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$1.8 million: District price tag at Audenried and Vare this year

By Benjamin Herold on Jun 4, 2012 04:54 PM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

Universal Companies is getting free use of the facilities at both Vare Middle School and Audenried High School - shown here when its new building opened in 2008.

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

The District is paying an estimated total of $1,776,832 to completely subsidize the facilities costs of charter operator Universal Companies in two District-owned buildings this school year.

The costs cover 14 District staffers across the two buildings, including three building engineers, four custodial assistants, and seven general cleaners. Services being provided free of charge by the District this year also include utilities, trash pickup, and cleaning and building engineer supplies.

On Friday, after months of delay, District officials announced they had reached a resolution with Universal on a long-standing dispute about facilities license agreements at the two South Philadelphia schools, which were both awarded to Universal last year as part of the District’s Renaissance Schools initiative. 

Universal will pay nothing to operate in Audenried and Vare for the 2011-12 school year. Next year, Universal will continue to receive the same services and pay a total of $500,000 to operate in the two buildings - $300,000 for Audenried and $200,000 for Vare - with the District picking up the balance. The balance of the cost assumed by the District next year is again expected to easily exceed $1 million.

Those terms are for the next 12 months only, said District spokesman Fernando Gallard.

"We want to revisit this in one year," Gallard said. "The agreement might change."

Though not yet formally executed, the deal was announced Friday, before the School Reform Commission’s vote to award Universal management of Creighton Elementary. Creighton will be Universal's fifth Renaissance charter school. 

Universal officials declined to comment on the facilities deal at Audenried and Vare until the agreement is signed.

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Comments (78)

Submitted by linda (not verified) on June 4, 2012 6:21 pm

And yet, there is no money to put the lights back on in my classroom, auditorium, or gymnasium. There is no money to fix the toilets in the ladies room on the ground floor, replace the shades on the windows or to fill the holes in the floors in the cafeteria. Yet, there is money my tax money for this foolishness?...Incredible!

Submitted by Frank Murphy on June 5, 2012 12:54 pm

According to Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon, “We lack the appropriate funding to provide our students with the education they deserve.”  In practice this means most schools have no full time nurses, fewer counselors, and greatly reduced support staff (noon time aides, school police officers, school climate aides, etc.). In addition music, art and extra-curricular activities are being reduced or eliminated.  This is a sorry state of affairs for our public school children.  
The situation however is much better at the Universal Family of Schools. They have managed to obtain 1.8 million scarce public dollars in order to operate and maintain their publically owned school buildings. Universal occupies these facilities rent-free.  They are doing well in these poor economic times.  Now they have taken possession of yet another public school, Creighton. 
They acknowledged this latest acquisition with the following statement;  "We are excited and look forward to educating the children in a loving, holistic and nurturing environment, which we embody as the Universal Way.”
The “Universal Way” isn’t a very inclusive way when it comes to the majority of Philadelphia’s school children.
And they call this school reform?   I call it shameful!


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 4, 2012 6:02 pm

When are the Feds going to come in and put an end to this nonsense? This is another example of the Powers That Be at 440 continuing to thumb their noses at the citizens of Philadelphia. This use of our tax dollars to finance corporate greed at the expense of our children must be put to an end. Let's extend the Occupy Movement to Occupy 440. All committed, caring and fed up citizens of Philadelphia should converge on 440, throw out these sad excuses for SDP officials (every last one of them), take over the building and demand federal intervention to end this farce.

Submitted by Ken Derstine on June 4, 2012 9:06 pm

School nurses have been staging an Occupy 440 every Wednesday at 4 p.m. since 47 school nurses were laid off and nursing student coverage increased from 750 to 1500. Most schools now have a nurse two days a week because nurses must cover two or three schools.

They will be there this Wednesday as they have been for 24 weeks.

