:34 pm

You could start at Occupy 440 Wednesdays at 4:00 at 440 N. Broad!

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on March 9, 2012 7:59 pm

We go about this one conversation at a time. I just began my weekend chatting with a pastor in a north Philly church for one hour. He sits on a charter school board of directors. I explained my position regarding the charter schools and he was warmly receptive. The facts are hard to deny, especially when you consider the ramifications for "the least among us". I left feeling the conversation was totally worthwhile. I begin my weekend, not feeling hopeless, but hopeful.
Last evening I had a similar conversation with a Temple professor who initially suggested the solution to the public schools problem would be for mega churches to open their own schools. I listened, then shared my views and he switched gears. That conversation, too, was worthwhile.
Of course, it would take thousands of us doing this to change the course the city/state is on. I suggest anyone feeling a need to respond to these devastating changes (which I firmly believe are undemocratic to the core) reach out to someone who is not clearly "on our side" and just speak the truth in a non-threatening way.
This will reverse one day, because the truth will unfold. We have the power to reverse this trend beginning today.
Call me idealistic, call me naive. I know I am going to sleep well tonight.
Start today. Changing hearts and minds one conversation at a time.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2012 12:24 pm

We, at Creighton School, are trying to fight the turn around. We believe in the Power of Parents. When the School District held their parent info meeting last week , they came with very few answers. They are returning this Tuesday, March 13th,(6:00 pm) to answer our questions and concerns. We need to rally to stop this injustice.
We were told that the school district failed us - so because the school district failed us - we suffer! The district is dismissing its failing students to someone else. As a teacher, are we simply able to dismiss our underachievers or are we supposed to differentiate, give them more support, spend more energy and time with them to make them achieve?
What life long lesson is the district teaching? If you fail, give up!

Join us on Tuesday, March 13th at 5:00 pm as we show a unified front to keep our school because we are not a failure!!!!!!!!!!
Creighton is located at 5401 Tabor Road

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on March 10, 2012 1:59 pm

I will be there.
Solidarity, ED

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2012 2:13 pm

Sorry to say, you can march all you want, the deal is done,I know, King H.S. has seen and experienced it all. Start looking for another school.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 13, 2012 1:59 pm

Education in this city has always been about politics and money this is not new and will not change in the near future. Why are people so upset about this?

For years folks have paid and played. A fancy new school with great amenities (gym, pool & parking lot) is built in one section of the city that doesn't really need it while the schools in other areas are allowed to decay. Programs like engineering, performing arts, college prep and health sciences are opened in some public schools while others offer little more than basic education. Some children have to get up at 4am to get to school across town to take advantage of a program because nothing like it is offered in their neighborhood. People lie about their address to enroll their child in a 'good' public school because the public school in their neighborhood is so inadequate. In many neighborhoods, most of the children do not attend a school near their home. Far too many children graduate high school barely able to read and write and are ill prepared for secondary education let alone to get a job. Now there is something to be upset about!

There is enough blame to go around - bad parenting, bad educational management, misuse of public funds, etc., etc. The bottom line is that many schools are failing our children. The longer we debate about who should fix it, who will get the money, etc. the more poorly prepared young adults we well are putting on the streets of our city. The more failure we produce the more problems we will have in our communities.

As I understand it schools are put on the Renaissance list because they are failing and the object is to turn the situation around as quickly as possible. If those managing the school could do a better job, why aren't they doing it? Why fight to hold on to a failing situation? Every year wasted trying to figure out a better way means more failing kids. Sometimes you just have to start fresh. If someone is having success turning around failing education why fight about who they are? We need to stop this pattern of failing students now. We need to replicate proven success in education wherever it comes from. We need to stop fighting, collaborate and get it right for these children.

Submitted by tom-104 on March 13, 2012 5:47 pm

People are so upset about this because this is bigger than Philadelphia and it is more than corruption as usual. I suggest you educate yourself about ALEC (Google it):

http://www.thenation.com/article/161978/alec-exposed

http://tinyurl.com/6dy89s6

http://tinyurl.com/6jghztx

Do you understand what moving 50,000 more students, as Lori Shorr stated at Mondays SRS meeting, to charters means for the public schools? Out of 85 charters in Philadelphia only 5 are unionized. This means each nonunion charter gives each teacher the salary and benefits they want. Each teacher is working under an "agreement" which must be renewed each year. In other words, school employees have no job security whatsoever. Just to ask for a raise can jeopardize your job.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 27, 2012 12:25 pm

There are fabulous teachers in both charter and public schools. I hope we can place are differences aside, so that we arrive at a solution to teach All children in the city of Philadelphia.

Submitted by Spelling Teacher (not verified) on March 27, 2012 4:35 pm

I hope we can place "our" differences aside...If we can't use the word correctly how can we expect the students to?

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