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A school's fate remains in question pending investigation

By Bill Hangley Jr. on May 6, 2014 03:06 PM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

In the wake of a contentious and contested charter school election at Edward T. Steel School, District officials have promised City Council that next year’s Renaissance process will be better, with clearer criteria explaining schools’ selection and more time for everyone to prepare and take part.

But with the results of one of Steel’s two votes now in question, the school must wait to find out its fate.

Officials say they’ve only just begun investigating the various grievances about last week’s vote and won’t have a recommendation on the school’s future until that process is complete.

“Normally, it would have taken, I think, a few days,” said Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn. “But now we have to figure out how we’re going to look at the allegations and the grievance and what our response is going to be.”

Steel, which serves about 600 K-8 students in Nicetown, is one of two schools selected this year to be “matched” with a charter operator as part of the 2014 Renaissance process. Parents, who had no idea that their school was being considered for the program, were given a month to choose between Mastery Charter and Steel’s current District staff.

A short and spirited campaign was followed by a two-part vote, newly designed by the District. In the first of the two votes, parents decisively rejected Mastery. In the second, a 17-member School Advisory Committee voted narrowly in Mastery’s favor.

The results of the “popular” vote, which was overseen by the League of Women Voters, are uncontested. Officials say they take those results at “face value.”

The committee’s vote, by comparison, was overseen by District officials and is clouded by allegations challenging its legitimacy. SAC members have filed several grievances, alleging that officials manipulated the SAC vote to give Mastery the edge.

Kihn said the District will soon begin a preliminary investigation of those grievances, in order to determine whether a deeper probe is needed. “Depending on the outcome of the initial [interviews], the superintendent and the charter school office will determine if there’s any additional work required,” Kihn said.

Questions at Council about choice

During Monday’s budget hearings, Council member Cindy Bass, whose district includes Steel, told District officials that the fast-tracked Renaissance process left her constituents confused and frustrated – and that it should be no surprise that they decisively rejected Mastery.

“People feel excluded, like there isn’t really a choice – you’re telling me there’s a choice but you already made the choice,” she said. “Where people feel excluded, you have to expect people are going to revolt.”

The popular vote was 121-55 in favor of Steel’s current staff, with 22 percent of eligible voters casting ballots, according to the District (any adult registered with the school as a student’s guardian was eligible to vote). That vote – a new innovation for the Renaissance process – went smoothly, with the League overseeing the casting and counting of ballots.

Meanwhile, the disputed SAC vote, which took place under District officials’ direct supervision, was 9-8 in favor of Mastery. Among the SAC members’ grievances is the allegation that officials went out of their way to locate two missing Mastery supporters and bring them in to vote before the polls closed.

The two-part vote’s results are nonbinding. Superintendent William Hite will make his own recommendation to the School Reform Commission, whose own vote will decide the issue.

Bass said later that where Steel is concerned, the District should not ignore the popular vote results.

“The District is going to have to take that into account,” Bass said. Recommending Mastery “would be a tough sell,” she said. “They’ve had some successes and done some really good things and we can’t discount that. So has the District.”

Kihn said the message of the popular vote was clear. “The majority of parents that voted … felt like the path forward was with the District leadership,” he said.

He said he was unconcerned by the possible influence of activists and advocates for either side.

“We are taking the vote at face value,” he said.

A view from Muñoz-Marin: “A lot of misinformation”

Not everyone is convinced of the value of the popular vote. 

Council member Maria Quiñones-Sánchez’s district is home to the District’s other proposed Renaissance school. Parents at Luis Muñoz-Marín Elementary will vote next month on whether to accept the charter provider ASPIRA.

Quiñones-Sánchez, who ran ASPIRA for four years in the late 1990s, fears a repeat of the Steel experience. She worries about giving too much weight to “uninformed” popular votes like the one that rejected Mastery.

Such votes can be easily swayed, she said, especially when parents unfamiliar with the ins and outs of their school’s performance are asked to make a decision quickly.

“I think what you have is, there’s a lot of fear and a lot of misinformation,” she said. “There’s a false kind of approval process. … Parents are going to make an uninformed decision, because the amount of time [given] to the process.”

Instead, Quiñones-Sánchez said she believes that the District should give more weight to the SAC members’ “more informed” votes. To be eligible to vote, SAC members are required to take tours of their proposed charter organization’s other schools (although they’re not required to tour a high-performing District school) and attend a certain number of community meetings.

