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Amid charter growth and fraud charges, city leaders consider overhaul of District office

By Benjamin Herold on Jul 25, 2012 04:21 PM

By Benjamin Herold for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

Even as federal investigators were finalizing a massive fraud indictment against one of Philadelphia’s most prominent charter school operators, the School Reform Commission was moving thousands of students and hundreds of millions of dollars into the city's publicly funded charter sector. 

It’s a massive gamble, made riskier by the meager staffing in the School District’s Office of Charter Schools. Currently, 80 independently managed Philadelphia charters serving more than 50,000 students are monitored by just six people – a number that observers on all sides of the heated charter school debate agree is woefully inadequate.

“It’s not a good recipe for accountability,” says Mark Gleason, the executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP), a two-year-old nonprofit organization that has been leading the push to expand the city’s supply of “high-quality” charter seats.

How to overhaul and pay for a robust new charter office is one of the next big challenges facing city education leaders. Despite months of sporadic, mostly private, conversations, there is still no consensus.

The problem isn’t just limited capacity. 

While numerous Philadelphia charter operators have been taken into court on charges of fraud and other crimes, others have received national accolades for their impressive academic results and strong connection with parents. As a result, there remain sharp differences of opinion about the charter office’s basic purpose:

Should it be a watchdog, focused on regulating charters and holding them accountable?

Or should it be a guide dog, focused on supporting charters and helping them succeed and expand?

Lori Shorr, the city’s chief education officer, says that in order to be effective, the charter office needs to be both – especially if Philadelphia hopes to fend off state Republicans’ plans to create a statewide charter authorizing body that could turn the city’s public education system into a deregulated free-for-all.

“We’re trying hard to have a managed market of schools in Philadelphia,” said Shorr.

“Both charter operators and citizens have to have faith that [charters are] being monitored and supported well.”

A more charter-friendly charter office?

Figuring out how to strike that balance is proving tricky.

Last November, District and charter leaders, along with city and state officials, signed on to the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact, a joint pledge to replace 50,000 “low-performing seats” with better options.

The compact calls for the creation of a new Office of Charter Schools that would report directly to the SRC. Despite a July 1, 2012, deadline, that plan is still simmering on the back burner, on hold until the SRC can better define what its new “portfolio management” approach will look like and incoming Superintendent William Hite has a chance to weigh in.

But conversations about overhauling the charter office haven’t stopped.

In May, the Philadelphia School Partnership submitted on behalf of the Great Schools Compact a $7 million grant proposal to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

That proposal, which officials now describe as a preliminary draft, included a plan to raise millions of philanthropic dollars to “reimagine” the charter office so that charters like it more:

"Because a revamped charter office must be adequately staffed if it is to effectively support charters and rebuild trust, we request that a portion of the collaboration grant, $800,000, go toward setup and staffing costs... We will leverage the [Gates] Foundation’s funding with local philanthropic funds on at least a 1-to-1 matching basis, and preferably a 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 basis."

An extended “Outcomes & Milestones” section of the proposal lists only one indicator on which the success of the proposed charter office overhaul would be directly evaluated:

"Significant improvement in charters’ perceptions of charter office, as evidenced on charter-operator surveys."

That kinder, gentler approach to oversight is meant to appease charter operators, many of whom regard the District's charter office as hostile.

But with local headlines full of high-profile cases of charter corruption – most recently, Tuesday’s federal indictment of charter mogul June Brown, accused of a $6.5 million fraud related to three schools she helped found – many say that making the charter office more “charter-friendly” would be a huge step in the wrong direction.

"There are tremendous loopholes in the operation of charter schools that provide for financial abuses, profiteering, and unaccountability,” said City Controller Alan Butkovitz, whose office released a 2010 report blasting the District for lax charter oversight.

Supporting charter schools is fine, said Butkovitz, but it shouldn’t be the job of the same office charged with overseeing them. 

“There should be an accountability office whose independence is strictly guarded,” he said.

