Mastery Charter welcomed students to Simon Gratz High on Monday morning, opening the doors at the first of three neighborhood high schools being converted to charters under the Renaissance Schools initiative this year.
Leaders from the School District, the Mayor’s office, and Mastery Charter gathered Friday to tout preliminary test score results at Mastery’s three turnaround schools – and to ramp up their argument that the state should restore funding to the District.
So far, the second round of the School District's efforts to convert struggling public schools into charters has featured three student walkouts, two massive protest rallies, the temporary exile of an outspoken teacher, a federal lawsuit, and a state representative using strong-arm tactics to trample the District's public process.
Other than that, it's been smooth sailing.
The District has released the second quarterly monitoring reports from School Advisory Councils (SACs) at seven existing Renaissance charter schools.
Some school-by-school highlights:
The School Advisory Councils (SACs) at Simon Gratz High and George Clymer Elementary schools have both recommended that Mastery Charter be selected as their “turnaround team” for next year, according to multiple sources.
On the first day of school last fall at Smedley Elementary in Philadelphia, Principal Brian McLaughlin assembled students in the sweltering cafeteria and pointed to a picture of a giant eraser projected onto a screen.
"I want you to think of all the things from last year that you may not have liked," McLaughlin said. "We're going to erase those right now."
Mastery Charter will be competing for just two of the six recently named "Renaissance match" charter schools - Simon Gratz High School and George Clymer Elementary School.
Mastery CEO Scott Gordon described his organization's strategy as "high-risk."
In a plan that will expand Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's Renaissance Schools initiative to encompass 31 schools and 12 percent of the District's students, 18 more low-performing schools have been targeted for radical overhauls.
"Everyone knows this comes back to me," said Ackerman in announcing the move. "These schools are under my very close watch and care."
Despite controversy about a looming budget shortfall, School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman – citing progress with her first cohort of 13 turnaround schools – is moving ahead with plans to dramatically overhaul a second, even larger group of low-performing schools.
Her announcement of this next phase coincided with the release of financial figures by the District showing a much higher price tag for the first round of schools than previously reported.