by Connie Langland
By a 4-1 vote of the School Reform Commission, Universal Companies last night came one step closer to winning the charter to run Alcorn Elementary School under the District’s Renaissance turnaround program.
But there’s one big "if."
The granting of the charter is still not official, and Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn emphasized last night that the handover remained contingent on Universal coming to new terms with the District for the use of Audenried High School and Vare Middle School, both in South Philadelphia.
There has been a push from a coalition of community groups to spread School Advisory Councils (SACs) to more District schools. On Saturday, Nov. 3, community members will join SAC teams, parents, students, and others interested in serving on one of the councils for an SAC Summit.
For three of this year's four Renaissance Schools, the selection process is over. The public meetings are complete, the School Reform Commission has voted, and barring any unforeseen complication, next September they'll open as neighborhood charter schools.
But at Creighton Elementary in the Lower Northeast, supporters of a unique plan for a teacher-led administration are holding out hope that their school can buck a very big trend.
District staff members have recommended new managers for four recently designated Renaissance charter schools.
Their proposal, to be voted on Thursday night by the School Reform Commission, would award Mastery Charter the school it wanted, introduce two new providers to the District's aggressive school turnaround initiative, and overrule a vote by Creighton Elementary's School Advisory Council (SAC) to keep the school under District control.
The District recommends that:
Undeterred by a bleak budget picture, District officials announced in February that four more low-performing traditional public schools will be converted to charters as part of the Renaissance Schools initiative.
In a new twist on the District’s process for converting low-performing schools to charters, six pre-approved turnaround teams have publicly declared at the outset of the Renaissance match process which schools they will – and will not – be competing to manage.
Two developments stand out:
One Voice, an alliance of parents, students, and teachers, is gathering a group to testify at the next School Reform Commission meeting on Monday. The next SRC meeting will be another strategy, policy, and priorities community discussion, and it will be focused on curriculum and career and college readiness. Wendell Pritchett, chair of the curriculum committee, will run the meeting with Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon.
One Voice plans to testify about how the budget crisis may be causing the District to overlook the importance of teaching and learning.
The School District is finalizing plans to expand and improve School Advisory Councils, with the aim of introducing them into additional schools and training members and school principals about their roles.
About 250 parents, community members, principals, teachers, and District officials braved an unusual fall snowstorm on Saturday to attend the first citywide summit on School Advisory Councils.
The "SAC Summit" at Benjamin Franklin High School was a key step in District plans to put functioning SACs in an increasing number of schools, perhaps close to half of those in the city.
"We don't want to sacrifice sustainability for speed."
This will be the reasoning behind the newest plan to phase in School Advisory Councils in more schools in the District, according to the official charged with coordinating that effort.
Karren Dunkley, chief deputy of the District's Office of Parent, Family, Community Engagement and Faith-Based Partnerships, said on Monday that the District would soon develop a proposal to launch SACs in the 115 lowest-performing schools.