“We can’t afford to have any more scandals.”

Gleason, who submitted the Gates grant proposal on behalf of the compact, was vague when asked why that document is so heavily skewed toward addressing charter operators’ concerns and so silent on accountability.

“I don’t know if I have good answer on that, other than it was a collectively written document, edited many times, and in some cases key details may have been left out,” Gleason said.

Shorr, who chairs the compact’s coordinating committee, helped oversee the creation of the proposal. Yet she described its language about the charter office as “one-sided.”

“It is not my perspective, and I don’t think it’s the compact’s perspective, that we’re looking to make a charter-friendly charter authorizer,” Shorr said.

Both she and Gleason emphasized that the May proposal to the Gates Foundation has since undergone significant revisions.

The final grant proposal, expected by early August, will not include a request for funds for the charter office, they said. 

For whom, for what?

Whether it's part of the Great Schools Compact’s proposal to the Gates Foundation or not, revamping the charter office remains a priority for the compact’s members, including School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos.

Over the past four months, Ramos has voted consistently – and sometimes vocally – in favor of charter expansion, prodding the SRC to add more than 5,000 seats to the city’s charter sector at a projected cost of $139 million over five years.

But even Ramos says that if that bet is to pay off, the District’s charter office will need more capacity to make sure that charters address longstanding concerns about their financial transparency and willingness to educate all students.

If charters “don’t start acting more uniformly like public schools with public responsibility,” Ramos said, “it will be their Achilles’ heel, just as safety has been for the School District.”

Some charter operators, including Lawrence Jones, president of the board of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, say they welcome “fair, equitable, and transparent” oversight.

“We feel the best form of advocacy is to have high-quality charter schools.  And the best way to have high-quality charter schools is to have a high-quality [charter] authorizer,” said Jones, the CEO of Richard Allen Preparatory Charter in Southwest Philadelphia.

The SRC is now the only entity with the legal authority to create a new charter and to renew or revoke an existing charter. To make those decisions, the five-member volunteer commission relies heavily on the information and recommendations provided by the charter office.

But many charter operators, including Jones, believe strongly that the standards, processes, and sometimes even the data that come out of the charter office are inconsistent at best – and deeply flawed at worst.

It’s not about seeking a more friendly charter office, Jones said.

It’s about seeking an office that is fair and transparent, especially when it comes to high-stakes decisions like renewing a school's charter.

Jones likened an effective charter office to a good parent. 

“If I didn’t get in when the streetlights turned on, I knew what my dad was going to do,” he said.

“There was a clear, consistent expectation, and if I didn’t meet it, there was a consequence. So I met it. And there was peace in the valley.”

A threat from Harrisburg

SRC Chairman Ramos is also looking for predictability in the District's relationships with charters, especially when it comes to student enrollment.

In recent months, though, a number of major threats have emerged that could undermine the order -- and ability to plan -- that Ramos is seeking.

State courts recently upheld a 2011 Pennsylvania Department of Education ruling that the District had illegally imposed an enrollment cap on the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter, potentially opening the door to unchecked expansion by existing charters.

And this June, the General Assembly came very close to passing charter reform legislation, some versions of which contained a provision that would allow the state to create its own charter authorizing body.

Such a statewide authorizer could approve new charter schools in Philadelphia regardless of whether the SRC – or Philadelphia citizens – want them.

“It would exacerbate what is already a difficult planning process,” said the city’s Shorr, who said it would be “beneficial to Philadelphia” for the SRC to remain the city’s sole charter authorizer.

But Gov. Corbett and Republican leaders in the state Senate intend to make a strong push in September to get charter reform legislation passed.

“The Governor has supported and will continue to support and advocate for the creation of a statewide authorizer,” wrote Department of Education spokesperson Timothy Eller.

And Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi “supports the idea and would like to see it happen,” said his spokesperson, Erik Arneson.

Within the Great Schools Compact, opinions are split. Despite the position of city and District officials, many charter operators, frustrated at the SRC’s unspoken freeze on granting new charters, support the state plan.

