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North Philly parents suspicious of postponed charter school election

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Apr 29, 2014 06:57 PM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

In meetings over the last four weeks, the Philadelphia School District has been making a case for why it chose Edward Steel Elementary in Nicetown and Luis Muñoz-Marín Elementary in Fairhill for charter school conversion.

Parents at both schools were set to vote on Thursday, but Monday night, they learned that the District was going to push the election back a month at Muñoz-Marín (but not at Steel), saying that some have complained that the process was moving too quickly.

Some parents are suspicious the election is being delayed because voters would have rejected the charter. The School District and the proposed charter operator say it's about not rushing the process.

"I agree ... if the parents feel that they need a little more time, give it to them," said ASPIRA's executive director, Alfredo Calderon. ASPIRA is the proposed operator for Muñoz-Marín.

When pressed about whether he lobbied for the change, Calderon said he did contact District leadership.

"I did," he said. "As the executive director of ASPIRA, I said well, 'The parents are saying the process was a little rushed -- would you consider it?'"

"They are extending the time only for their own convenience," said Muñoz-Marín's principal, Ximena Carreno. "They know we are winning ... so they want to extend the time."

"It's a trick that they're playing on us," said Vivian Rodriguez, a retired District teacher who lives in the neighborhood and often volunteers at the school. "It's a racket, like my mother used to say, and I know that word in Spanish and in English, and it means they're playing us, you know?"

Philadelphia School District leaders say the change was necessary because Muñoz-Marín didn't have a functioning school advisory council for much of the last month. Its newly formed SAC has met once since the District announced the possibility of Renaissance charter conversion in early April.

The Steel vote will remain on May 1, the District says, because the Steel SAC has been meeting regularly.

Councilwoman makes announcement

Parents at Muñoz-Marín got the news not from District leadership, but from City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez, who represents the neighborhood. She says she's heard from at least a dozen parents who complained about the compressed timeline.

During the announcement, Quiñones-Sanchez got into a heated exchange with Rodriguez, who complained that the District had botched the voting process.

"I am not the District," Quiñones-Sanchez said into the microphone. "I am here to say that parents want time and parents deserve the time."

In the late 1990s, Quiñones-Sanchez was ASPIRA's executive director, a point decried by some critics in the crowd.  

Quiñones-Sanchez defended her relation to the organization – listing a resume of accomplishments that include founding the city's first bilingual charter school, ASPIRA's Hostos. The councilwoman says she no longer sits on ASPIRA's board or has financial ties to the organization.

"For transparency purposes, I don't sit on boards, because I have to represent all schools," she told the audience.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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Comments (17)

Submitted by anon (not verified) on April 29, 2014 7:26 pm
my hat is off to the courageous principal of muñoz-marín, ximena carreno, for going on record with her beliefs. once again, we see that hite & company can not fulfill the role of honest brokers and will do whatever it takes to follow the bidding of their handlers. it is high time for hite and the src to step down and allow someone who truly wants to lead public education and specifically, the school district of philadelphia, forward into the 21st century.
Submitted by Teachin' (not verified) on April 29, 2014 10:03 pm
I agree! What a bold principal to speak out against the district. I hope CASA's president grows enough cajones to defend her when the district goes after her. Of course the vote was delayed because the district saw it was going to lose. What could be more obvious?
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on April 29, 2014 7:48 pm
Quinoes-Sanchez is NOT impartial - ""I think ultimately that the parents will see that ASPIRA provides them a better option given the reality of the district funding," she said,... How can she claim to be there to help when she has already sided with an anti-union, sleazy (stealing) charter operator? Since District funding is inadequate, why doesn't Quinoes-Sanchez do something about it other than pay lip service?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 30, 2014 7:39 am
No she's not!!!! She tells Cheryl Logan (Assistant Superintendent) what to do with the schools in her network. In January 2014, Sanchez was behind the removal of the Edison high school principal. Sanchez complained to Cheryl Logan and Cheryl obliged her request. She's not imperial. Sanchez has her own agenda.
Submitted by activist (not verified) on April 30, 2014 9:05 am
damn shame I was wondering all this time what happened to edison's old principal ... i hear they bout back an asst principal who they laid off 6 months previous to now be in charge... talk about blantant disrespect of education
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on April 29, 2014 8:59 pm

At every public meeting parents have overwhelmingly voiced opposition to the ASPIRA take over.   Yet Quinones-Sanchez and the District say "parents want more time."   ASPIRA and the SRC want more time to wear down the opposition and constitute a SAC favorable to ASPIRA.   Once again they show their contempt for parents and the community.

Submitted by Latoya (not verified) on May 5, 2014 5:00 am

When I originally commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Many thanks!

Submitted by speaking of which (not verified) on April 29, 2014 8:02 pm
They have absolutely no shame. They know what they are doing is obvious. How disappointing to see Quinones-Sanchez sell out her community and support a charter organization which cannot even treat is own employees fairly.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 30, 2014 6:03 am
Quinones-Sanches is a crook. Vote her out, she is nothing but a cancer to the schools and community. Marin is not the only school she is after.
Submitted by activist (not verified) on April 30, 2014 9:56 am
soon they will come for edison what a shame
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 1, 2014 4:40 pm
Edison's become a hell hole.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 1, 2014 6:21 am
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2014 5:47 pm
Edison's former principal, Charlie Baltimore, earned the respect of teachers, staff, students, parents and the community at large. During his brief tenure, he took a persistently dangerous school and transformed it into a stable climate where violent offenses were not swept under the rug. Morale, student achievement, and community/college partnerships were increasing exponentially. Hite's darling, Cheryl Logan, dismissed him when he disagreed with her directive to send students back into an unsafe building after a flood. Looks like Quinones-Sanchez and her posse are taking advantage of the very population they pretend to represent. This blatant foul play would not be tolerated in a suburban school district.
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