Quiñones-Sánchez has been criticized for intervening in the Muñoz-Marin process to help secure a delay of the vote (“They know we are winning...so they want to extend the time,” said the school’s principal at the time), but she has denied trying to give her former employer any special favors. She said she’s just trying to make sure parents have the time they need to make an informed decision.

But the District’s fast-track process made a contentious vote virtually inevitable, she added. This year, parents were given no warning that their schools were being considered for transformation, and once the process began, it quickly got emotional.

“The propaganda that’s being put out by all sides … the District needs to come in and say, these are the facts,” she said. “There’s a lot of booing. They booed me, because of my relationship with ASPIRA.

“Every time you think the District gets it,” she said, “they create another process.”

Fund us, don't transform us

At Steel, the chair of the SAC is hoping that the time for talking process is done. She hopes to start a new conversation about funding.

“In the weeks ahead, we intend to meet with Dr. Hite and his leadership team to discuss adequate funding for our school,” said SAC president Kendra Brooks in a statement soon after the vote results were announced.

“The District currently funds Steel at just $3.9 million a year,” she said. “Mastery would have won a $6 million contract for this school. That $2 million difference must be made available to Steel school.”

District officials are mum on that proposal (and they’ve yet to confirm Mastery officials’ estimate that they would get $5.9 million to run the school), but their larger message at Council and everywhere else is that there isn’t an extra dime for anything.

Absent new funding and labor concessions, they say, District schools will see yet another round of staff and budget cuts.

Meanwhile, Mastery remains as interested as ever in Steel. Hite reminded City Council yesterday that his goal is to improve schools however he can. He left the door open to the possibility that the District will recommend Mastery to run Steel.

“I don’t want this lost in the conversation about to Renaissance or not to Renaissance, but Steel is a low-performing school,” Hite told Council. “Mastery is an organization that is known for taking similar populations and doing very well.”

But as for complaints about the Renaissance selection process, District officials say they hear them loud and clear. Hite told Council that the process needs to be reorganized to be both “clear on the criteria for the selections” and “clear on the timeframe.”

SRC Chairman Bill Green agreed that the process needs to be clearer and the timelines more generous.

“With respect to process, in future years, we are trying to set forth timelines that will be transparent,” he said. “Those timelines, once the administration recommends them and we agree upon them, will be known to everyone.”

 

Bill Hangley Jr. is a freelance contributor to the Notebook. 

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Comments (30)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 6, 2014 5:19 pm

Wow. How can people be so deceptive, so openly ? Lifelong educators? If they really have accomplished all they claim, and they really do work for the SDP, they why are we in such a hole with such find leaders at the helm? These people must put in fifteen hour days! Wow.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on May 6, 2014 7:57 pm

I really disagree with Councilwoman Quinones-Sanchez saying that parents aren't "informed." It's insulting for "experts" to assume that parents who live in low-income communities of color don't know what's best for their children.

In all this talk about data-driven this, and high-performing that, some people lose sight of some more important issues: trust and relationships.

Some parents are incompetent, we know that. That's why DHS exists. But the majority of parents are caring enough to know if his/her child is making progress, if his/her child likes his/her teacher. Parents see the homework that comes home. They receive the notes and phone calls. Caring parents who pay attention can have a good enough idea about how her/his child's school.

One thing that many reformers and others overlook is that parents value teachers who address their concerns. Some parents care most about academics. Other parents care about the child's behavior. Some care about both. Some want their child to receive a holistic education. Individual families have individualized concerns.

Parents and caregivers also value teachers and staff members who show a commitment to the school and the community. Those individuals---teachers, staff persons, even some principals---have a longevity earn respect in the community. These individuals are trusted in the community. In some businesses, it might make more sense to move the experienced, top-notch people to new locations. However, sometimes in businesses, it makes more sense to leave experienced people where they are in order to maintain relationships with clientele.

The lack of transparency, the condensed timeline, the constant canvassing by Mastery employees obviously did not undo the trust in the current Steel staff and relationships that parents/caregivers have. And then there's the fact that the turnover to Mastery would cost the District money when there is no money to squander. Well, there's something fishy about that, isn't there? Mastery says it has had many "informal" interactions with parents of Steel throughout the year, whatever that meant. Mastery said the same thing about Kenderton last year. Obviously, something didn't click. You don't need a college education to figure out if you're being hoodwinked.