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on June 6, 2012 1:07 pm

I am sorry to report that we the leadership have had to make a decision to suspend our rallies at this time due to some unexpected issues which have come up.
However, our interest in this cause has not been diminished. We intend to continue our fight for public education/nurse funding in the upcoming weeks and months.
If you have time or energy to commit to the cause during the summer months ahead, please email Leave your name, address, phone number.
You will be contacted when the next steps are determined.
The kinds of actions we may take depend on the number of folks who respond and on their willingness to engage in this process.
Eileen Duffey

Submitted by Philadelphia citizen, voter, taxpayer (not verified) on June 4, 2012 7:05 pm

Kenneth Gamble and Universal should not have School District business at all. I just reread the 2007 Philadelphia Magazine article about Gamble.
The reporter states,
"I asked Gamble about some residents’ concern about racial segregation or supremacy. I expected a tidy denial. But his response was unfiltered: “It’s like cats,” he said. “They’re all cats. But you don’t see the lion with the tiger. You don’t see the tiger with the panther.”
I didn’t know how to respond. He continued: “It pretty much boils down to mating. Every now and then you’ll see a tiger and maybe a lion copulate, and you’ll get a tiger-lion, or something strange.”
I told him that sounds a lot like segregation. It’s not, he said; it’s consolidation. Consolidation of jobs, money and influence. In his neighborhood, he argues, black people make up the vast majority of the population, but own only a small percentage of the businesses. He said he admires other self-sustaining and culturally insular neighborhoods: “There’s nothing wrong with the Chinese having Chinatown,” he said."
This is the Universal Company leadership that will transform multi-ethnic Creighton School?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 4, 2012 9:40 pm

Gamble and Nutter sitting in a tree....................

Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 4, 2012 7:02 pm

hey psd/src,
can you hook me up with a spiffy 3br/2ba condo somewhere nice. i'm willing to pay about 27% of owner's cost. of course, i'll be expecting you to comp me my first year's rent.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on June 4, 2012 7:14 pm

Yea, wouldn't it be nice to get a free ride like Universal Corp and Gamble... The costs listed in the article are only for maintenance. They don't include the bonds floated to build Audenreid, equip it (desks, chairs, computers which were all left, computer system, etc.,etc.) Imagine a landlord handing you the keys and saying basically "take it." That is what Archie, Ackerman and the past and present SRC did and are doing. Shame!

Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 4, 2012 7:43 pm

thank you benjamin herold for your woodward & bernstein-like tenacity in ferreting out the sleazy connections and continuing to "follow the money" on a story that universal, the PSD and the SRC would like to see buried and forgotten. you're the best! keep the pressure on. "deep throat" would be proud of you.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on June 4, 2012 7:47 pm

Thank you, Notebook, for reporting this crime. We, the taxpayers, are subsidizing Universal Corp. while SDP schools do without basic supplies. Universal claimed when they took over Audenreid and Vare that they were going to raise the necessary funds to create a "Promise Neighborhood." So far, the only ones footing the bill are the rest of us who get no benefit, whatsoever, with the Universal take over. Now, Universal is awarded with another school?

We all know Nutter, Archie, Evans and Ackerman are corrupt. Now add Ramos, Nixon, Carey, Houston, etc. to the list!

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on June 4, 2012 7:35 pm

Thanks for reporting on this issue. It is completely absurd that the SRC will allow Darden and the charter school office to to get away with this fraud. My school no longer has a school police officer or any security, and we are giving away services to rich record moguls! They want everyone else to make concessions, but they cannot even collect money rightfully owed to them! How much will Universal pay for Creighton next year? Will they be able to 'negotiate away' special ed like Mastery did??

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on June 4, 2012 7:20 pm

 Whatever emergency policies CRO Knudsen possesses around canceling contracts need to be used for all Renaissance Match schools possessed by Universal. Not only is the expenditure this year outrageous, the 500,000 fee per year is a joke. 

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 5, 2012 11:56 am

I agree and wonder if he was informed, as it appears the District just now discovered the cost of this. Thank you Mr. Herold for finding the important details!

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on June 5, 2012 11:07 am

If the SDP is giving buildings to outside "providers," it should know the cost. If the SDP leadership does not know the cost, they are more incompetent than I assumed.

Knudson is earning $25,000/month to know!

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 5, 2012 11:14 am

Most certainly, agreed; and also you would think that the District could simply deduct these expenses from the contract?

Though he's being paid so much, he must still rely on data the District gives him. Seems like they (the District) took a long time to figure out these costs.

Mr. Knudsen does need to run a cost analysis of Renaissance schools, something like test score gain per $ spent. Concurrently there needs to be a control school that the District runs using the same techniques as Universal (shouldn't be proprietary per "Great Schools Contract") so it could be seen if Universal really makes any difference.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 4, 2012 8:32 pm

1.8 million and Universal isn't paying anything this year and ONLY $500,000 next year? $500,000 isn't much more than one-third of the price tag. This is THEFT and it has to STOP!