“I don’t think a second authorizer is a bad thing for Philadelphia,” said PSP’s Gleason, “but I recognize why it’s a bad thing for the District.”

More private money?

Whatever happens with the District’s charter office, somebody is going to have to pay for it.

With a $282 million shortfall already looming for next year, it’s not likely to be the District.

“At a time when you’re cutting everything else, to build an office that some sectors would see as helping privatization” would be a “tough sell,” acknowledged Shorr.

The alternative, though, is equally fraught with political peril.

The Great Schools Compact, in its May grant proposal to the Gates Foundation, projected that overhauling the charter office would cost $6 million over three years.  

Though that foundation is apparently no longer a target for possible philanthropic support, the idea of raising private money to pay for a new charter office remains very much alive.

Gleason of the Philadelphia School Partnership, whose organization helped fund the work of outside consultants on the SRC’s controversial “transformation blueprint,” says PSP might be able to help.

“We believe we could raise philanthropic funding to help do this,” Gleason said.

“We’re not actively fundraising for it, but we believe we could if asked.”

Ramos says that such a request, to PSP or elsewhere, is not out of the question.

“It can’t be anything that has any strings or conditions attached in any way.  But within those parameters, we would welcome the help,” Ramos said.

Officials said there’s no immediate timetable for making changes to the charter office.

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Comments (60)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 25, 2012 3:15 pm

Amid rapid charter school growth, and stunning fraud charges, city leaders consider overhaul of District charter office….translation: The SRC and Philadelphia Partnership hire folks they want to do their bidding. Let’s see…whom from what board gets which position? Will this become patronage? Time will tell.

My old grandpa used to say “them who has the gold makes the rules.” Looks like he knew what he was talking about.

Submitted by Charles R. (not verified) on July 25, 2012 6:55 pm

YES< the facts mean nothing because the BIG money people want this to happen. OUR ONLY HOPE rests with us, the people of Phila. to kick this crap to the curb or at least DEMAND that real accountability and oversight takes place before any more charters are awarded. What a bunch of political crap this is and some wonder why so many of us have NO faith in the system and don't even bother to vote.

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on July 25, 2012 4:19 pm

You are asking the wrong questions. It isn't "How do we accommodate rapid charter growth?" it is "Should there be ANY charter growth until we can define their role and hold them accountable?"

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on July 25, 2012 4:27 pm

What does Shorr mean by a "managed market of schools?"

Meanwhile, is Darden leaving? What about Nunnery?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 25, 2012 4:17 pm

I don't know. I image Nunnery still has a few Porsche payments left.

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on July 25, 2012 6:33 pm

Inquirer just announced Hite will get $300,000 - no mention of benefits / perks. Sounds like he will get as much as Ackerman... meanwhile, people making $30,000 / year have to "donate" to the SDP. Knudson will stay on - $25,000/month ($22,500 when Hite starts in Oct. and stay for 2 months). No mention of Nunnery... Masch was let go, why not Nunnery? Darden?

Will Hite have a four year salary freeze? (No wages like 1201). Will Hite have to give "a donation" to the SDP just like 1201? Nixon is still at 440. Who else will be downtown either salaries or with a contract (e.g. Ed Williams, Ceil Cannon) also bringing home top salaries?

Same old inequity.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 26, 2012 9:10 am

It has a vanity license plate that reads, "LEE'S TOY"

Can we please get this expensive manchild off the SDP payroll?

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on July 25, 2012 8:25 pm

Thanks for the questions, PPT.

On #1: 

My interpretation is that in talking about a "managed market of schools," Dr. Shorr meant that city education leaders are embracing school choice/charter expansion, but are seeking to do so in a controlled, predictable way in which the SRC retains the power to manage and direct the growth of charters in a way that supports their plans for the District (e.g., the five-year financial plan, the facilities master plan, the Great Schools Compact.)