What the Steel parent/guardian vote reflects is the fact that parents TRUST the current staff at Steel. Parents/guardians have good RELATIONSHIPS with these people.

Submitted by Annony (not verified) on May 6, 2014 8:33 pm

Quinones-Sanchez is very patronizing. Maybe anyone who voted for her was also "too dumb" to know better. Quinones-Sanchez apparently is still working for ASPIRA.

Submitted by Vivian Rodriguez (not verified) on May 6, 2014 10:30 pm

I was at the Luis Muñoz Marín Proposal Presentation on April 28th. The Charter School Office informed the school less than 3 hrs before tha presentation that the vote day was delayed and that Quiñones-Sánchez was coming to Muñoz-Marín. Then they tried to change the order of the presentation to have Aspira go first and have all the "aspirantes" giving her a standing ovation. But the school stood their ground and didn't let it happen. The audience full of parents, teachers, families and friends of Marin didn't buy her show. Her political move didn't work with us. Many did not understand what she was doing there. But I did. A week before, Mr. Calderon did an interview with the Spanish TV Channel Univision. After all the lies about Marin poor performance and the teachers being angry, he did mentioned that Aspira was trying to get the vote day changed. So who best to make his wishes come true. Quiñones-Sánchez told us that the reason for the change was some parents call her concerned that the process was rushed and that they needed more time to learn about the options. When confronted about how many parents and if the parents were identified by phone as parents of Students attending Marin, she looked puzzled. Talking about "dumb", she answered that even if one parent called, she would recommend the change of date. People asked her about her relationship with Aspira and she answered that she was a proud "aspirante". She did not mentioned that she directed Aspira for 6 years and her great accomplishment was to create Hostos, Aspira's first Charter School. She denied any current contact with Aspira but forget to mention this:
PSP is investing an $88,000 incubation grant in the North Philadelphia Education Compact (NPEC) to plan for the addition of more seats in high-quality schools among a network of school partners. The initiative is a collaboration among Aspira of PA, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Nueva Esperanza, Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, and the School District of Philadelphia. The incubation grant will fund the development of a comprehensive education strategy to improve student outcomes in a defined geographic area in North Philadelphia (E-W: Frankford Ave to Broad St; N-S: Roosevelt Blvd to Girard Ave.) The group will evaluate strengths and needs within the zone and develop strategies to increase access to high-quality education, such as redefining feeder patterns, identifying growth opportunities, and increasing collaboration among schools.
At the very end of her speech, she finally gave in and said that she thought that Aspira was the best choice for Marin. This all happen in front of all SDP representatives: Mr. Peng Chao, Renaissance Initiative and Charter School Ofgice, Mr. David Khin, Deputy Superintendent and Dr. Hite's Right Hand and Spokesperson and officials from LN5. Now you see why she didn't a standing ovations and had to sit down. We do not have to be respectful with people that do not show us respect. Aspira is calling the shots. But why is the SDP letting it happen. Aspira and the SDP are "partners". In 2011, Aspira bought Dougherty from the District. Big conflict of interest!

Submitted by Jennifer Kates (not verified) on May 6, 2014 10:12 pm

Bill, sorry I didn't get a chance to say hi while you were interviewing my boss (Councilwoman Sanchez) for this story! I only heard part of that discussion, so I absolutely could have missed something, but my sense was that she was not specifically characterizing the parents who voted at Steel as uninformed. I heard her making a larger point that the timeline and process the District chose to use for this year's Renaissance proposals, and how the District engages or fails to engage with families at these lower-resourced schools on an ongoing basis, is grossly deficient and not designed to give parents the information they really need.

I heard her saying that she believes there should be substantive annual meetings at schools like Munoz Marin, where parents are given meaningful information about school performance (and she was explicit that is not just test scores), so they know the truth about conditions in their child's school and are in a position to demand and advocate for more from the district in terms of the education being provided for their child. She also said that this would result in greater transparency over whether a school might be subject to turnaround intervention, and transparency over how schools are selected.

I don't mean to imply that there was any particular error, but wanted to give her quoted and attributed comments some more context.

Submitted by Vivian Rodriguez (not verified) on May 6, 2014 11:55 pm

What she didn't mentioned that Stetson, Aspira's Renaissance Scool for 4 years has failed to make acceptable progress in the Reading Section of the PSSA. For the past 2 years, Stetson scores in Reading have been lower that Marin's. Dr. Hite mentioned that LMM scores were under 35 and we were considered a low-achieving school. But Stetson reading scores are also below 35 but the SDP describes the charter operator as "on track".