Submitted by Ms Perkins (not verified) on June 4, 2012 8:33 pm

Universal is the worst people in the world and they have Creighton i can only imagine the drama to come. Every Universal staff should be fired and be fined. This maddness is going to far.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 4, 2012 8:12 pm

I never saw how corrupt people can be. Shame on Darden, Nixon, SRC and any other SDP employee who helped to turn Creighton over to Universal. Read the articles and the responses. Find out what the people are saying.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 4, 2012 8:26 pm

And Benjamin, thank you for reporting this story! Maybe publicity will help put a stop to the sleaziness and theft taking place!

Submitted by Ms Perkins (not verified) on June 4, 2012 8:44 pm

Hate is a strong word but i really hate Universal and also the people who are helping destory people lives and playing with childern future. This is maddness and its sad and its going beyond over the limit. Its sad to see where our tax dollars go to. We are paying for evil people to jack things up more than what they are its really sad.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 4, 2012 8:52 pm

I teach at a school that rhymes with Hermantown and that place is falling down everywhere. We have wiring problems, leaks, flooding issues, an elevator that symbolically only works when you go down before going up, water that just seems toxic and a fourth floor that hasn't been used in decades that looks like something from a Saw film with abundant asbestos, insects and pigeon crap everywhere. So, rather than fix the things necessary in our schools that desperately need them, the PSD builds a brand new, beautiful facility and gives it away with a cash bonus. Makes sense. Perhaps I won't return next year.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 4, 2012 9:11 pm

They would love to see you go. You're a UNION person and they hate you for costing them money that they want for themselves. So what are we going to do about it?

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on June 4, 2012 8:45 pm

What do the Renaissance Charters cost the SDP? What does Mastery pay for the SDP buildings? Aspira? What other deals has Darden made? We are told by Ramos and Knudson that the unions have to give back? Is Gamble "giving back?" Ramos giving back? Knudson giving back his $25,000/month?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 4, 2012 9:00 pm

why should we the teachers give back! we don't even have a working appliances in the teachers lounge and no window shades for the classroom or paper, or glue, or tape.....but, somehow...I should give back?? My car payment, mortgage, and child care fees don't matter? How can it be legal to turn a public school over to an outside company that doesn't have any successful data??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 4, 2012 9:52 pm

All that money Universal owes could cost many people jobs. Messing with people that love teaching in a city that many people wouldn't even dare teach. How can they sleep at night? KARMA will come :)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 12:09 am

Well DUH!!!! No wonder they can operate more efficiently than the rest of the district. Are you kidding me?!!! We dump all our custodial staff to go private and these guys get their staff paid for BY US?????

Hello, who is making these RIDICULOUS decisions? I can not even believe this insanity. My blood is boiling....

Let's just throw away the real public schools in Philly.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 6:21 am


What is the PSD's justification for this?

Lisa Haver

Submitted by Helen Gym on June 5, 2012 7:50 am

Note: The $1.8 million also does not include the fair market rent at either Audenried or Vare.

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on June 5, 2012 7:25 am

I would think independent charters (e.g. not Mastery, Universal, Aspira, etc.) would also be perturbed by the SDP's handouts to Renaissance Charters. Independent charters have to either purchase or lease their buildings, pay for utilities, maintenance, etc. Universal is again taking public money at the expense of others - SDP schools and independent charters.

Submitted by Ken Derstine on June 5, 2012 8:58 am

How do you know these privileges given to Universal are not being given to other charters? There is little transparency with charters. Charters are being given every advantage while public schools are being starved.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 5, 2012 8:50 am

There is an underlying issue which we should all try to understand. There is a huge legal, practical and philosophical issue blooming about what is charter school and what is not a charter school.

There are "true charter schools" which are set up pursuant to the Charter School Act. They are separate LEA's with legal duties and responsibilities to act solely in the best interests of its "pupils." They have their own boards of trustees as required by the Charter School Act.

The schools Universal operates are not legally set up as "charter schools." Universal is a privately structured nonprofit which was given a contractual arrangement to operate those schools. Those schools are not legally "charter schools."

To call them "charter schools" is a misnomer. And to say that the SRC is turning schools into charter schools is not really correct and is misleading. The SRC has turned no schools into true charter schools.

There is a legal issue of whether a district can contract out the "governance of public schools" to such entities without forcing them to be set up as real charter schools under the law. There are a Pandora's box of legal issues ripening including the issue of whether tenure protections apply to those teachers.