The alternative to this notion would be a "free market," in which the SRC loses its sole control of the ability to approve new charters in Philadelphia and existing charters are able to expand at their own discretion, among other things.  Some of the proposed charter reform legislation likely to come back for consideration in Harrisburg in September contains tenets that would support this more "free market" approach.

Again, just to be clear - this is all just my interpretation.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on July 25, 2012 9:23 pm

Thanks for your interpretation - it makes sense. It also means Shorr assumes the "market of schools" is inevitable and I guess desirable.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 26, 2012 9:05 am

Benjamin, what are your thoughts on Darden saying recently in the Tribune that the $38 million/$139 million was all just one big misunderstanding as he thought he was being asked about the cost of charter expansion only for the charter schools up for expansion at that particular meeting? It sounds like a really sad attempt to cover but I wasn't at the Friday meeting where it first came up.

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on July 26, 2012 10:45 am

Anonymous -

Thanks for pointing me towards the Tribune story, which I had not seen (

I have a hard time accepting the District's contention that Darden's use of the $38 million figure was a misunderstanding or misstatement. In the days before Darden publicly used that figure, his office responded to an earlier Notebook/NewsWorks request for the total cost of all the seats added through the renewal/modification process with a spreadsheet that used the same $38 million figure - AFTER a weeks-long delay that was ostensibly due to the DIstrict working to make sure that they got their number correct. At that time, I asked Darden directly if the $38m was for all seats or just those added on June 22, as both the Notebook and the Inquirer previously reported. He responded to me that it was for all the seats added to date.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 26, 2012 1:34 pm

Thomas Darden has a history of fiscal mismanagement and worse.

(Obviously he didn't get the job in Providence.)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 27, 2012 4:09 pm

Thanks Benjamin. That is really concerning that it was a miscalculation and not a miscommunication.

Were you at the meeting this morning? Seemed like they were in need of some real fact checkers with Belmont charter. Also the discussion of neighborhood school and what school is a compulsory school. Interesting to find out that while Belmont serves People's Emergency Center (begrudgingly at first, apparently) Drew which they closed actually served as the catchment school for several homeless shelters.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 25, 2012 9:33 pm

So Larry Jones wants more accountability, yet PA charter schools have managed to sidestep the new PA teacher evaluation requirements. How does this make sense and how is this having charter schools be accountable for MY tax dollars?

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on July 25, 2012 10:23 pm

In what situation would you belive multiple members of a grant writing team when their explanation for the compelte lack of accountability controls is ooops? I tend not to sign my name onto projects or documents which I belive do not represent what I feel about the activity or reccomendation.


Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on July 25, 2012 11:02 pm

May I say this one more time:

Democracy is the only way to ensure that "the best interests of the students and their school community" standard is, in reality, the guiding principle that governs our schools.

Our schools must become true professional learning communities and every stakeholder, parents, teachers, and even students must be given a true voice in everything that happens in our schools and their particular public school.

Democracy is the sine qua non for Greatness in schools.

After all, Whose school is it?

All of the players can play their power, control and money games all they want, but we will always be tied to "the Democratic Imperative for Our Schools."

Democracy is the purification process for the ills that plague our schools. Until we govern all of our schools on the same principles as set forth in Our Great Constitution, we will always be plagued by the ills we speak of today.

I believe in "servant leadership" and so professes Dr. Hite -- I wish him well and hope he has the courage to withstand the self interests that will swirl around him and truly serve the students, their parents, Our community, and the public interest.

I believe in the students, teachers, parents and school leaders I have had the Great fortune to work with elbow to elbow over my 37 years as an educator within our community. I have met and come to know some awesome people along the way. I do not believe in the privatization agenda which is being imposed upon us.

All Great schools, and all Great school systems are Great communities. Until we lead and govern our schools as communities, we will never have true Greatness in our schools.

Of that I am sure....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 26, 2012 8:58 pm

Rich, only true educators know and understand what you're talking about. As you say, until our schools become true professional learning communities and everyone given a true voice academic success for students will remain elusive.

