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District, Mastery reach agreement on serving disabled students at Clymer Elementary

By Benjamin Herold on Jun 12, 2012 08:52 PM
Photo: Benjamin Herold

At Mastery Charter Clymer Elementary in North Philadelphia, two classrooms for students with multiple disabilities will remain.

Updated, 7:55 p.m.


by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

The School District of Philadelphia and its largest charter school turnaround operator have agreed on the outlines of a deal that will prevent the relocation of 12 severely disabled children from one of the city’s Renaissance charters.

The deal avoids a potentially traumatic move for students in two Multiple Disabilities Support (MDS) classrooms at Mastery Charter Clymer Elementary in North Philadelphia. It also allays, at least for now, the concerns of disabilities rights advocates that the District had established a precedent for exempting charters from their responsibility to educate some of the city’s most vulnerable – and expensive to serve – students.

“I think we came up with a really positive solution,” said Courtney Collins-Shapiro, deputy chief innovation officer at Mastery Charter Schools

“I think this is a good sign of the District and charters partnering.”

Listen to Benjamin Herold's report for NewsWorks Tonight

Under the terms of the deal, Mastery will continue to operate the two specialized classrooms at Clymer, which the charter management organization inherited after taking over the school last year as part of the District’s Renaissance Schools initiative. The District will subsidize some of the cost of serving the students, though the exact amount and funding mechanism have yet to be agreed upon.

Before this week’s deal was reached, the MDS program at Mastery-Clymer was slated to be uprooted and moved into a District-run school on July 1 – the result of a controversial provision inserted into the school’s charter after District leaders overruled their own top academic and special education staff.

Word of the new plan came as a relief for parent Sonia Otero, whose 7-year-old daughter, Ulishka Jiminez, is intellectually and developmentally disabled and suffers from visual, orthopedic, and speech impairments. 

Mastery-Clymer “is a very good school for us to stay in," said Otero.

“It has a lot of benefits for my daughter, and for other kids as well.”

District and Mastery officials said they have been seeking a solution on the future of Clymer’s hugely expensive MDS program since January. After advocates complained twice about the issue publicly before the School Reform Commission last month and the Notebook/NewsWorks began asking questions last week, a deal came swiftly.

The arrangement is the best outcome for the students and families at Mastery-Clymer, said Jennifer Lowman, senior staff attorney at the Education Law Center.

But it should also put city education leaders on notice, she said.

“I hope that this is a wake up call that families and communities are not going to stand by and watch the District treat a group of kids as pawns in their efforts to make a deal with a private operator,” said Lowman.

‘The economics ... don’t work’ 

Standing in the concrete playground outside Mastery-Clymer Monday afternoon, Otero held up her cellphone, eager to take a picture of a simple sight she wasn’t sure she’d ever see.

Ulishka was about to go down the slide.

“She’s doing many things that the doctors said she would never be able to achieve,” said Otero, beaming.

“I feel like an excellent mother because my child can do so many things.”

Like all children placed into Multiple Disabilities Support classrooms, Ulishka has profound special needs. But the support and attention she has received at Mastery-Clymer this year has helped her blossom, said her mother.

“I’ve seen a lot of progress,” said Otero. “I’m very happy.”

In Philadelphia’s highly politicized education reform landscape, some have questioned whether charters, which now serve around 25 percent of Philadelphia’s public school students, are willing or able to serve those with special needs. Just last month, School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos himself voiced that skepticism.

“It’s a criticism [charters] must address,” said Ramos at the May 31 SRC meeting. 

“They are, as a sector, not carrying their share of the public responsibility.”

But Mastery – the city’s largest charter operator with a total of 10 schools, including five current Renaissance charters – is proud of its special education programming, said Collins-Shapiro. 

Eighteen percent of Mastery’s students have special needs, she said, compared to 14 percent in the District as a whole. The organization  now runs 10 regional “low-incidence” classrooms – for students with multiple disabilities, autism, and life skills support needs – serving 95 students across three schools.

“We are trying to put ourselves in a position to be a national model for charter schools serving special education kids,” said Collins-Shapiro.

By most accounts, Mastery has done a good job running the MDS program at Clymer this year.

But the cost of educating a child with multiple disabilities can run as high as $50,000 per year or more – two or three times as much as the flat per-pupil allocation for special education students provided by the state. 