Submitted by Bill Hangley (not verified) on May 6, 2014 11:33 pm

Thanks for checking in. It's a good point - the councilwoman didn't sound like she was criticizing the Steel parents in particular; more that she was making a general point about what can happen with this kind of rushed school-level vote.

In fact, she praised the Steel SAC for keeping parents in the loop: "Their SAC was organized - - I wish Marin was where Steel was.”

She was definitely concerned about turnout: "Do you make a decision when 22 percent of the people vote?"

And you're right, she talked about the need for annual "state of the school" meetings where principals would clue everybody in about that year's academic status, needs, proposed solutions, budget, Renaissance status etc. That way stuff like this wouldn't sneak up on people. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Submitted by Annony (not verified) on May 7, 2014 3:43 am

Why is there a so-called "Renaissance" process in the first place? Why does the SDP even consider giving its schools to a charter company? Why are the politicians in the pockets of the charter companies? These are questions that aren't being asked. Is it assumed that the so-called "Renaissance" process is valid? ethical? This is more about spin and hype than improving schools.

Submitted by Vivian Rodriguez (not verified) on May 7, 2014 9:55 pm

Listen to me, MAS doesn't know anything about Marin. When she came to our school, parents didn't know who she was. She had no business in our school. She is a public official that is suppose to represent all citizens and not the private interest of a charter organization like Aspira. I was personally offended when she mentioned that our school didn't have a SAC. First, because that is not true, and secondly, because that information is suppose to be private and only the school administrator that approves the members and the CSO that verifies with the principal if a SAC was formed are the only ones that know that information. When she put her foot in her mouth, like she often does, because she is the "ignorant" one, it made me realized that there was a meeting between the CSO, Aspira and her were private information about our school was discussed. NOT VERY NICE!!!

Submitted by Vivian Rodriguez (not verified) on June 3, 2014 4:59 am

One of the reasons that the SAC in Luis Muñoz Marín is not as Steel's is because the school during the year 2013-14 never received the support of Learning Network 5 Parent Coordinator, Reverend Cotto. As many SDP Coordinators, this man sat on his behind all year and didn't coordinate a thing. He just asked for a list of parents whenever he had to show the SDP that he was working with our parents. Since the Renaissance Year V asked for a "different" SAC formed from Only Parents, they had to re-create the SAC. This SAC met, visited Aspira's schools and attended the Parents Proposals Presentation. Until a few weeks ago, The Charter School Office never came to check on the SAC. A few meetings ago, 2 Head Start parents were told that they will not be allowed to vote. Maybe people can see why the LMM SAC is different from Steel's. The SDP and the CSO didn't make an effort to assist the Team, just assisted to destroy it.

Submitted by Philly Activist (not verified) on May 28, 2014 3:58 pm

Nice save for your BOSS Jennifer - job well done (not).
No need for more context - remember it's a bit like whispering down the lane.
We all can be in the same room at the same time with the same questions being asked and answered and you know what, we all have our own interpretations of what was being said. That's life in the grown up world.
Ms. Sanchez main point of view is Charter Schools only, especially ASPIRA!
When we are elected to an office we are to vote and act the way our constituents demand from us. Elected officials seem to have lost that point.
I absolutely enjoyed the platform her husband who 6 months before moved a few blocks in order to be a candidate in an election (nothing wrong with that right) about creating a "separate" School District. Well evidently the "voters" did not agree with him. He did not get elected thank God. Nothing like "segregating people."