There is one common variable in the charter/privatization/neighborhood public school milieu; students.
No matter the label we place on the institution of learning students, and families of students, will remain constant. Changing the way we operate schools, as proposed, is about management of the workforce. It has yet to address what students need to be successful.

Submitted by Greg N. (not verified) on July 26, 2012 8:41 pm

Charters are the antithesis of Democracy.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on July 27, 2012 7:11 am

Charter schools do not have to be the "antithesis of democracy." The "true charter schools" are by law LEA's just like all of the school districts in Pennsylvania. At least 98% of our "LEA'a" or "school districts" as they are called in Pennsylvania have elected school boards.

No charter school I have ever studied has a majority of its board of trustees elected by its parents.

The Charter School Law requires that for every charter school their governing documents must include how its board of trustees is "elected or appointed." I submit that if they were required to have their board of trustees "elected by the 'residents' of the charter school," then it would be operating as a democratic organization.

Residents would be defined as parents of students who are enrolled in the charter school. The definition of 'residents" could also include teachers at the charter school.

I also submit that, then and only then, will charter schools truly operate for the best interests of their students and their school community.

There are already legal decisions from Commonwealth Court and the Supreme Court which state that, as public officials, the board of trustees of a charter school have "the single purpose to promote the interests of its pupils."

The issue of whether charter schools are public schools or are being allowed to operate as private businesses being run for the interests of those who operate them in violation of law is not going away any time soon.

There is also a "moral imperative" for our school leaders to ensure that our public schools are being operated as public schools for the best interests of its pupils and their communities.

That is one reason why I have become so appreciative of the Notebook community -- because so many of us stand up for the "moral imperative" of our public schools.

There was a sign on the wall at Furness, it read, 'If you do not stand for something, you stand for nothing." It is time to stand....

Submitted by Greg N. (not verified) on July 27, 2012 8:09 pm

Rich----I am referring to the 80 charter schools in Phila. not the Utopian Version that was the genesis of the charter movement. NONE of the charters in Phila. even pretend to be the original sort. I've been saying for 3 years on this sight that we need to band together and fight this garbage so you're preaching to the choir.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on July 29, 2012 8:45 pm

Yes you have and I have read every word you have said -- understandingly and admiringly. I knew what you meant and admire your leadership.

Just thought I'd add a note of thought that would echo your point.

By the way, did you read in the Inky this morning their review of the book -- The Betrayal of the American Dream?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2012 9:06 pm

Yes, I did. Unless the 99% band together, we're all dead.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2012 2:55 am

There are charter schools in Philly which are community based and do provide an "workshop," at least in some areas, versus test prep factories. Unfortunately, the charters that get attention and are expanding are not community based schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2012 8:35 am

Please name 3 as I know of none and I work for the S.D.

P.S. Not to be rude, but be careful of what you know that just ain't so.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 25, 2012 11:18 pm

What I don't get from the article is who has a problem with the functioning of the charter school office:
a) two people who have never taught or run a school and who cannot create a meaningful outcome measure on a grant application;
b) the CEO of a mediocre charter school;
c) an out-of-town consulting group paid for by a bunch of suburbanites;
d) those who want unrestrained growth of charter schools in Philadelphia;
e) all of the above.
Actually, I do get it now.
Dr. Hite, please ask yourself this question when weighing in on a very important decision.

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on July 25, 2012 11:53 pm

Darden telling the SRC in a public meeting the charter expansion would cost $38 million - opps, $138 million - is a problem. Darden appears to rubber stamp charter expansion. His office is suppose to monitor based on his public presentations. They don't monitor - they rubber stamp. Meanwhile, SDP schools budgets are cut to the bone and apparently the SRC wants to make workers "donate" to the school district. These are problems.

