Please Join Today!
view counter

SRC mum on KIPP plan to move into closing Wilson Elementary

By the Notebook on Jun 20, 2013 04:08 PM

by Sonia Giebel

Backed by several neighborhood parents, KIPP Philadelphia CEO Marc Mannella publicly asked School Reform Commission members Wednesday night to endorse -- or at least discuss – his offer to open a kindergarten in the closing Wilson Elementary School.

“If we were to want to do something with this for the ’13-’14 school year, obviously time is getting late, but this is something that we feel we could do today,” he told the commissioners.

But he was met by stony silence.

Several parents pleaded with the SRC to keep Wilson open, with KIPP operating a kindergarten and gradually taking over the 1st through 5th grades.

“Closing Wilson … has given parents grief and despair,” said Patricia Carr, whose child is graduating from Wilson this year. “Our neighborhood will be losing one of our central institutions.”

But the SRC is determined to freeze any expansion by charter schools until it solves its budget crisis, which has forced it to lay off more than 3,800 employees and cut personnel and operations in its schools to a bare minimum -- just a principal and classroom teachers.

As part of its austerity plan, the District has been tussling with charter organizations, including KIPP, about agreeing to enrollment caps as a condition of their renewal.

Mannella, however, has formed an alliance with several parents in the Wilson area who have not stopped protesting the decision to close their school and send its students to Lea Elementary, which is more than a mile away. They see KIPP's offer as a chance to save the school, and KIPP wants to expand its operations in West Philadelphia to create a K-12 network.

The 100-seat kindergarten at Wilson would be the start of a new school called KIPP: Encourage.

Wilson supporters hope to retain the 1st through 5th grades, to be run by the District at first, with KIPP phasing into Wilson gradually, absorbing those grades in the coming years.

Mannella has not endorsed that idea specifically.

This partnership “will be building community and relationships,” said parent Zandria Carr.

“We think we can be helpful to the School District, which is our key strategic partner at this time,” said Mannella in an interview after being rebuffed by the SRC. “We think we can be helpful to a community that’s going through some turmoil, and we think we can help a whole bunch of kids.”

Mannella said he could run the kindergarten at KIPP: Encourage for one year without incurring costs to the District. He has not disclosed how he intends to do this and did not comment on whether a $1.5 million expansion grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership, awarded to KIPP in March, played a role in his budget. 

After one year, KIPP would require District funding.

Mannella first aired the plan last week at a community meeting chaired by City Council member Jannie Blackwell. At the time, he said that he had been in discussions with Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn and had not received a definitive answer one way or the other.

Sonia Giebel is an intern at the Notebook.

Click Here
view counter

Comments (14)

