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District delays one school's Renaissance charter vote

By Bill Hangley Jr. on Apr 28, 2014 06:15 PM

In a surprise move, District officials announced today that they will delay the vote scheduled for Thursday to determine the future of Muñoz-Marín Elementary in Kensington and are considering whether to postpone the vote at Edward T. Steel Elementary in Nicetown.

Spokesperson Raven Hill said the consideration was "due to the number of requests from parents." No new date has been set for the Muñoz-Marín vote. 

Hill did not offer any details on those requests or on parents' specific concerns. She said the District can't say today exactly when it will make a final decision on the voting process or how long the delay might be.

When parents do vote, they’ll be asked to either approve their school’s match with a charter provider or opt to stay under direct District management.

Kendra Brooks, the head of the Steel School Advisory Council, called the possibility of a delay “ridiculous.” Steel will be voting on whether to be managed by Mastery Charter Schools.

“This is just further torture and torment for parents – we’ve been going through this for 30 days, and now we’re going to go through it for another 30 days?” Brooks said. “They haven’t told us what additional information they’re going to share.”

Charisma Presley, a community organizer with Concerned Neighbors of Nicetown, said the decision was “not acceptable.” She believes the District is considering a delay because it’s concerned that Mastery may lose the vote at Steel.

“I think they realized people are learning more and more,” she said. “This is just another ploy to get us to accept Mastery.”

However, Tanesha Bolt, a Steel parent who has said she’ll vote to support Mastery, said the possible delay would be a good thing, allowing parents more time to visit Mastery schools and consider their options.

“Time is everything,” Bolt said. “I think they should delay it. I don’t think they should have sprung it on so many individuals at such a fast pace.

“But also, for the parents, they have to be willing to take the time to visit.

“It’s a two-way street. The District is trying to do its job, and the parents have to do their job as well.”

LaToya Butler, another Mastery supporter, said she was disappointed in the possible delay.

“It will probably make it harder [for Mastery], because it seems like the teachers are out there rallying the parents up against Mastery.” On the other hand, she said, when report cards come out in June, “parents might see how poorly their children are doing,” and that could tip the scales in the charter school’s favor.

A delay makes life harder for parents, Butler said. “They were prepared to come out on May 1,” she said.

Mastery officials said they preferred not to comment on the possible delay before learning more.

However, in a recent interview conducted before the possible delay was announced, Mastery CEO Scott Gordon said that the compressed timeframe of the 2014 Renaissance process has made for a tough campaign.  Matches were announced on April 1, with votes scheduled for just a month later.

“It’s been very difficult introducing ourselves to parents in this timeframe,” Gordon said.

District officials say that Tuesday night’s meeting at Steel, where Mastery officials and Steel’s principal will present their respective plans for the school, will go ahead as planned.

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Comments (34)

Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on April 28, 2014 6:17 pm
Mastery is losing?
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on April 28, 2014 6:38 pm
Gordon of Mastery Inc. called gaining STeel a "tough campaign." So, that is what he thinks of Philadelphia public schools?
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 28, 2014 6:58 pm
FYI, "tough campaign" is my phrase, not his. I was paraphrasing what he said about the challenge of this particular process.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 28, 2014 8:53 pm
Hi Bill, I have two questions for you. (1) What are the voting rules which are to be followed for the vote? Is it going to be "one family -- one vote" or is it going to be some other scenario? Are the voting rules written down anywhere? Any other way is arguably unfair because some children only have one parent in their family while others may have two involved parents? A Mastery teacher told me the other night that it would be "one family -- one vote." However, you still need "election rules" to hold an election. (2) Has anyone in the Notebook investigated the SAC member's complaint made at the SRC meeting the other night that the district had changed the process and requirements for selecting the SAC members. We all heard her raise the issue with the SRC. Terrilyn McCormick of Parent's United had raised that question earlier in the day. I requested a copy of the voting rules from the charter school office, but did not get any response. Are the voting rules secret?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 28, 2014 10:01 pm
There are *major* unaddressed process/authority questions that are totally unresolved, both these and others. Those questions about SAC membership and whether it's being manipulated were important. Also, what process is actually supposed to apply to a decision that is essentially to award a major contract for public funds to a private provider? We are talking millions, annually. Is it the parents? Hite? The SRC? Paul Kihn? Do they have to reveal the actual costs/terms of the contract before the SRC approves? Is the SRC event approving the specific terms or just the overall idea? Is anyone f---ing in charge here? The new policies around charter approvals that were adopted last week at the marathon SRC meeting purport to set up new dukes that would validate the approach being taken here to non-competitively match public schools with specific private providers. But is any of this actually kosher? Can the media please dig in here? File a right to know request for all communications between District staff and Mastery/Aspira, to shed some light on why - while we are facing deep budget shortfalls - why these schools, why these providers, why now? Is it public interest that is driving the proposal to convert these two schools, or private pressure to create a contracting opportunity ($$$)?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 28, 2014 10:45 pm
"...purport to set up new rules..." that is. Not "new dukes". :)
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 29, 2014 3:08 am
Those are all great questions. The short answer is that the whole process seems to be pretty murky even to those involved right now. I plan to go to the meeting tomorrow - I'd expect they'll be prepared to offer some more insight. If they vote at all, of course.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 28, 2014 9:08 pm
PS. What happens if the parents vote one way and the SAC team votes the other way? Who decides?
Submitted by Lisa Haver on April 28, 2014 10:07 pm
It is important to remember that the parents do not have final say no matter when the vote is taken. The SRC does. I asked the members of the SRC last Thursday (at 11:35 PM) whether they intended to honor the votes taken by the parents at both schools. None of them answered. The SRC does not want to be put in the position of blatantly disregarding the parents at these schools. Parents and community members have been fighting to keep the schools public, and they have gotten a very positive response. It is obvious what Hite is doing here.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 28, 2014 6:20 pm
Tell these parents to talk with parents from some of the other schools that have already gone through this process. Everyone is nice until the vote is taken. Then they could care less about you or anyone else involved in the school they were just awarded.
Submitted by Ken (not verified) on April 28, 2014 7:04 pm
The quote of the year: “It will probably make it harder [for Mastery], because it seems like the teachers are out there rallying the parents up against Mastery.” On the other hand, she said, when report cards come out in June, “parents might see how poorly their children are doing,” and that could tip the scales in the charter school’s favor. Give my kids a good grade or we are voting for Mastery!!!
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on April 28, 2014 7:24 pm
Delaying the vote due to what? Bad polling? Wasn't that what the Bolsheviks did in the Petrograd Soviet? Or did they just occupy the important buildings a call off the process. Is that in the Renaissance programs future?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 28, 2014 7:22 pm
Then, why was the principal at Steel told today that Mastery was taking over??!
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on April 28, 2014 7:52 pm
Because maybe they don't need no vote.
Submitted by Stephen R. Flemming (not verified) on April 28, 2014 9:28 pm
According to someone who received what I'm about to say, Mastery also was giving away boxes of fried chicken and $200 Visa cards. The chicken? I spoke with someone who jot only saw it, but had some. The gift cards, per a person in the room during meetings. What does this have to do with anything? Perhpas it's nothing, but if parents are bought with boxes of fried chicken and Visa gift cards? Well... Oh and ditto with the grades thing! Give our children good grades or else? Wow!
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on April 28, 2014 10:01 pm
Fried Chicken and Gift Cards!!! Wow where do I sign the Mastery Proxy. I suspect this is an apocryphal story. It is very heavy handed and I doubt Mastery is that dumb.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 29, 2014 7:46 am
Charters will stoop as low as they are allowed in order to win.. bribery is not beneath them!.. Universal promised jobs, dinners, and laptops to Creighton families to support them two years ago.... and it was permitted!! Last year, they did the same thing... its a criminal world!
Submitted by Helen Gym on April 29, 2014 8:11 am

Mr. Fleming: Can you contact me at parentsunitedphila@gmail.com? I'd like to follow up on this. ~ Helen Gym, Parents United for Public Education.

Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 29, 2014 11:38 am
FYI, I asked Mastery about this and they said, "Absolutely not."
Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on April 29, 2014 11:20 am
.... about the gift cards, that is. They do provide dinners and snacks on tours, at meetings, SRC trips etc.
Submitted by Ms.Greenfield (not verified) on April 29, 2014 1:07 pm
Pretty irresponsible of Ms.Gym to tweet this to her many follows when its unsubstantiated. As someone who frequently comments on this site she should be well aware of the level of rhetoric, misinformation and flat out lies that get posted in these comments.Everyone is untitled to their opinion and position on this important issue, but adding inflammatory misinformation to an already divisive debate isn't helpful or right. Respect the work you're doing but don't agree with this particular method.
Submitted by Urban Teacher (not verified) on April 28, 2014 9:13 pm
Let's instead "Dump the Gleason". We'll save millions!!!!!
Submitted by speaking of which (not verified) on April 28, 2014 10:03 pm
The people running the school district have absolutely no shame.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on April 28, 2014 10:48 pm

The District thought having a vote by parents woud bring some legitimacy to their seriously tarnished Renasissance charter process.   They clearly thought that ASPIRA and Mastery would be slam dunks.   Instead parents, staff and community organized and fought back.   At Marin public meetings and canvassing revealed support for ASPIRA was weak.   So call in the cavalary. Maria Quinones Sanchez, who, up until tonite, has been invisible, rides to the rescue, citing parent unidentified concerns as a reason to postphone the vote.    When some advocates said a month ago that the process did not allow for enough time for parents to weigh their options, the District disagreed.  Now that the charter operators are at risk of losing, more time is needed.   The whole process smells like a week old mackeral.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on April 28, 2014 11:56 pm
Shame on Quinones Sanchez. She is doing the dirty work of the privateers. Aspira is a well funded operation. Aspira gets away with violating the rights of workers at Olney. Now, they want to do the same at other schools they are handed by the SRC. Quinones Sanchez is another opponent of public education.
Submitted by Christa (not verified) on April 29, 2014 12:04 pm
au contraire...ASPIRA fakes being well-funded...quite the opposite is true. They are up to some fishy business here in Philadelphia. Please read the CityPaper article from August http://www.citypaper.net/article.php?Charter-operator-owed-its-schools-m...
Submitted by Veteran of the WPHS "Renaissance" (not verified) on April 29, 2014 9:42 am
Just like Janine Blackwell when west sac looked like it was going to vote as independent thinkers. Got all the way to the SRC when Blackwell threw the wrench into the engine.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 29, 2014 6:37 am
Renaissance is a program just like Promise Academies. The district can give funds to promise academies, but chooses to give schools away instead. No money for Promise Academies but there is money for Renaissance.
Submitted by Veteran of the WPHS "Renaissance" (not verified) on April 29, 2014 9:23 am
Deja vu all over again. This is just what happened with West when we were prepared to vote for Johns Hopkins over Mastery or Promise. It looks like a choice, but it is all about who controls the choices and behind the scenes deals. It doesn't matter who is in power, Ackerman or Hite/Kihn. All the same goal. It is part ideology and part lining someone's pockets. Wish I weren't so cynical.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 29, 2014 11:20 am
Why does everyone say Hite/Kihn. Who is the Superintendent?
Submitted by speaking of which (not verified) on April 29, 2014 12:20 pm
It's like Bush/Cheyney. Although Mark Gleason is the real superintendent.
Submitted by Brandy Meyers Steel Counselor (not verified) on April 29, 2014 1:36 pm
“It’s been very difficult introducing ourselves to parents in this timeframe,” Gordon said. Excuse me? They have been introducing themselves to Steel parents for at least a year through robocalls, canvassing, dinners, meetings at the community center. What it should say is, "It's been very difficult to justify our tactics and actions in trying to destroy the community atmosphere at Steel." Wake-up Gordon, Hite, Chou, Universal, Corbett, Aspira, SRC, etc. We the faculty and parents are no longer going quietly. We will not ask, "how high," when you say jump. The people of Philadelphia will determine what happens to OUR schools. -Brandy Meyers, School Counselor and Philadelphia Parent
Submitted by Sandra (not verified) on April 29, 2014 8:13 pm
I was in attendance at the Marin meeting, Monday evening. The vote delay poses problems to community members. If the vote is postponed until June 1, the date that Network Administrator Logan said last night, teachers and staff will have missed the window for the Site Selection Process, it closes on May 24th. The powers that be may want to wait until the communities give up and throw in the towel, so the District does not lose face. Marin is NOT the lowest performing school in Network 5, it happens to have one of the better buildings.
Submitted by lenaazar (not verified) on May 7, 2014 12:31 am
Renaissance charter vote will be there soon. The problem is okay for us and this happens sometimes we know. I just hope for the best.

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