Submitted by Greg N. (not verified) on July 26, 2012 2:13 pm

Fraud, Fraud and more Fraud.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on July 26, 2012 1:00 am

Ramos says that such a request, to PSP or elsewhere, is not out of the question.
“It can’t be anything that has any strings or conditions attached in any way. But within those parameters, we would welcome the help,” Ramos said.

or to paraphrase, "just leave the money on the nightstand on the way out, honey."

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on July 26, 2012 6:19 am

Is this Ramos admitting that any money tied to the William Penn Foundation / United Way (e.g. pay for BCC study) has strings and conditions attached? I assume it means not only does Nowak sign off on any work but what Nowak wants, Nowak gets. So who is in charge of the SRC, Mr. Ramos?

Submitted by Jim (not verified) on July 28, 2012 10:07 pm

Clearly, there would be strings attached. This is CORPORATE reform, which is not in my best interest, nor my kids best interest, nor the best interest of working class, taxpayers of Philadelphia. It is a CORPORATE agenda plain and simple, funded by people who have no real stake in the matter, other than financial or political gain. It's exactly how Corbett wants it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 26, 2012 6:23 am

It would help if the Charter staff arrived before 9:30 and knew a little something.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 26, 2012 12:12 pm

Seems auditors do a decent job with finding necessary financial info:’sCharterSchoolFormula.html

The question is who would do best to keep everyone honest? We certainly don't have anyone who can for the SDP. Massive waste there. Even a Federal audit of the Title I spending and reporting of the SDP as "at risk" (for improper expenditures and accounting) went nowhere. I'm sure this money amounts to a lot more than Ms. Brown misappropriated.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 26, 2012 1:55 pm

Let's start with firing Tom Darden.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 26, 2012 1:27 pm

Ed Williams is a train wreck. I worked with him at King High School when he worked as a "Consultant" sucking off Foundations Inc.,'s nipple. He stirs the pot, disappears when things boil over, and has nothing new to say. This man seriously needs to go into full-time retirement. Now that Foundations has run out of milk, he's busy sucking off of the School District's nipple.

Submitted by Greg N. (not verified) on July 27, 2012 7:03 pm

Ed Williams must be 150 years old. When I was a young teacher, he looked very old.

Submitted by ackermancarl (not verified) on July 26, 2012 3:53 pm

Thank you for your insightful article. Keep up the good work!

Submitted by Greg N. (not verified) on July 26, 2012 5:04 pm

OFF the subject a bit but when Biden was in town yesterday, the head of the firemen's union said that firemen shouldn't be LUMPED in with other public sector workers. HE SHOULD BE FIRED NOW. He's exactly the kind of numbnut the corporations want so they can divide and conquer the workers, especially the union folks. I had to read it 3 times before I could believe the full stupidity in his comment.

Submitted by taxpaying parent (not verified) on July 27, 2012 7:50 am

What about Alan Butkovitz's report on Charters? For those concerned with excessive salaries paid to district employees, have you taken a good look at Charter CEO salaries??

From Martha Woodall via the Inquirer, "Among the 10 highest-paid chief executives, the average was $175,246, considerably more than the $133,889 earned by the district's nine assistant superintendents, who are responsible for overseeing dozens of schools within a region. And the Controller's Office could find no correlation between a chief executive's salary and the charter school's size or the median salary paid to its teachers."

Hmmmmm... some regulation might be in order... and not the charter friendly kind.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 27, 2012 7:51 am

Franklin Towne Charter's CEO makes $200,000/year, Boys Latin $185,000/year, etc. The CEOs get lucrative salaries. In general, the teachers get less than the SDP. This is especially true in schools with much younger staffs which is the norm in most charters (KIPP, Mastery, Boys Latin, etc.)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 27, 2012 3:23 pm

To be fair to KIPP, they use the same salary structure as SDP for both their teachers and their principals.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 27, 2012 3:10 pm

Yes, but with much younger staff (and a lot of turnover), their salaries are lower because the staff is less experienced.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 27, 2012 6:27 pm

I'm wondering if that info is available anywhere- charter CEO and teacher salaries for each school. It should be public, right?