Because each Renaissance charter functions as its own independent school district with its own budget, the cost of maintaining an expensive regional MDS program is prohibitive at a small school like Clymer, said officials from both the District and Mastery.

Most of the 12 MDS students at Clymer are not from the immediate neighborhood.  Within the District, the cost of such a regional special education center is spread out more widely and not borne entirely by the school in which it is located.

This year, Mastery raised $300,000 in private donations to keep the two classrooms running at Clymer. 

But over time, said Collins-Shapiro, “the economics of having a small school support regional special education programs don’t work.”

District initially overruled its own experts

Since starting to convert its low-performing schools to charters in 2010, the District has made it clear that outside managers are expected to maintain all special education programs in any school they seek to turn around.

The Request for Proposals issued by the District last year states:

Several of the Renaissance Schools may operate Special Education Placement Programs that provide special education supports to student that require autistic support (AS), life skills support (LSS), and multiple disability support (MDS) programs….Renaissance School Turnaround Teams must continue to provide all necessary services for these student populations.

Aware that Clymer housed both MDS and LSS classrooms, Mastery made an aggressive push to manage the school and was the overwhelming choice after a rigorous community process.

But shortly after being awarded the school, Mastery officials began voicing concerns to the District.

“Mastery raised the point very early on that these programs in this small a school were going to be a financial challenge for them,” said Thomas Darden, the District’s deputy for strategic initiatives.

Darden sympathized. But over the summer of 2011, the two sides failed to negotiate a solution.

As the school year drew near, a split emerged inside District headquarters over how the situation should be resolved.

Seeking to accommodate Mastery and help facilitate the overall school turnaround effort at Clymer, Darden’s office proposed that the District remove the MDS program from Clymer and open a new program in a District-run school nearby.

“We want these Renaissance charters to be successful,” he said.

“Our special ed team is fully equipped to run these types of programs.”

But the District’s top academic and special education staff, including current Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon, who was then assistant superintendent of schools, balked. 

“They were not in total agreement that this class should be moved,” acknowledged Darden.

With time running out, said Darden, then-Acting Superintendent Leroy Nunery II settled the dispute.

Nunery overrode the concerns of the District’s academic experts and authorized the inclusion of a two-sentence paragraph in the charter giving Clymer to Mastery: 

Commencing on July 1, 2012, and for the remainder of the Term, the Charter School shall not be required to maintain the MDS Program nor to provide the two (2) Multi-Disabilities Support classes at the Charter School.

At the time, said Darden, “we thought it was the best solution.”

But as Mastery began seeing promising results with the students in Clymer’s MDS classroom, the organization’s own special education staff began pushing its leadership to find a solution that would maintain continuity for the children in the program.

“You just feel like it’s inherently wrong to take away something that is working,” said Siobhan Leavy-Buttil, Mastery’s director of special education.

And when the special provision in the Mastery-Clymer charter became public this spring, disabilities rights advocates howled with outrage.

The agreement wasn’t just bad for kids, said the Education Law Center’s Lowman. It also established a dangerous precedent.

“It [sent] a message to the community and to these families [of children with special needs] that even though charter schools are the wave of the future in how we reform public education, it’s not going to help your kids.”

Lessons learned

Darden downplayed such concerns and described Mastery-Clymer as an “anomaly.”

There are 16 other “low-incidence” programs spread across the District’s 17 Renaissance charters, he stressed. None have been moved, and the District has no intention of subsidizing any of those programs.

Moving forward, said Darden, all Renaissance charters will be required to maintain “low-incidence” classrooms in turnaround schools.

“The District is definitely committed to that,” he said.

Officials from both the District and Mastery said that because the Renaissance initiative is still relatively new, thorny issues still inevitably arise. 

As a case in point, the District also agreed just last month to heavily subsidize the facilities costs of Universal Companies in two other Renaissance charters with relatively small student populations.

“We clearly have learned some lessons along the way,” said Darden. “We wish with hindsight we would have known about these challenges as we were selecting schools.”

They are proving to be expensive lessons to learn, however. 

At Audenried High and Vare Middle schools, the District is taking on $1.8 million in costs this year and an estimated $1.3 million next year to subsidize Universal. 