The implications of what is happening is far reaching. The fact that it is happening in the back rooms of politics and money should be concerning to everyone who believes in American ideals and running schools for the best interests of students and the "public good."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 9:16 am

How far should we dig? Until we are part of the hole? PLEASE stop this "getting mad" and let's mobilize the troops like never before because these are times like never before. It starts tonight in Wisconsin but it won't end there. Also, not for nothin as they say in South Philly, but Gamble is too easy a target due to his "curious background and personality." John Q. Porter--Mosaica, was chased out of Oklahoma City a few years back for misappropriation of funds. Dwight Evans--enough said. Mastery picks and chooses even more than Universal so don't let them slide either. Their house of cards will crash sooner rather than later too. The Turkish outfit operates totally in the dark. The point is, the whole charter fiasco needs to stop. The question is will it without our "Encouragement?? " Jerry Jordan---Do you care to add something, anything??

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 6, 2012 7:52 pm


It's interesting that you point out that Universal's schools are not technically charter schools. However, on the PDE website with charter school annual reports, Universal Institute Charter School and Universal Bluford CS are included on this list ( For some reason, there is no report for Universal Daroff. Do you have a source verifying that Universal's schools are indeed not charter schools? And if Universal's schools are not charter schools, are they privately-operated public schools like those which Edison operates? And if Universal's schools are not charter schools, why is the word "charter" in the name of each of their five schools? (See


Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 6, 2012 8:54 pm

My source is the Charter School Law 24 P.S. Section 17-1701-A et seq. Specifically Sections 17-1703-A, 17-1715-A, 17-1716-A, Section 17-1717-A.

The real cruncher is Section 17-1719-A(4) Which requires that the charter describe: "The proposed governance structure of the charter school, including a description and method for the appointment or election of the board of trustees."

For a good discussion of that issue by Commonwealth Court, see, West Chester Area School District v. Collegium Charter School, 760 A.2d 452 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2000), affirmed by S.C. of Pa, 812 A.2d 1172 (2002).

Universal operates pursuant to a contract with the School District. It was not created pursuant to the Charter School Law and does not comply with the provisions of the Charter School Law.

Commissioner Dworetzky pointed out that the SRC still has to approve a contract with Universal for their operation of Creighton. Real charter schools do not operate pursuant to a contract. They are independent LEA's. I will give you the citation to that case in the future.

Their schools are not what I call "true charter schools." You can call them a charter but they are not and it is significant under the law. They are not separate LEA's as real charter schools are.

The Charter School Law makes for some interesting reading for students of school governance.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 7, 2012 10:30 pm

So can we take the district to court to fight the take over of our school ? Please advise because I would love to see them in court.

Submitted by Ken Derstine on June 7, 2012 11:12 pm

Suit: Philly school closing policy an attempt to "dismantle traditional public schools"

from the Inquirer

“A group of city parents whose children's North Philadelphia public school is scheduled to shut for good next week have filed a federal lawsuit to try to stop the planned closure.”

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 8, 2012 7:48 am

There are several avenues to fight in court, Yes. Ken points out a case which was just filed. I only read the news report. I have not read the pleadings but I find it quite interesting.

The issue which can be litigated under Pennsylvania law is whether the SRC has the legal power under the Constitution to contract out to private organizations the governance of public schools.

They can contract out for services and goods, but governance of public schools involves many civil rights and is a constitutional issue. Government agencies are public bodies, such as the School District and SRC.

Another legal issue is whether the General Assembly has constitutional authority to delegate its legislative responsibility to an appointed body such as the SRC.

Our Pennsylvania Supreme Court already said that all power and authority to govern charter schools vests solely in the board of trustees of the charter school. They also said that the board of trustees of charter schools have a singular duty to operate in the best interests of its pupils. How many charter schools breach that fiduciary duty?

The problems come with standing to sue, the willpower for complex litigation and the money to finance it. The elected school board's suit in Chester is another interesting case to follow and they have won so far in federal court.

The federal Civl Rights Act is a Great thing and it protects our constitutional rights. The way the SRC is proceeding is opening up a Pandora's box of legal issues. So does the Boston Control Group's scenario because it is private interests circumventing the Sunshine Act of Pennsylvania.

I said all along that Act 46 itself is of questionable constitutional propriety and it does not give the SRC the right to breach its own contracts or dictate terms without due process. Due process is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Any adversarial process or stance is destructive because it triggers a stronger adversarial response.

