At its April meetings the School Reform Commission:

  • Voted 3-0, with Chair Robert Archie abstaining, to approve a resolution authorizing Universal Companies to turn Audenried High School and Vare Middle School into charter schools as part of the Renaissance Schools initiative. Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky questioned Universal’s ability to deliver on the services it has pledged if it does not receive the federal funding it anticipates, and successfully pushed for an amendment to the agreement to include language that states the company will deliver on what it has promised even if it does not receive a federal Promise Neighborhood Implementation Grant later this year.

  • The vote followed a presentation about the District’s Promise Neighborhood Partnership Schools plan. Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery, Associate Superintendent of Schools Penny Nixon, Special Assistant Maqueda Randall, and Lamar Wilson from Universal Companies discussed the academic, social, and community opportunities offered through this partnership at Audenried High School and Vare Middle School. The formal presentation turned into a larger group affirmation of Universal’s capabilities of turning around low-performing schools, with remarks from Archie and additional comments invited from School Advisory Council representatives at Bluford and Daroff, Renaissance Schools now run by Universal. 

  • Approved Renaissance Charter School agreements for Birney Elementary to be run by Mosaica Education, for Olney East High School and Olney West High School to be run by ASPIRA of Pennsylvania, and for Clymer Elementary and Gratz High School to be run by Mastery Charter Schools.

  • Failed for a second time to approve a proposed charter school renewal for Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School. Three votes are needed to approve a resolution, and with Archie abstaining due to his law firm’s relationship with the charter and with Dworetzky voting no, the vote was 2-1 in favor.

  • Heard a presentation about the Project Safe Schools initiative. Associate Superintendent of Academic Support Tomás Hanna and Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery cited improvements in the Focus 46 schools – schools with the most severe attendance and violence issues – and Persistently Dangerous Schools (PDS). They identified factors that are driving the changes and action steps for the coming school year. One school will be new to the PDS list in the 2011-12 school year. Through March 2011, only nine of the Focus 46 schools have triggered PDS status for 2011-12, compared to 20 in March 2010. PDS incidents have decreased by 48 percent year-over-year and average daily attendance has increased by 1 percent in PDS, Focus 46 schools, and districtwide. Proposed action steps include: creating a SRC policy and administrative regulations for incident reporting and more consistent implementation of the Code of Student Conduct. The Blue Ribbon Commission on Safe Schools will provide a blueprint for action in June.

  • Heard a presentation about the current climate at South Philadelphia High School. New York University professor Pedro Noguera, the consultant charged with overseeing implementation of federally mandated changes in the climate at the school, presented the South Philadelphia High School Climate Report. Most students reported that they felt safer at the school than they did last year. However, Asian and immigrant students reported feeling less safe than their peers, and Noguera noted that there is still much work to be done to unify the student body. Principal Otis Hackney spoke about some measures that have been implemented to provide a more cohesive student body, including providing access for all to the 2nd floor, once specifically designated for ESOL students. Some of the recommendations of the report include: identifying and developing new strategies for violence prevention, providing training to safety officers, and identifying strategies with guidance counselors and social workers to ensure that all students feel emotionally and socially safe in school.

  • Held a hearing about the District’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2011-2012. Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch said massive cuts are inevitable if the District does not get more local and state funding to help fill a $629 million deficit it faces next school year. Some of these draconian cuts include: reverting to half-day kindergarten and a loss of more than 3,800 positions, including over 400 Central Office staffers, 1,260 teachers, nearly 400 custodians, over 180 school counselors, and 51 nurses. Six community meetings on the budget will be held, the first on May 3 at 6 p.m. at Meredith Elementary School.

  • Ratified the District’s collective bargaining agreement with Local 634, the school cafeteria employees.

  • Accepted a two-year grant from the William Penn Foundation for $1.3 million to establish an internal leadership development program known as the Philadelphia Leadership Institute.

  • Approved a $42,000 contract with Metis Associates to conduct an external evaluation of the instructional and support services for English language learners as required by the Y.S. Stipulation.

  • Approved a $70,000 contract with the Nu-Juice Foundation to provide adult and peer mentoring services at West Philadelphia High School.

  • Considered 42 expulsion resolutions and voted to temporarily or permanently expel 32 students.


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