The exact amount of the subsidy to be provided to Mastery has yet to be agreed upon.

Despite the District’s budget woes, Darden defended the solution at Mastery-Clymer as “the right investment to make in the best interest of kids.”

The most important thing, stressed all involved, is that the 12 extraordinarily special, and extraordinarily needy, children in Mastery-Clymer’s MDS classrooms, will get a solution that best meets their needs.

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Comments (45)

Submitted by charter nonsense (not verified) on June 12, 2012 11:56 pm

Oh Great! Bring in the achievement networks so it will be much harder for even great people at the education law center to protect these kids. Mastery is DISGUSTING for even CONSIDERING that somehow these children were TOO EXPENSIVE. Do they seriously think that DISTRICT PRINCIPALS have any such opportunity. It's a
shame to see that Courtney Collins-Shapiro went over to the dark side. A great solution ehhh? No, you came to a place where you were forced to deal with the kids you are dealt.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 13, 2012 1:08 am

The problem is that when schools are run with the money in mind, the operators start looking at children with special needs -- who (gasp) often cost more than general education students -- as liabilities or detriments instead of as children who deserve an education as much as anyone else or as children who can be positive assets to a school's community. This is particularly true for the children who have the most severe disabilities. And what's even worse about attempts to transfer students with severe disabilities is that almost always, these students were born with severe needs -- it is no fault of either the parents or the child. I highly doubt that either Leroy Nunery or Thomas Darden has a child with severe special needs because, if they did, they would likely have acted with more compassion toward these students who are very vulnerable.

Submitted by former mastery teacher (not verified) on June 12, 2012 11:46 pm

At Mastery we don't push them out, we get our contracts to write them out.

Submitted by Wake Up Philly (not verified) on June 13, 2012 7:10 am

Thanks for saying this - those of us who are in the Education Community know this to be true! Charters are not private schools as some like to think - they are publicly funded schools with tax payers dollars! FAPE is for all children!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2012 11:01 pm

Ironically, with their Republican pedigree, clean, safe buildings and well-trained kids' testing results, Mastery has a credibility that could place them in a position to advocate for adequate PUBLIC investment for ALL of our kids - if Mastery says its needed, then it must be true. Yet, in this case they did it because an employee pushed for it - not the business managers or the fundraisers of Mastery - but the educator Shiobhan - this is hopeful but I suspect rare. Afterall, everyone has one-year, at-will contracts there. Dont have a bad year & think long & hard about starting a family.

More common, Mastery admins are tapping private donors moved by white guilt to supplement the inadequate public dollars. Typical 1% ers - donors pick how they want to contribute to society instead of paying taxes like everyone else. Paying taxes does not make you feel good or give you things to brag about at cocktail parties. No FUN!!!

More nefarious, Mastery brass are probably lobbying in H-burg for vouchers so they can be free free free of those onerous regulations protecting vulnerable kids. Vouchers pass, they flip their charters to the wind and become private schools that can control costs better.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 13, 2012 1:41 am

I'm VERY satisfied that the District and Mastery resolved the issue in order to keep the children at Clymer. It is both the ethical thing to do and the legal thing to do. What Darden and Nunery did was potentially illegal, putting the District at risk of litigation. Disability advocates such as Cathy Roccia-Meier and June Bey, who spoke at SRC meetings, deserve a great deal of credit for standing up for the children with multiple/severe special needs.

I am also pleased that "Mastery raised $300,000 in private donations to keep the two classrooms running." The District subsidy is a reasonable way to resolve the issue. However, it would be more appropriate for the state to provide the subsidy since, ultimately, the state sets the special education funding formula (which, as most of us are aware, is flawed). In addition, Mastery should have accounted for the cost of serving these students with multiple disabilities PRIOR TO aggressively pursuing Clymer.

After reading the article, I also see an example of someone with a background in education (Penny Nixon) and someone with a business background (Leroy Nunery) disagreeing over the course of action. Penny Nixon's inclination was correct while Leroy Nunery's inclination was that of a businessman, more concerned about the bottom line than what was ethical, legal, or in the BEST INTEREST of the children!