Submitted by Greg N. (not verified) on July 27, 2012 7:13 pm

Should be but isn't. I'm just shocked by that, just shocked--Sure I am !!!!

Submitted by Greg N. (not verified) on July 27, 2012 7:20 pm

That is totally untrue. Do you really believe that or are you trolling?

Submitted by Jim (not verified) on July 27, 2012 8:42 pm

Of course, we can't prove nor disprove this statement until this kind of information is made public. Why would parents want their kids teachers getting paid so much lower than traditional school counterparts, while CEOs rake it in. Charter school founders/ criminals like Dorothy Brown should never have been referred to as "moguls". My child's education is not somebody's goose that lays golden eggs!

Submitted by Greg N. (not verified) on July 27, 2012 8:13 pm

Jim---Why would parents care one way or the other what I am being paid? City Council refused to let the SRC privatize the custodial union but their contract is ridiculous especially given the unthinkable amount of money the district gives away to various connected crooks. This time next year, The PFT will have its battle and Jordan will be called on to show his leadership. By the way, I am ashamed of the PFT and other unions who refused to help the custodians. ALL UNIONS should ALWAYS stand together or we're all dead over time.

Submitted by Greg N. (not verified) on July 27, 2012 8:37 pm

Same old, same old, same old-------until the citizens of Phila. band together, this blatant corruption at the expense of REAL public Education, will only continue. We'll get no relief from Corbett and here it comes, Obama unless WE demand in a big, UNITED way, that it ends. The churches can't do it alone but they see the overt fraud and are doing their part.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 28, 2012 6:08 am

For 2010-2011, the average of Philadelphia CEO salaries (according to PDE records-74 salaries queried) was $125,332. For Philadelphia School District Secondary Principals for the 2010-2011 (according to PDE records - 70 salaries queried) the average salary was $136,687.34. Consider that charter CEO's have human resource, legal, governance, fiscal audit, building/construction, financing, and other compliance issues handled by district central office staff. These are facts, not myth or stories from disgruntled individuals. The salaries listed for the charter CEO's above are correct, but keep in mind the average charter CEO makes about the same or less than a High School Principal in the district.

Also, this information is available to the public, as are charter school annual reports (from PDE) which include audits, budgets, and other compliance items. Unlike school districts, public charter school 990 tax records are also available to the public. I'm aware that this information will be shot down or ignored by some of the posters here, but you can't say you weren't given the facts. Finally, the district has all of this information (including how much Brown was paid at all schools over the years). If there are problems with salaries, how do the schools get renewed?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 28, 2012 11:01 am

Charter school teachers, on average, still make less than SDP teachers. SDP teachers also make less than most suburban teachers. My point is teachers at charters are often underpaid / over worked while their CEOs are not. How does the CEO of Franklin Towne Charter, who has many subordinates including administrators, justify making $200,000/year (plus I assume generous benefits)? He is running one K-8 and one 9-12 school. This is a similar salary to Scott Gordon who runs more schools but also has his "mini-school district" office with over 30 staff which does not include school based staff.

How are these layers of administrators / schools saving money? Knudson / Nowak / Boston Consulting Group (apparently) admit their plan is revenue neutral. To date, the only group paying for their plan are 1201 workers. I assume next year the PFT will be asked to pay the price. (CASA too??) The only ones not paying the cost are those who can afford it the most - the CEOs of charters and the leadership of the SDP. (How many CEOs and school district leadership are buying school supplies this summer for their students? How many are purchasing curricular materials so they can teach this fall?)

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on July 28, 2012 5:18 pm

Because he is a lawyer who seized control of the board of trustees. Then he put himself in as CEO. Then he has his lackey board pay him all of that money. That is how it works.

He manipulated himself into that position and has been self-dealing ever since.

The charter schools do not save the school district any money and they do not educate children any better. They exclude students illegally. They do well for self dealers to manipulate themselves into a gravy train for themsleves. What do we not understand about that?