Submitted by Vivian Rodriguez (not verified) on May 6, 2014 11:31 pm

I was at the Luis Muñoz Marín Proposal Presentation on April 28th. The Charter School Office informed the school less than 3 hrs before tha presentation that the vote day was delayed and that Quiñones-Sánchez was coming to Muñoz-Marín. Then they tried to change the order of the presentation to have Aspira go first and have all the "aspirantes" giving her a standing ovation. But the school stood their ground and didn't let it happen. The audience full of parents, teachers, families and friends of Marin didn't buy her show. Her political move didn't work with us. Many did not understand what she was doing there. But I did. A week before, Mr. Calderon did an interview with the Spanish TV Channel Univision. After all the lies about Marin poor performance and the teachers being angry, he did mentioned that Aspira was trying to get the vote day changed. So who best to make his wishes come true. Quiñones-Sánchez told us that the reason for the change was some parents call her concerned that the process was rushed and that they needed more time to learn about the options. When confronted about how many parents and if the parents were identified by phone as parents of Students attending Marin, she looked puzzled. Talking about "dumb", she answered that even if one parent called, she would recommend the change of date. People asked her about her relationship with Aspira and she answered that she was a proud "aspirante". She did not mentioned that she directed Aspira for 6 years and her great accomplishment was to create Hostos, Aspira's first Charter School. She denied any current contact with Aspira but forget to mention this:
PSP is investing an $88,000 incubation grant in the North Philadelphia Education Compact (NPEC) to plan for the addition of more seats in high-quality schools among a network of school partners. The initiative is a collaboration among Aspira of PA, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Nueva Esperanza, Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, and the School District of Philadelphia. The incubation grant will fund the development of a comprehensive education strategy to improve student outcomes in a defined geographic area in North Philadelphia (E-W: Frankford Ave to Broad St; N-S: Roosevelt Blvd to Girard Ave.) The group will evaluate strengths and needs within the zone and develop strategies to increase access to high-quality education, such as redefining feeder patterns, identifying growth opportunities, and increasing collaboration among schools.
At the very end of her speech, she finally gave in and said that she thought that Aspira was the best choice for Marin. This all happen in front of all SDP representatives: Mr. Peng Chao, Renaissance Initiative and Charter School Ofgice, Mr. David Khin, Deputy Superintendent and Dr. Hite's Right Hand and Spokesperson and officials from LN5. Now you see why she didn't a standing ovations and had to sit down. We do not have to be respectful with people that do not show us respect. Aspira is calling the shots. But why is the SDP letting it happen. Aspira and the SDP are "partners". In 2011, Aspira bought Dougherty from the District. Big conflict of interest!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 7, 2014 1:32 pm

Let's not forget that in addition to the "fishy" use of funds that ASPIRA has "Borrowed" from the schools they operate, that they have multiple grievances filled against them with the National Labor Board by the American Federation of Teachers over the alleged threats against staff members who voted to organize a Union at Olney and the use of taxpayer money to fight the organization of that Union at Olney. Someone needs to, as "Deep throat" once said, "follow the money" at ASPIRA. It ain't going to the kids.

Submitted by Vivian Rodriguez (not verified) on May 7, 2014 6:29 am

I do agree that parents should be informed about the school academic progress throughout the year. I believe that was probably the reason the "original" school SAC was created. Everyone can go on the SDP website and research what I am telling you. The school SAC is composed of 51% of parents elected by the Home & School Association, 2 teachers approved by the PFT and the Principal. Too bad that the person that the SDP pays to help Learning Network 5 parents to create that SAC didn't do his job. Reverend Cotto was too busy being the "moderator" during our 3 informational meetings. He was hand picked by the CSO and spent most of the time defending the Renaissance Initiative, or as I see it, Aspira's taking over our school. By the way, when he came to our meetings, he had to introduce himself because parents didn't know who he was. My point is that another issue that the shows the lack of "transparency" is that as of April 2, 2014, the definition of the SAC was change to perfectly manipulate the results of the election. Now Quiñones-Sánchez wants to give the SAC vote more weight. That is exactly what we do when we elect the Council that controls this city, and look at what she is doing. Taking away the value of a general election, the people that voted for her. She does not represent the interest of the Latino population. She represents Aspira's interest. Up to now, she didn't show any interest in the process, at least not publicly. We all know the she and Aspira have a "Bigger Agenda". She is defending and criticizing a faulty process that was faulty from the very beginning.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 7, 2014 7:31 pm

Ms. Rodriguez,
I commend you for your leadership role and advocating for what Councilwoman MQS has failed at, the Latino community. She is a cancer to the community and could careless. You make very valid point. Rev Cotto also has a hidden agenda. Probably it could be advocating for Aspira so that they can hire his wife since she was laid-off from the district. Continue being the voice of hope for that school community; the Principal, staff, students and parents.

Submitted by Philly Activist (not verified) on May 28, 2014 4:41 pm

Excuse me Ms. Rodriquez. I believe you need to do another fact check or you are misinterpreting what you are reading concerning the election of SAC's. This is taken from the SDP's Website about the composition of SAC's. No where does it state that the Home and School Associations elect the parents on the SAC. We need the correct information out there so people don't become confused.