Also, provided that Mastery does a good job of providing special education services, it is positive for the children with disabilities to stay at Clymer because the neighborhood high school is Mastery Gratz, and Gratz has programs for children with multiple and severe disabilities. Thus, staying at Clymer will allow these children to attend neighborhood schools from K through 12 and remain with the same service provider, which may reduce issues with paperwork and service coordination versus transferring between Mastery and the District.

Most importantly, this resolution serves parents and children like Ms. Otero and her daughter Ulishka . I love the article's last paragraph:

"The most important thing, stressed all involved, is that the 11 extraordinarily special, and extraordinarily needy, children in Mastery-Clymer’s MDS classrooms, will get a solution that best meets their needs."

I just wish Mastery and the District had done the right thing from the start instead of the second time around.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2012 6:19 am

I disagree with their solution- again the district pays for a company to make more money.

Submitted by Wake Up Philly (not verified) on June 13, 2012 8:42 am

While I agree with the majority of the statements made by Education Grad Student abut the benefits to the children, I wholly disagree concerning the subsidized funding by the SDP.

I totally agree with Anonymous. The SDP does not have the financial ability to subsidize Mastery. The SDP needs to concentrate on maintaining and financing its' "traditional public schools." I don't see the donations flooding into the SDP in order to help the SDP to maintain "traditional public schools" by the 1%ers.

I whole heartedly support the MDS Class not losing any services, I cringe at the fact the SDP is using dollars needed to help all children by giving dollars to a "private organization" who has the ability to garner the dollars needed through donations. Dollars that the SDP DOES NOT HAVE. No one can tell me that Mastery did not realize the costs involved, if you can prove it, then I say they are not qualified as a business to run a school, especially if they don't know what it will cost in dollars and cents. I truly believe that they went into this knowing full well what the costs would be to maintain these classes. Due to the politics in this City and the SDP they knew they would received a subsidy. The SDP and the SRC need to stop awarding subsidies to "special interest."

Kudos to the educator at Mastery. The education of our children is guaranteed to them by FAPE!

Thank God Penny Nixon is the voice of reason for our children!

Universal - once again here is Kenny Gamble (who I need to research in order to see his organization's financial worth) receiving a free ride on the backs of our children. Really - a VERBAL AGREEMENT that will be honored!!! The SDP and the SRC does not honor WRITTEN CONTRACTS, so why would they honor a verbal agreement??? Does anyone have current statistics on how Universal's Charter Schools are faring? He has received a brand new building for free that the SDP paid for and why???? Perhaps Ackerman and Archie should help their friend by donating the dollars to Universal. SRC continue to give the dollars that you don't have away! It is the "rational" way to do business! Continue on the path to bankrupt our "traditional public schools." I believe that is your full intent and purpose!

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 13, 2012 8:17 pm

Wake Up Philly,

As I said, I think it was Mastery's own fault for putting themselves in this predicament by wanting to takeover a small school like Clymer. They should have been aware of it or once they became aware, it might have been wise to say to the District, "We can't take on this school because there isn't enough special education funding." What puzzles me is why they could not have pooled their special education money with other Mastery campuses to help support the MDS classes at Clymer. My understanding is that the District pools their money for the whole district and then distributes it. That must be how they do it, otherwise the District could not have afforded the MDS program at Clymer either. (Maybe Rich Migliore would know more about this because he's also a lawyer).

I don't like the fact that the District has to help subsidize the MDS programs, but I see it as a lesser of two evils situation. If the District didn't subsidize the MDS programs now, it would result in (a) the 11 children with multiple disabilities having to leave the school and (b) puts the District at risk for losing more money down the road due to potential litigation. So by subsidizing the program, they are acting in the best interest of the children and potentially avoiding some additional financial risk down the road. Also, because the money is going to support programs for children with severe disabilities, I'm more comfortable with the "bailout" -- even though I don't like the bailout in principle. However, as I stated in my initial comment, I think that the STATE should have provided the subsidy since they are the ones who set the flawed special ed funding formula.

Mastery is not getting a free pass in the same way that Universal is getting a free ride by not having to pay any building expenses this year at Vare and Audenried. In addition, Mastery raised over $300,000 to support the MDS programs this year, so that shows that they acted in a bit better faith than Universal, which didn't even try to raise money (or so it appears that way). If the District really cared about protecting their own money, they would have told Mastery to find the money to support the programs or played hardball with Mastery and said, "You wanted this school so bad. Now that you can't support all of the students, and you're asking us for money, we [the District] are going to take back the school."

