by Bill Hangley Jr.
On the heels of presenting a “doomsday” budget that would reduce schools to the bare essentials, the School Reform Commission voted Thursday night to close North Philadelphia’s M.H. Stanton Elementary School, triggering an explosion of tears and rage from its supporters.
The SRC also voted to establish its own cyber charter school and renew contracts with providers of accelerated and discipline schools. It also added a new provider.
After the 3-1 closure vote, Stanton’s defenders were devastated.
“I’m hurt. I’m hurt really bad,” said Tracey Lester, a Stanton grandparent and vocal supporter.
Sandwiches piled high on a platter, a fresh vegetable tray, pizza, sodas, cake – all for nine young people, most with Latino surnames, most male, who were the center of attention on a recent day at Olney Charter High School.
Their achievement: showing up.
by Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner
Philadelphia's independent Renaissance school operators are bringing families back to struggling neighborhood public schools that they have "turned around" -- with one notable exception.
In Philadelphia, gaining admission to a charter high school sometimes involves a scramble to gather burdensome paperwork – not to mention the luck of the draw.
But obstacles or not, thousands of students pursue the charter option. Notebook data show the city’s 35 charter high schools this year expected to enroll more than 15,000 students in grades 9-12.
The two-year-old Philadelphia School Partnership, at the center of the city's strategy to support "great" schools regardless of who runs them, announced Thursday that it was more than halfway to its goal of raising $100 million from area foundations, corporations and individuals.
At a press conference attended by Mayor Nutter and School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos, PSP executive director Michael Gleason said that his group has commitments for $51.9 million.
The U.S. Department of Labor pulled a multimillion dollar grant at the former Olney West High after the school was converted to a charter as part of the District’s Renaissance Schools initiative.
Also a factor in the decision was that Olney West is no longer considered a "persistently dangerous" school.
The DOL retracted $4.4 million of the grant, said District spokesperson Fernando Gallard. The grant's total value was $6.27 million.
[Updated 3:45 p.m. with clarification on maintenance staff.]
Even while slashing staff, programs, and hours at schools across the city in an effort to close an enormous budget gap, the School District has been swallowing millions of dollars in facilities-related expenses at its 13 Renaissance Schools now run by outside charter operators.
Nowhere is the situation more pronounced than at Audenried High in South Philadelphia. There, the District has allowed Universal Companies to operate cost-free in a new, $55 million District-owned building since July because the parties have yet to come to terms on a facility license agreement.
Pennsylvania has released overall and school-by-school results for last spring's PSSA tests.
Statewide, there was a slight increase in the overall percentage of students scoring proficient or above on the test, and about two-thirds of schools were declared to have met their federal learning targets, or "adequate yearly progress" (AYP).
For the Notebook’s October print edition on school turnarounds, we took a comprehensive look at the city's initial group of seven Renaissance charter schools. This article looks at test score gains at the schools . You can also read more about the extent to which the schools remained neighborhood schools.
Three of the District's Renaissance charter operators are taking on their biggest challenge yet: transforming a neighborhood high school.
Audenried High in South Philadelphia is now managed by Universal Companies. Olney East and Olney West have been re-merged into one school under ASPIRA of Pennsylvania. Simon Gratz High in Nicetown is now run by Mastery Charter Schools.