Each school advisory council (SAC) shall be comprised of a total of 7 to 21 members, including:

School Principal
A minimum of 51% parents (elected by parents)
A minimum of 3 students for high schools. (At elementary and middle schools, SACs will have the option of determining the number of students participating in their SACs.)
A minimum of 2 members of school staff (selected by Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) Building Committee)
Community members (elected by parents)

Consistent with these guidelines, SAC Bylaws should establish the final composition of the SAC at each school.
Recruitment and Elections

When forming a SAC or holding annual elections use multiple ways to disseminate information to parents and families:

Send home a letter or flyer inviting all parents to participate on a SAC. Explain the process and deadlines. Attach SAC Nomination Form so parents can sign up right away, if they are interested.
Follow up with ParentLink messages.
Make flyers available around the school and at community locations.
Take time to talk to parents personally.
Give students incentives for sharing information with parents.
Use every available venue and occasion to inform parents and community that they are welcome and invited to participate.

When forming a SAC consider:

Setting up a nominating committee to help with nominations and elections.
Setting up a meeting with parents to explain to them how SAC will help your school become better.
Do not forget to connect with your building committee to secure staff participation.

On p. 3 of the SAC Manual it states the following:

In the first year of the SAC, the principal of the school shall coordinate the nomination and election process for all SAC seats.

In all future years after the first year, the nomination and election process for the parent and community seats on the SAC shall be coordinated by the SAC itself, which can delegate this task to a specially appointed "nomination and election committee."

I agree with you on a few of the points that you made.

Submitted by Vivian Rodriguez (not verified) on May 28, 2014 5:03 pm

I agree with you. I didn't mean to confuse anyone. But like you mentioned, the SAC information can be found on line. What many people don't know is that the definition and composition of the SAC was again changed by the Charter School Office. The change was made on a document sent to Steel and Munoz-Marin on April 2, 2014. That was the day after both schools were told that they were becoming Renaissance Charter Schools. I've been call it the "Voting SAC" to avoid more confusion. If I had your email, I would send you a copy of the document that describes the "Voting SAC". Thanks you for the clarifications about the original SAC.

Submitted by Vivian Rodriguez (not verified) on May 7, 2014 6:19 am

For those asking about the Renaissance Charter School Initiative, you can read their Renaissance Schools Initiative Progress Report 2010-2011 through 2012-2013that came out onDecember 2013. It was the study completed by the SDP own Research Department, and not by an Independent & Objective Company. You can find it on line. I am going to post it on tweeter @vivrodz. But even their own research cannot lie. They did came out with some conclusions that were in a way bias, but the numbers on their graphs and tables tell the full story. Only Mastery and Aspira were found to be "on track" but even their scores came down in the last 2 years. The rest of the Renaissance Schools have not made any progress in 4 years. The study was very irresponsible in concluding the Aspira was on track, because Aspira IS NOT on track in the area of READING. Their first years progress in Reading was not impressive, and the following year the progress was lower. Now, last year their was a total lack of progress in the form of a -4 points of decline. I am not lying. Stetson's PSSA scores in Reading have been lower than Marin's. Why doesn't the CSO, Dr. Hite and Quiñones-Sánchez address the lack of information that parents have regarding the Charter Operators lack of progress in 4 years. That should really bother all of us.

Submitted by Helen Gym on May 7, 2014 7:08 am

I find it deeply troubling that parents are described as "uninformed" and "misinformed." There is clearly selective information being shared with parents and the broader public. It's also deeply disconcerting to presume that SAC parents are "more informed" in a process in which SACs were created solely for the purpose of a charter takeover vote (Marin) or existing SACs were forcibly reconstituted by the charter office (Steel) with no obligations before or beyond the charter vote. How does that ensure "informed" parents?

The parent community at Steel proved it was very informed despite the chaos the District wreaked throughout the month of April. Mastery has taken over every existing public school in Nicetown. Many parents at Steel are also Mastery parents. Mastery and the School District tried to sell a message of shame and a narrow definition of "failure" to a long-standing community which values education deeply. Is it so surprising to think that perhaps the community did not reject a process so much as it rejected a vision of a District seeking to divest itself of its responsibilities?

The 70% Steel vote in favor of the current vision as promoted by the principal and her leadership team was not a knee jerk conclusion. It was a resounding mandate that there is a role for public education in Nicetown and a vote of confidence in the current leadership team there.