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on June 13, 2012 10:29 pm

 There should be no evils. The District educated these children before the school was Renaissanced. The fact that a new "provider" comes in and claims poverty is insane. The only problem in this situation is that Mastery decided that it was not fiscally prudent to educate a particular group of students. I agree with your concluding statement, though I have not witnessed a willingness on the part of the SDP to do so. I also see a grave danger in the idea that we need to "raise" "extra" monies to fund programs for children with multiple disabilities.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 13, 2012 11:53 pm

I also see a grave danger in the idea that we need to "raise" "extra" monies to fund programs for children with multiple disabilities.
I totally agree. My hope is that the District and Mastery have learned their lessons and that the kind of situation which happened at Mastery NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN. When it comes to public education, the funds for it should come from taxpayer dollars. There should not be a need to provide basic services using private money because this puts extra hands and interests into the pot. If someone wants to pay for upgrading a building, and have the building bear their name, that's fine. I believe that this is what happened at Daroff School. I know someone who taught there for many years and she said that the Daroff family donated some money to build the new school building. However, special education is not an extra cost or an upgrade -- it is a CORE function of pubic schools. If charter schools can't support special education students, then they should not be in the "business" of providing education.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 17, 2012 1:23 pm

If you know SDP specialized programming, you know that it's 50/50 that these students were ACTUALLY getting ALL they needed in previous years. If they had been, the parent in this article wouldn't have been so astounded at the progress her daughter made this year - it would have been normal.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 18, 2012 11:30 pm

And this is a problem with special education. Often times, in order for a child to receive the proper level of special education services, the parent must be a very strong advocate for the child and have a good understanding of their rights. Unfortunately, some parents neither have the knowledge or understanding of their rights nor the time or energy to fight for their child as much as necessary. When you work 40 hours or more per week from 9 to 5 or 8 to 4 or 7 to 3 without flex time, and you have to work as much as possible in order to keep your job and/or to put food on the table, it can be hard to take off time from work to advocate for your child, even if you want to do so. And the parent/legal guardian has to sign the special ed documents, not a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or cousin.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 13, 2012 6:29 pm

pollyanna don't have nothing on you.
dude - they're cockroaches. they're not trying to do the right thing. they say whatever they have to whenever someone flicks on the lights and they're caught. as soon as the spotlight is off, it's back to business as usual.

Submitted by Concerned Philadlephian (not verified) on June 13, 2012 5:11 am

Darden's allegiance is to the charter operators - especially Universal and Mastery. He states he wants Renaissance Charters to succeed. Unfortunately, Darden doesn't want Philly's public schools to succeed. Nevertheless, he his paid a handsome salary by the School District of Philadelphia.

All charter providers should assume ALL of their costs. Since the SDP is "absorbing" costs for the Renaissance Charters, they are giving an unfair advantage.

Darden and Nunnery need to resign. I'm sure Mastery will give them a job in their rapidly expanding central office.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2012 8:53 pm

Yes -- first, if you can't handle a low-incidence class, then you shouldn't build a network of schools. Second, while MDS/LSS kids are more expensive to educate, why isn't Mastery offering to refund SDP for all of the kids getting group speech lessons twice per month? The special education per pupil (while not adequate or well-structured) is intended to average out over ALL services provided. You don't get to choose only the least affected to the cheapest to educate.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on June 17, 2012 8:08 am

You raise a point that needs some investigative reporting: what are the numbers for the special needs children serviced by the SPD and the charters, broken down by disability and cost of intervention. Obviously, it is to the benefit of anyone playing the numbers game to populate their special education program with kids who need Speech and Language interventions as opposed to more time-consuming and costly interventions. (This is not to say that the Speech and Language kids are getting the most appropriate programs, only that it is easier to gloss over their needs and use the money generated by them to defray other special education costs.) Why can't we see line by line budgets from all schools?

