by Kim Johnson
As a veteran charter school educator and as the president of the Philadelphia Alliance of Charter School Employees (ACSE), I am appalled at the revelations in Daniel Denvir’s Aug. 29 City Paper article “Charter operator owed its school millions, but no one’s checking its books.”
Apparent fiscal mismanagement and ethical lapses by charter operators undermine well-intentioned charter schools and their hardworking staff. The time has come for all charter teachers and staff to address these issues head-on or run the risk of tarnishing the charter school movement and the dedicated educators who share our commitment to providing high-quality educational opportunities to our children and communities.
by Connie Langland
The District is rolling out the Philadelphia Virtual Academy (PVA), a new online initiative that it hopes will stem the loss of students and tuition to cyber charter schools.
David Anderson, who is experienced in developing online learning programs in city alternative schools, has been named PVA director, and the District has stocked up on MacBook Air laptops for the 6th to 12th graders who will enroll.
The 21st Century Cyber Charter School, the vendor that will provide most of the curriculum and instruction at the virtual school, is geared up to expand, with a plan to hire more teachers depending on enrollment numbers from Philadelphia and other area school systems now experimenting in online education.
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
Claims that the company running the Olney Charter High School tried to intimidate teachers who sought to unionize may be heading for a hearing.
Hanako Franz teaches 9th-grade history at Olney Charter High School, which became an non-unionized charter run by Aspira in 2011 -- Franz's first year of teaching.
Over the next two years, Franz says, the administration made many decisions -- some she says to the detriment of children's education -- without consulting with the teaching staff.
The School Reform Commission approved the Renaissance charter agreements for three schools on Friday, officially turning Pastorius over to Mastery Charter Schools, Kenderton to Scholar Academies, and Alcorn to Universal Companies.
At a tense, four-hour meeting, the SRC also accepted $1.1 million in grant money from the Philadelphia School Partnership to expand three high-performing District schools: converting the experimental Sustainability Workshop into the Workshop School; creating a second campus of Science Leadership Academy; and expanding the middle school Hill-Freedman to include high school grades.
But it did so over the persistent objections of Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky, who did a financial analysis showing that the District will be absorbing considerable extra cost for these schools after this year -- a move he called financially irresponsible given the District's shaky budget picture. Earlier in the meeting, the District had announced that it only had enough funding to rehire a few hundred of the 3,800 staff laid off this summer.
by Connie Langland
Strong-armed into agreeing to enrollment caps, five charter schools won five-year operating renewals in votes Wednesday night by the School Reform Commission, but five others still have not come to terms with District officials determined to contain costs in the midst of its fiscal crisis.
Funding uncertainties also spurred a decision by Superintendent William Hite to delay the conversion of three low-performing elementary schools — Alcorn, Kenderton and Pastorius — into Renaissance charters under the District’s school turnaround initiative. The SRC had been scheduled to approve assignment of Alcorn to Universal Companies, Kenderton to Scholar Academies and Pastorius to Mastery Charter Schools.
Hite said that the turnovers were tabled “because of the unpredictability of the budget situation” but that the plan would proceed apace “once we have a clearer picture of our revenue and our funding.”
Discovery Charter School staged a festive ribbon-cutting for its new building in Parkside on Tuesday, declaring in a press release that it had settled a dispute over payments with the School Reform Commission and that its charter had been renewed.
Discovery did agree to repay the School District for students it enrolled beyond what was called for in its signed contract, according to District spokesman Fernando Gallard. However, he said, Discovery officials have yet to sign a new charter agreement.
by Connie Langland
With their schools' mandates to operate running out in just a matter of days, leaders of 10 charters are deep into negotiations with District officials who are determined, at least for now, to defer plans by the schools to expand.
Citing the budget crisis, Superintendent William Hite last month announced he would not recommend any charter expansions in the coming year -- a setback to the publicized ambitions of 21 charter schools to add more than 15,000 students over the next five years. Such expansion would cost the District $500 million.
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.
by Rhonda Brownstein
Ben Herold's recent article "Rising cyber-charter costs fuel push for statewide reform" focused on the financial cost of cyber charters. In the article, much attention was given to responses from cyber-charter operators and supporters who emphasize catchy policy terms like "innovation," but wholly ignore the reality of student experiences in these programs.
Imani Education Circle Charter School in Germantown may have to fight to stay open beyond the end of this school year.
According to a list of pending resolutions for the School Reform Commission's Wednesday meeting, District staff is recommending that the 14-year-old charter be closed down.