It is just so sad to me to see what is happening because I know it will have negative consequences for our children and our community. I have seen it all before. Watch what unfolds.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 6, 2012 7:32 pm


I'm the type of person who wants to verify facts and provide factual support for my own opinions. So with that said, do you have a source or evidence to support your claim that the $1.8 million does not include fair-market rent? I have seen descriptions of what the $1.8 million includes, but no actual line item breakdown of the $1.8 million. If you know of somewhere where the information about the contract is available, I think a lot of people would be interested in seeing the contract with line-item information.


Submitted by Benjamin Herold on June 7, 2012 10:32 pm

Hi Grad Student,

Thanks for your prolific recent commentary.  

The Notebook has previously reported that none of the District's Renaissance operators are paying "rent" in any traditional sense.  Instead, the District is seeking only to recover (in most cases) from charter operators the costs associated with operating and maintaining the buildings (eg, utilities, mainteance, debt service, etc.):

"District officials maintained that Internal Revenue Service regulations prohibit them from making a profit from renting or leasing public school buildings. Instead, officials said, they can seek only to recover from Renaissance operators the actual cost of owning and maintaining the building."


Submitted by Meg (not verified) on June 5, 2012 7:37 am

So, keep digging... what about the other chat=rter contracts? What else are we paying these people to not educate our children and dump the harder cases after they get paid for the seats??

Submitted by Jack (not verified) on June 5, 2012 9:19 am

The SRC is in Harrisburg lobbying for passage of a bill which will eliminate collective bargaining rights in distressed school districts. The state, which has been running the schools, screws up the finanaces and now they want everyone else to pay for it. So much for transparency.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 9:59 am

We still hold the hole card--the power of numbers and we better use it. Corbett orchestrated this mayhem because WE elected him. When you elect intolerance, bigotry and coldbloodedness, expect it. Those of us who stayed home, need to remember this down the road. We did this to ourselves.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 9:57 am

You are so right! Exactly, we did this to ourselves. It is to be expected.

Submitted by Ken Derstine on June 5, 2012 11:06 am

It's not that simple. The unions have historically supported the Democratic Party, yet what has our support of Mayor Nutter and for that matter President Obama gotten us? People don't vote because there is no genuine choice. We do not have a party that represents the 99%, only one party the Democratic Republican Party that represents the 1%!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 12:59 pm

Well intentioned but silly talk. The Democrats are worlds better than the republicans, far, far better. Having said that, I am disappointed by Obama too but again, look at the alternative. Same with Nutter-----a capetbagging suck up, uncle Tom but who was the alternative, Milton Street? Obama knows he has us in his pocket which isn't a great thing, I agree. He didn't even go to Wisconsin for a 2 minute photo shoot supporting unions. That should have told all thinking people all you needed to know. He couldn't be bothered. BUT AGAIN......... Where else can we go????? except to hell aka, repubs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 12:23 pm

I forgot to mention the other pie in our face--Nutter and The SRC essentially giving Gable, Nutter's buddy, Creighton to destroy while sucking money from those kids. all of it right in our face without even a pretense of credibility attached to it. What to do now, is the question now?

Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 5, 2012 1:24 pm

have your read the green party's platform for education?
send a message. vote green.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 2:58 pm

Also, a vote for the Green Party is a vote wasted completely.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 3:55 pm

it's not wasted--vote green party

Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 5, 2012 5:40 pm

not a waste. that's how you get dems attention. that's how you get them to take your agenda serious right now they're taking your vote for granted. they figure you've got nowhere else to go, so they can do whatever they please and you'll still give them your vote.
how do you think the tea party gets republicans to jump through hoops?

Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 5, 2012 11:23 pm

obama can't even show his face in wisconsin because he doesn't want to risk alienating the 3 republican voters who voted for him there in '08. that says it all right there. we've been totally dissed. how much money & support did unions give him when he ran & won & he won't lift a finger for us or for what is right. keep pulling that democrat lever and see where it gets you.
time for a change. rock the cart.
vote green!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 6, 2012 7:54 pm

Foolish on the SRc's part. They do that and teachers will walk. Then, and only then, will the SRC feel the pedal tot he metal. If all teachers walk then they wouldn't know what to do.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 9:09 am

Yes, you are right but NOW, we have stop it BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY and then----------Learn from our mistakes. Corbett means our kids no good and Gamble etc. are slithering types who are all too happy to pick the bones of our kids while playing the race card whenever it's expedient to deflect attention.