Submitted by Brody (not verified) on June 17, 2012 11:47 am

How do you think that Chester Community Charter School has been making alot of their money, and draining the district at the same time :/

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 17, 2012 12:49 pm

They diagnose students as special ed who really are not special ed so they can charge the state and school district more money per student. Then they give them token services. It is part of the scam game that Vahan Guregian plays. Of course, he gets away with it because Corbett is the man who gets hundreds of thousands $ from Guregian in campaign contributions. See how much of the money goes to Vahan's own management company-- over $5,000.00 per student.

One of the reasons Corbett is pushing for the new distressed school districts takeover legislation is that the elected school board in Chester sued the state in federal court for adequate funding and included Chester Community Charter School in their suit.

They are the money and power games of the republicans. Check where Senator Piccola gets his campaign contributions from. He is the one sponsoring the legislation. It's about "the money-go-round."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 17, 2012 2:01 pm

Working in a Mastery school, the breakdown is similar to district: primarily SLD, with many ED (more by % than district schools I worked in), SLI, OHI, followed by low-incidence. There is no screening process for IEP or disability.

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on June 13, 2012 7:05 am

This article highlights many of the issues that are wrong with Mastery and its special insider treatment. They excluded students illegally for their own best interests of making money, achievement propaganda and growing into a mega operation of privatization and self interest.

When are we going to require all charter schools to publicly publish a detailed budget of their incoming assets, their sources, and their expenditures? Are we treating them as private schools for the interests of its operators or as public schools?

Our SRC and administration are not here to serve the interests of Scott Gordon and his self serving business interests. The SRC and administration are here to serve the best interests of our children and our communities.

Mr. Darden the district administration and the SRC should get their priorities straight.

There is nothing good about what happened here other than Mastery is being forced to stop playing its games at the expense of children we are obligated to serve and serve well.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 13, 2012 8:45 pm


I totally agree that Mastery should publish their budgets. The District puts their budgets on their website, and so should Mastery and other charters. I would also like to see each charter school put up data on their enrollment and demographics (ELL, special ed, race/ethnicity, economically disadvantaged), just like the SDP does.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2012 10:50 am

Let's make sure that this is not a charter school issue. The city's charter schools cannot get this type of treatment or consideration. Renaissance charters are not the same as regular charters and get special treatment.

Submitted by Mark (not verified) on June 13, 2012 10:16 am

As soon as you start playing cat and mouse games with kids' lives, you are playing a shell game. Mastery is the biggest farce of all though lots of the so called charter schools are closing fast. Actually, I forgot Kenny Gamble who clearly has an uphill climb to get to the bottom. More and more, these fraudulent schools will be exposed and the politicians behind them will hopefully be exposed too. By the way, isn't it remarkable that Nutter claims to have known NOTHING about the SRC agenda in Harrisburg even though he was with them up there. That's a microcosm of how dumb he thinks we are. Jerry !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on June 13, 2012 2:01 pm

Would be interested in continuing this conversation offline.
If you care to reveal yourself to me (confidentiality will be maintained)then email me at If you choose not to respond I will respect your decision.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 13, 2012 11:24 am

I sit here reading this stuff and the dishonesty of it all is so shocking and disheartening.

It is time for the SRC to call a moratorium on the "charter operator" scheme and focus on running our true public schools and true charter schools in an efficient and pedagogically sound manner for the best interests of all children and their communities.

All we ever focus on is who is going to have power, control and profit over our schools. We hardly ever speak about how to improve our schools for the benefit of all children.

What is more alarming is that our leaders think it is alright to have our public schools run by a group of private interests who actively circumvent the democratic process of the governance of our schools.

When are we going to adjust our moral compass?

Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on June 13, 2012 12:50 pm

The pirates have been aboard for a while now, Rich. There is no talk about education. Illegal actions, like the Mastery deal re SPED populations, are presented as normal, and are unchallenged, except by long marginalized educators. These are indeed ethical issues, but there is law to fall back on: SRC is implementing a discriminatory system of education, violating the State constitution, but more potently, the 14th Amendment of equal protection.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 13, 2012 1:43 pm

Your comment warms my heart. Especially since I have just been reading a University of Pennsylvania labor law article which discusses the constitutionality of Act 46 because it is discriminatory in nature.

The article cites a 2002 Commonwealth Court case, too. There are serious constitutional issues with what is going on -- both state and federal issues.

I also smile at your comment because I entitled one of my chapters in my book on democratic leadership and governance: "Pirate Democracy & the Privately Managed Schools."

