SRC approves charter expansion, talks superintendent search
by thenotebook on Jun 08 2012 Posted in Latest news
by Katie McCabe
After a closed-door discussion of the superintendent search, the School Reform Commission met in public Friday morning and approved a request from Franklin Towne Charter High School to expand its enrollment by 250 seats next fall.
But there’s a catch – up to 65 percent of the students in each incoming freshman class will be expected to come from the catchment areas of targeted, overcrowded District-run schools in nearby communities in Northeast Philadelphia.
“A high-performing school prepared to accommodate students from our overcrowded schools is compelling, given our budget situation,” said Thomas Darden, who oversees the District’s charter office.
Franklin Towne Charter High was previously authorized to enroll 925 students.
The additional seats will cost the District about $1.8 million in per-pupil payments to the school.
Darden described the payment as a “net zero” for the District’s budget, however. Without the charter expansion, he said, the District would have to spend a similar amount of money to expand overcrowded schools.
Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky agreed with that logic.
“While there is significant expense here, it is well spent,” he said.
Dworetzky, however, suggested that a formal financial analysis on the impact of charter renewals and modifications be included for SRC consideration on future such votes.
“In the future, we’ve got to be more focused on what the costs are, and how they compare to the benefits of proposed modifications,” said Dworetzky.
After the meeting, Darden said such information will be provided in the future.
SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos also questioned Franklin Towne’s chief operating officer, Joseph Venditti, about the school’s controversial practice of charging every student a $45 admissions fee at the start of each school year.
Venditti called it “poor wording” and emphasized that it was not an admissions fee, but a lump-sum payment that is partially used to pay for student ID cards. He also added that no student would be precluded from enrollment based on an inability to pay the fee.
The meeting was pushed back by an hour and a half to make time for a morning SRC executive session focused on the search for a new District superintendent.
Commissioner Wendell Pritchett said the search committee expects to have a list of two to four finalists for the position within the next 10 days.
“We’re getting close,” Pritchett said.
He also explained that the SRC is working to develop a process that will enable the public to interact with the finalists before a hire is made.
“These candidates need to meet with students and parents,” Pritchett said.
To date, he said, the search for a new superintendent has been limited to the District’s search committee.