Submitted by Jim (not verified) on July 28, 2012 10:06 pm

Can you please share how you retrieved this data? I was not able to do so on the PDE website. I couldn't get past the 2010 annual reports for each charter, which frankly were quite lacking.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 28, 2012 3:18 pm

You've repeated parts of my post, but still have yet to acknowledge or deal with facts. Simply supposition, myths, and outright lies.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on July 28, 2012 6:06 pm

In May, the Philadelphia School Partnership submitted on behalf of the Great Schools Compact a $7 million grant proposal to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
That proposal, which officials now describe as a preliminary draft, included a plan to raise millions of philanthropic dollars to “reimagine” the charter office so that charters like it more:
"Because a revamped charter office must be adequately staffed if it is to effectively support charters and rebuild trust, we request that a portion of the collaboration grant, $800,000, go toward setup and staffing costs... We will leverage the [Gates] Foundation’s funding with local philanthropic funds on at least a 1-to-1 matching basis, and preferably a 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 basis."
The charter schools office needs to be a publicly funded office, accountable to the public voices and taxpayers of Philadelphia. Paying for the office through grants from the Gates Foundation and other private entities means that the office will take on the agenda of its funders. Bill and Melinda Gates have no qualifications in the area of education, other than the fact that they have tons of money.

Why don't charter schools like the current office? Does it hold them accountable for serving students with special needs and ELLs? Does it make the charters be transparent? If the charter operators want a more fair and transparent office, that's reasonable. But when I hear talk of wanting a more likable office, that sounds like what the charter operators want is an office full of yes men and yes women.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 28, 2012 7:39 pm

Thank you for sharing this information. If the SDP is now composed of both charter and SDP schools, then all offices need to be transparent and serve all Philadelphians - not just students/families in charter schools. Besides the illegalities occurring in some charters, there are also very shady dealings. For example, the fact that the CEO of Franklin Towne Charter is earning $200,000/year should sent up flags.

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on July 28, 2012 8:50 pm

Why is Philadelphia School Partnership putting in a grant porposal for the Great Schools Compact. PSP does not represent any party in the compact. They do not speak for the SRC. They do not speak for the charter schools. All school district official business must go through the SRC resolution process and be decided upon by the SRC. There is a legally required process.

Has Mark Gleason now usurped the power and authority of the SRC? Is he an elected officer of the the Charter Schools? Is he an elected representative of the people of Philadelphia in any capacity?

Has there been any opportunity for public comment?

So why is he putting in a grant proposal? What's up with that?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 28, 2012 10:18 pm

There is no more "legally required processes". Did you take a look at the charter school audit report? There were schools which did not submit annual reports because nobody asked them to that year. There was an unaccounted for travel expense to a beach resort costing $30,000. And that's just the tip of the ice berg! Read Butkovitz's report!! It's shameful what is going on right under the SRC's noses. Can someone please remind me why we have an SRC?

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on July 29, 2012 10:11 am

The SRC is certainly looking like a bunch of chumps now aren't they?

The charter schools do whatever they want with impunity unless the Feds come in and prosecute.

Mark Gleason and his crew circumvent the SRC as if the PSP and Nowak have already taken over the district.

And all Lori Shorr, the Mayor's girl, can talk about is "seats" as if our children are inanimate objects.

When are the SRC members going to get the courage to stand up for the best interests of children and the people of Philadelphia? Who do they serve?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2012 3:19 pm

The SRC serves Corbett who serves big money interests. By the way, so does your boy, Nutter. We're all dead unless we stop moaning on sites like these and START getting proactively involved in a big way with hostility and mobility. The churches can't do it alone-----and shouldn't.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2012 7:41 am

Do you realize that the Butkovitz report was not an audit of charter schools, but an audit of the charter school office at the district. Why hasn't Butkovitz followed up on the charter schools or the charter school office. Who in the district has been fired or indicted for being complicit?

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