Submitted by Sir Frederick Mercury (not verified) on June 5, 2012 9:46 am

Setting: January 20, 2013. Newly inaugurated President, Willard Mittens Romney is chilling in the Oval Office, feet on his desk, cigar in hand. His wives are behind him, massaging his neck and shoulders. They are swaying to the dulcet tones of "The Joke's on You" by Gamble and Huff.

The Butler knocks on the door: Mr. President, the Imam is here.

Willard: Send him in.

The men greet each other with an enthusiastic high-five.

Imam: Congratulations, Mittens. You the man.

Willard: No, sir. It is you who are the man.

Imam: We beat Obama like you beat that f-... alleged homo-sexual back in the old days.

Willard: I gave him a haircut he shall remember.

Imam: Thank you for visiting us at our fine school. The media bought our story hook, line and sinker. While that numbskull Mayor stood outside calling you names, were implementing "The Plan."

Willard: I trust that Senor Ramos secured the deal?

Imam: Indeed. Our money was well spent.

Willard: And well earned. On my wives, your empire will grow under my watch.

Imam: You know that. By the way, you have excellent taste in music.

To Be Continued

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 11:16 am


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 12:50 pm

Out of curiosity, was this contract ever approved by the SRC? Was this written into what the SRC approved, and if not, how is it legal?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 5, 2012 1:48 pm

It can't be legal unless it is approved by the SRC or written into a contract approved by the SRC.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 12:21 pm

I just found this on, it looks like they are still fighting to keep their school.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 1:36 pm

Just signed the petition!!! Let's all sign it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 4:06 pm

Isn't this corporate welfare?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 7:03 pm

1--Hard to believe

2--Right in our face

3--No shame, No regrets

4--Up close and personal

5--Not even trying to hide the corruption

Submitted by Hope Moffett (not verified) on June 6, 2012 8:35 pm

Everything I've been thinking.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 5:45 pm

The PFT is expected to come back before the contract is up and negotiate givebacks, but we are paying Kenny Gamble millions of dollars for no reason.

They can't keep crying poor while they are giving away money.

Submitted by Tara (not verified) on June 5, 2012 6:31 pm

Right, and it's particularly frustrating that the PSD has said they know Universal is not paying their fair share. They have basically opened their wallet and allowed Universal to steal while they are watching. Universal claims that they had an "understanding" but that means nothing if it is not in writing. There should be no understandings at this level.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 6, 2012 8:22 pm

Oh----there is a reason---quid pro quo-----Nutter and Gamble. The worst part is that they don't care who knows it, all of it right in our face. I'm ready for action, by any means necessary. What say you, Jordan??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 6:00 pm

Have no fear---Jordan has already said "No Givebacks" He will negotiate when the contract is up.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 8:30 pm

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of the Inspector General has a fraud prevention hotline. It is 1-800-MIS-USED. (Monday and Wednesday 9:00 AM until 11:00 AM, Eastern Time; Tuesday and Thursday, 1:00 PM until 3:00 PM, Eastern Time except for holidays). There is also an online complaint form at

I have just reported the SDP back room deal with Universal as a possible case of Mismanagement and Personal Fraud. It's time that Darden, the rest of Ackerman's leftovers and the SRC are exposed for the white-collar criminals that they are and answer for their crimes. There is power in numbers. The more complaints filed, the quicker the Feds will intervene and end this mess.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 5, 2012 11:02 pm

File a complaint with the Office of the Inspector General against Universal for not paying to use the buildings of Audenried and E. Vare:

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 11:19 pm

So what and when are they paying for Creighton?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2012 11:12 pm

thank you...I will file a complaint as well! I still cannot believe that they are getting away with this! Peopel are losing their jobs, and yet we can afford to turn schools over. How many truly qualified teachers with experience would even be willing to work in a charter school?

Submitted by Concerned Philadlephian (not verified) on June 6, 2012 5:11 am

Knudson is quoted in the Inquirer 6/6 re: Universal Corp. "deal" -

"What are we going to do, take the schools back midyear? The answer is no," Knudsen said. "We have to run this operation. You can't be constantly visiting and revisiting programs and problems. And that's what I attempted to do here. We didn't want to take the schools back. We didn't want to get into litigation." How, Knudson, can an "unwritten, oral agreement" lead to litigation? Will Universal call Ackerman and Archie??? As usual, Ackerman "knows nothing!"