Submitted by drlakeels on June 20, 2013 7:54 pm
fishy fishy the whole thing is fishy
Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 20, 2013 7:21 pm
reminds me of those old anti-marijuana films they used to show in school where the pusher-man would give you the first bag free just to get you hooked. next thing you know the kid was whacking his mother over the head with a vase to steal her bingo money and buy more reefer.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on June 20, 2013 8:42 pm
Stony silence here too.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 20, 2013 9:31 pm
It is insulting - and ludicrous - to allow KIPP to open an elementary school in an area that, according to the SRC, is under enrolled. KIPP does not take "catchment" students - it has a lottery. Wilson is also in a gentrified area - I'm sure the SDP can get a decent amount for the building. The SRC / Hite / Khin / Phila. School Partnership have no credibility nor integrity. They are dismantling the public schools in Philly while expanding charters. To allow KIPP to open in a closed high performing school is ... I can't think of any words to describe it.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on June 20, 2013 11:26 pm
I can think of some words to use but The Nopebook would punish me. Everything you stated is correct and the fact that they continue to do it with IMPUNITY, is stunning. Unless it is stopped, this will be the death knoll of democracy in Phila.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on June 21, 2013 6:45 am
Of course you are right about the death knell of democracy Joe. And you have been persistent in pointing this out. You have even been a bit cranky, dare I say oppositional on the topic. You remind me of a child in a dysfunctional family system (Philadelphia) screaming the truth to be heard. Cries falling on deaf ears. Here in this birthplace of democracy we seem anesthetized to what we are giving away. Here on this forum for discussion we find ourselves in surreal conversations such as recently when democracy was brought up as perhaps NOT the way to resolve public school issues. As a culture, we seem to be too lazy to do the work that democracy requires I hope the Notebook, or the Nopebook as you call it, will continue to publish your views. Increasingly, I look to read them, to hear a voice of reason.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on June 21, 2013 7:20 am
Please take all the time you need to applaud me, I can man up and take it. Seriously, I saw that comment too about Democracy being questioned. Yes, it was Bizarro World talk and not to be taken seriously. Jefferson once said that some people give freedom of speech a bad name. Having said that, that poster reminds me of Chuck Stone, a writer way back in the day, who wrote a daily column for The Daily News. Nobody I knew had a clue what he was saying for years. He seemed more interested in, MUCH more interested in, sounding intelligent than communicating with the readers. Just sayin. Again, please feel free to say nice things about me and take all the time and space you need. Hopefully, The Nopebook will print it. Yes, we are lazy which is a better adjective to describe us than complacent. Pond scum and despicable also come to mind but not about you and me.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 23, 2013 4:58 pm
It is interesting that the Wilson parents wanted a joint KIPP/district model that KIPP wasn't even in favor of. Goes to show KIPP didn't completely astroturf the testimony unlike some other operators, *cough* Universal *cough*.
Submitted by Andy (not verified) on June 24, 2013 9:44 am
I live in the Wilson catchment, and Lea is an attractive, walkable alternative (it's 3/4 of a mile or less for most of us). Wilson's principal is moving to Lea, and parents and the University of Pennsylvania are increasingly helping out at Lea. The likely result of KIPP's plan would be to peal kids away from Comegy and other schools further west, which would put Comegy's long-term future in jeopardy. We ought to rally around the schools we still have, rather than let these charters divide and conquer. If population continues to expand in University City, let's look to open another public school in a few years, but for now, we do not have the 100 kindergartens to give to KIPP unless it's at the expense of our other local schools.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 24, 2013 12:13 pm
KIPP has lost its credibility in my eyes with that move. They are looking out for themselves over the best interests of all students, the community itself and the common good. Personally, I like Marc and all of their employees who I have met. But I have to call it like I see it.
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on June 24, 2013 12:32 pm
KIPP keeps expanding under its own terms. They add "seats" and want to be reimbursed. Now, they try to take over a school is a plumb location but only under their terms - it will NOT be a neighborhood school. KIPP has the backing of the Phila. School Partnership - a very secretive and destructive force in the School District. It is another institution that does whatever it wants and brags about it.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 24, 2013 2:43 pm
Annonym, I totally agree that KIPP is trying to do things on their terms. A few parents come and voice their support for the plan and it looks like there is community support. I can't say for certain, but it seems that the parents' endorsement of KIPP's "plan" comes from the desperation and powerless feeling of losing Wilson as a neighborhood school. They are grasping at straws to preserve some sort of neighborhood school in their neighborhood. However, given a legitimate choice, would the parents prefer KIPP or Wilson? That's the real question. KIPP doesn't operate neighborhood schools. So if the Wilson community wants a neighborhood school, KIPP in the Wilson building is not the answer. The Wilson community's desperation and grasping at straws plays perfectly into the hands of KIPP and Mr. Mannella. Mannella is being defiant in a very sneaky way. He is trying to convince the SRC and the District to budge on their position of no charter expansion. How would KIPP treat such sneaky, defiant behavior from its STUDENTS? Again, this raises the issue of double standards. Mannella is using the community support to his advantage and he's acting cooperative, e.g. "We'll expand one grade at a time," in order to try and get his way of expanding KIPP's population. But let's be realistic: How could KIPP and the District coexist in operating the Wilson school? There are so many differences in approach---personnel policies, length of the school day, classroom management. How could KIPP's school and the District's school coexist in the same building with shared common spaces and a need to collaborate in order to serve students? Which of the two principals would be in charge? Some business people would regard Mannella's move as a very shrewd business move. But, Mannella's school will be funded largely with public money, and as such, there needs to be a public process, not a self-interested process. EGS
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 24, 2013 2:22 pm
Andy, Thank you for saying, "We ought to rally around the schools we still have, rather than let these charters divide and conquer." Divide and conquer is exactly what these charter schools are doing. It works because each school matters to larger ecosystem of The School District of Philadelphia. Think about human development and natural environments. One cul-de-sac pops up next to a wetland. The wetland still remains intact, but it's less stable than it was before the cul-de-sac arrived. Another cul-de-sac pops up, and then come the big-box stores. Each of these developments takes away part of the ecosystem, disrupting the ecosystem. Each additional disruption to the ecosystem is more destructive than the one before because the disruptions are cumulative in effect. The disruption to the ecosystem eventually reaches a tipping point at which what remains of the ecosystem collapses because there are so many missing pieces that the ecosystem cannot survive. The wetland no longer is a functioning wetland and the developers can finish off the wetland by filling it in or dressing it up as a showcase piece of open space within the developed environment. What charter schools have done, especially the charter management organizations, is weakened the ecosystem of the SDP piece by piece---via divide and conquer---that the SDP can no longer survive without massive intervention. And it is unlikely, and in some ways impossible, for the necessary intervention to occur. There is already permanent damage to the system---e.g. a brian drain of talent from the SDP to charter schools and other school districts---that will take a long time to repair. I would encourage everyone to read the following commentary by Dr. Leslie T. Fenwick, dean of the Howard University School of Education, about what urban school reform really means: Ed school dean: Urban school reform is really about land development (not kids) EGS
Submitted by Amyikfg10 (not verified) on July 16, 2014 7:36 am

The issues regarding schools in Philadelphia have been making the news headlines

for a long time. I heard the news on parents pleading SRC to keep the Wilson

open. I hope that the authorities take proper actions to solve this issue.


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

By using this service you agree not to post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. We reserve the right to delete or remove any material deemed to be in violation of this rule, and to ban anyone who violates this rule. Please see our "Terms of Usage" for more detail concerning your obligations as a user of this service. Reader comments are limited to 500 words. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

Follow Us On

Read the latest print issue

Philly Ed Feed

Recent Comments


Public School Notebook

699 Ranstead St.
Third Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: (215) 839-0082
Fax: (215) 238-2300

© Copyright 2013 The Philadelphia Public School Notebook. All Rights Reserved.
Terms of Usage and Privacy Policy