The shame is that this District leadership fails to understand its own assets, and is willing to pay others millions more to do the very same work that its own parents see as being of greater value.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on May 7, 2014 8:35 pm

Helen,

Kenderton School in Nicetown-Tioga is run by Scholar Academies, although Mastery also bid to run Kenderton last year.

You are right that the District in many ways goes out of its way to prevent parents and community members from being informed, e.g. the lack of transparency around the Renaissance Schools process.

EGS

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 7, 2014 8:30 am

She is repeating the propaganda that Mastery started spreading even before the vote was over that the PFT was influencing parents too much--as if parents can't think for themselves OR that Mastery hadn't started taking to parents long before that.

She is also repeating the irrelevant statement about low voter turnout (which Hite has done also). Here is how it works in a democracy: it is the majority of people who vote, not a majority of the people who are eligible to vote.

Quinones-Sanchez hasn't been this wrong since she wrote a letter to the Inquirer about how glad she was to see Bill Green join the SRC.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on May 7, 2014 8:51 pm

Mastery has no legs to stand on when it talks about the PFT having too much of an influence on the parents. I'd love to know how much Mastery spends on its advertising and PR budgets related to potential Renaissance schools.

Submitted by Veteran of the WPHS "Renaissance" (not verified) on May 7, 2014 10:55 am

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I'm going to weigh in about the parallels with the WPHS renaissance process.

SAC interfered with when it looked like the vote wasn't going the way those in power wanted it to go? Check.

Selective (I.e., biased) information provided to the SAC? Check.

Vote questioned after it was clear that the district choice wasn't the result? Check.

Trying to discredit the parents who participated in the process that the district itself set up? Check.

What reason do we have to believe that as long as the district devises the rules of voting and selection, they will be fair? None.

Quinones Sanches' comments about parents being uninformed? Despicable. I guess for some people there can be such a thing as too much democracy.

Submitted by Annony (not verified) on May 7, 2014 11:48 am

Quinones-Sanches is following Blackwell's playbook. Blackwell played dictator with West HS. Now, Quinones-Sanches is calling the shorts in her "turf." So much for democracy...

Submitted by Veteran of the West Philadelphia "Renaissance" (not verified) on May 7, 2014 11:33 am

Yes.

Submitted by Vivian Rodriguez (not verified) on May 7, 2014 9:39 pm

Parents at Marin received as much, if not more, information as the SDP Charter School Office required. Schools were not allowed to send their own flyers. Parents received the initial letter from Dr. Hite. Then they received an invitation to the first Parent Proposal Presentation and then the invitation for the 2nd Presentation. Aspira buses showed up almost every day. Any parent that wanted to visit Aspira's schools was able to go. The process was rushed, but that was their way to create turmoil in the schools and confusion in our parents. But our parents are not the "ignorant parents" that the SDP, Aspira, Mastery and MQS were expecting. The new voting SAC that they invented just for the occasion, did not get any support or guidance from anyone. The Voting Process Guide that the CSO provided was as vague as a draft. It was enforced and violated as they seem fitted. The document itself as I see it is not valid anymore since the timeline for LMM was not followed. I can assure you that they are probably baking a new set of rules & procedures as we speak. Our vote was change to give the parents more time to learn about the options, but after 9 days nothing has been done. The reason that our vote was changed was because our parents want Marin to stay as it is. They don't want Aspira taking over. We has momentum and they want to create inertia. By the time our vote parents vote and the SRC makes the final decision our school year will be over. Does anyone think that this was a fair process?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 7, 2014 10:15 am

Somebody ought to be looking at where Aspira is putting all these charter school dollars. Didn't they borrow over $3 million from the charter schools they oversee? Sure give them more schools and more money.

Submitted by Vivian Rodriguez (not verified) on May 7, 2014 8:20 pm

Just like giving drugs to an addict. The sad part is that parents are given just two choices: the SDP or the Charter Operators. It's like picking from two evils. Vote for Satan or for the Devil. Which one is worse?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 7, 2014 9:51 pm

Yup..read this: Aspira offers no answers on charter school financial anomalies

http://tinyurl.com/mcmrfyp

Submitted by Vivian Rodriguez (not verified) on May 8, 2014 2:16 pm

Next year will be too late for Luis Munoz Marin. Help us "Save Marin"
Aspira is an unaccountable, union-busting charter company
Sign Munoz Marin SAC Petition
http://t.co/SjX9258jH2 @moveon

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