"This was a business decision that has nothing to do with the SRC, or any policy considerations with Universal," Knudsen said. Prove it, Knudson!

"Knudsen said that early indicators on Universal's performance at Audenried and Vare have been positive - "the climate is very different. It's much safer, and the attendance is up." ALL OF THIS DATA CAN BE RIGGED. Attendance is easy to change along with not reporting incidents. Knudsen - What do you know about schools? NOTHING! Meanwhile, Knudsen claims Universal doesn't have money because the schools are "under enrolled." Why? Is Universal booting students? Universal claims they can't take more students at Audenreid.

Darden from the same article:

"Thomas Darden, the district official who oversees charters, said that going forward, the district will run small schools that need overhauling as Promise Academies, or in-house turnarounds. Only the larger schools will be turned over to charters." So, Creighton is a "large" school???

Submitted by Hope Moffett (not verified) on June 6, 2012 9:59 am

I forget, but didn't I say something about this last year? Actually, didn't I say something about this all year? Audenried didn't even get a nominal vote. They were assigned to Universal without a say and when they protested being given to an operator whose flagship charter UICS is in the bottom half of charter schools in Philadelphia, it was the District (Thomas Darden and Michael Silverman) who said "it's a done deal." Well, the deal was done but they neglected to mention that it was also a back room deal. Robert Archie sat on the board of Universal schools prior to being the chairman and though he recused himself from the contract vote, he publicly pitched for Universal in contravention of his responsibility to avoid a conflict of interest. Darden cannot shift responsibility for the deal, he has been a part of it since the very beginning.

Also, the CEO of Universal once informed someone at my school that Kenny Gamble could raise more money in a weekend that they would make in their entire life. Gamble really needs to bring out those fundraising skills that Rahim Islam was boasting about. The contract for Universal stipulates that they provide all promised services even if they failed to earn government funding for a promise neighborhood (which they of course failed to procure). Isn't running the new building they were so excited to get a part of their promised services? And since Chairman Archie used to be on the board of Universal schools and was legally prohibited from voting on their contract, how can any verbal deal he made stand without breaching conflict of interest safeguards?

Submitted by Ken Derstine on June 6, 2012 12:04 pm

The inquirer article about this give-away ( has this quote:

"The issue centered on what a district source described as an oral agreement among Universal, former Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman, and former School Reform Commission Chairman Robert L. Archie Jr. The source said they told Universal the district would waive license fees amounting to $1.8 million for the schools.

Ackerman, in an e-mailed statement, said, "I am not aware of such an agreement. I was not involved in the contract negotiations nor did I know the details of the finalized agreement since I left in August before it was approved by the SRC."


So if Ackerman was not involved as she claims, it must be Archie's deal. This is outright nepotism. Is the leadership of this city going to allow this to stand or have things gotten so bad they do not care about public opinion or the law?

And since when is an oral agreement binding? A written agreement means nothing if it involves school employees in the School District!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 6, 2012 5:50 pm

the truth of the corruption is not even hidden anymore. The powers that be don't even care if the little man is being hurt in all of this. Years ago information like this would have been hard to come by now they are all saying to the papers that this was a back alley deal and we are proud of it. can someone else explain to me y corbett was visiting audenried

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 7, 2012 7:52 pm

I think the SRC is out of there minds Why should we use our money for our children to give to them . If they are taking over and making charters schools then they should find there own funding not take from the school district money Its unbelievable that this is going on. They wonder why we don't have any money for our schools, if they keep this up we 'll be broke.They;ll never be able to balance there books this way.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 21, 2012 9:45 pm

Before Camden selects Universal Companies to run their schools, they better do a check-up on how Universal treats their employees. This year alone, they let go 4 out of 5 of their principals. No reason but it 's not a good fit. Oh yeah, they had the principals fire school employees and on June 18th, then they gave them the boot. Word has it they are gunning for the 5th principal trying to get her to quit or find "some reason" to fire her. Their facilitiy department has gone through at least 15 employees because the vice-president of facility and real estate can't get along with her employees. None of the school employees got a raise and won't see one for another year. Can someone say a great company to work in philadelphia? Not, Camden, watch out.

Submitted by Jacob (not verified) on September 28, 2012 5:41 am

Everything I've been thinking.

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