Imagine 2014 passes by 4-0 vote
By Dale Mezzacappa on Apr 22, 2009 10:44 PM
The SRC voted 4-0 to approve a slightly revised version of Supt. Arlene Ackerman's Imagine 2014 plan, which officials say will cost $126 million in the first year.
In the packed SRC meeting room, a succession of more than two dozen speakers -- divided by the School District into pros and cons even if their positions were more nuanced -- praised parts of the plan and expressed concerns about others. Some asked for postponement of the vote, especially the Renaissance schools component that would start the process of turning over 10 of the lowest performing schools to outside or new managers under a "turnaround" model. But after three hours of discussion, the SRC endorsed the plan.
A presentation by Ackerman and her executive team just before the vote revealed some new elements in the "final plan" released a week ago, especially a more detailed description and timeline for the process of identifying potential providers and schools for the Renaissance treatment. The approved plan promises to "engage students, parents, and the community in a transparent and inclusive decision-making process."
Ackerman said that in the early summer, the District will release a Request for Qualifications to identify individuals and organizations that want to redesign schools, and in the late summer "district and community representatives will participate on the selection committee to identify successful RFQ finalists."
The first set of schools will be identified in the fall, and the District shortly afterwards will release full Requests for Proposals for the successful RFQ applicants to flesh out their plans. In late fall, "district and community representatives will participate on selection committee to determine successful RFP finalists."
Shortly after the first of the year, according to the revised plan, "Renaissance school communities (students, parents, and community members) review and identify preferred proposals from list of RFP finalists. The rest of the 2009-10 school year will be a transition process, with the school opening under new management in September, 2010.
After the vote, speakers Khalif Dobson of the Philadelphia Student Union and Marsha Brown, a parent at West Philadelphia High School, asked again where all the work done by PSU and other community members to develop a new model and detailed plan for West fits into these plans.
"We've been talking about this for six years now," Dobson said. "The students came up with this plan, took it to the community, we took it to the parents, we got state senators to sign off on it. A lot of things brought up for Renaissance schools can easily be done by keeping the schools within the districts and giving them the resources given to Center City schools."
Ackerman peered over her glasses and responded.
"My hope is that West Philadelphia won't be a Renaissance school," said Ackerman. She said, however, unless a school shows improvement and meets its academic goals, it will not get "autonomy."
"I am willing to work with you, either it's a Renaissance school or not, but we want to make sure this school continues to get better.
"You have a fine plan here," she added.