Did you know that pirate ships were some of the most democratically governed communities in the history of mankind? Neither did I until I read Pat Croce's "Pirate Soul" and watched a show on the history channel about pirate culture.

To quote Pat Croce, "This democratic system aboard ship placed authority in the collective hands of the pirate crew."

Submitted by Mark (not verified) on June 13, 2012 1:37 pm

So let's see, Harrisburg and D.C. know all this is happening. They get cable and have phones. NOBODY is filing lawsuits on the kids' behalf. Why?? I can understand Corbett and his sock sniffing minions in the SRC ignoring the obvious wrongs but no democrats are doing much either, it comes, Obama, Truth is, we have no political back up at all which is unbelievable but true. WE, The PEOPLE, need to galvanize, and mobilize with malice or the stampede will only continue. Call it what you want but unless we do it, we're dead in the water.

Submitted by Ken Derstine on June 13, 2012 2:01 pm

There is this:
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 Mark (not verified) on June 13, 2012 1:27 pm

Not until we force it to happen and if we don't, it won't. All the platitudes and moral headbanging mean nothing to these folks. If anything, they think it's funny. Money is all that counts, money for the operator--a great word too, and money for the pols behind each charter. That's all folks !!

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 13, 2012 11:17 pm

Amen Rich!

Schools are supposed to model democracy for students. This starts with having an elected school board and making public the contracts of charters, in the same way that the PFT makes their contract public. Kids are very observant. When they see that adults act crookedly, dishonestly, and are all about the money, kids think it's okay to act the same way.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 13, 2012 10:26 am

Remind me again why a Renaissance school needs a charter operator?

Submitted by Mark (not verified) on June 13, 2012 10:17 am

How dare Mastery be expected to admit students it doesn't want because of the revenue issue. The farce continues. I'm SURE Mastery was worried that the scandal would go nationwide and expose them as the coldblooded bean counters that ALL charters are.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 17, 2012 2:07 pm

If by bean counting, you mean a non-profit that provides quality education to children and graduates more neighborhood children by percent than the district (the beans that are being counted), then yes, you're right.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 17, 2012 2:23 pm

How can you say that Mastery graduates more neighborhood children by percent than the district? This is the first year that they have a neighborhood high school and they count their beans with funny math.

Mastery is the best at gaming the system and the test scores.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 17, 2012 2:31 pm

This a troll--just ignore it. This is likely bleat again.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 17, 2012 2:29 pm

Please--the troll speaks.

Submitted by Dina (not verified) on June 13, 2012 1:51 pm

Mastery says this would be a challenge for them. And here we learn that: "The District will subsidize some of the cost of serving the students, though the exact amount and funding mechanism have yet to be agreed upon." I'm happy to have my tax dollars support our city's students. But why do charters get "breaks" and then get to claim that they do so much better?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2012 3:13 pm

That subsidized amount will likely be above 70% though it likely will be covered up. Again, another example of the corruption surrounding Philly and closing in fast on the backs of our children. Actually, I'm surprised they admitted anything.

Submitted by RogueTeacher (not verified) on June 13, 2012 7:17 pm

This is exactly what is wrong with turning over public schools to charters. It will create more and more, a segregated system. It appears to be going backwards, not forward.

Can someone clarify what exactly Renaissance schools are for me please. Are the teachers there SDP employees or employees of the charter operator? Does it operate like Edison did when they came in, or is it more of a separation of employment from the SDP?

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 19, 2012 12:45 am

It depends on the operator. Here's an overview of the Renaissance Schools Initiative: Promise Academies are District-run Renaissance schools, so the staff are SDP employees. When a charter operator takes over a school, the teachers and staff become employees of the charter operator. They are no longer District employees.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2012 9:04 pm

there shouldn't have to be any are a school, therefore, you must educate all of the children! pisses me want to turn schools around and get "credit" for test scores, but you want to pick and choose.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2012 9:36 pm

meanwhile they get breaks and the poor teachers of the PSD will have class sizes well over 33 students

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 17, 2012 2:58 pm

Talk to the district and state who mismanaged finances and resources for decades. THERE is where SDP's problems lie... Be active and voice your opinion, but don't come after people who are trying to solve the problem.

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