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Our coverage of the Renaissance Schools plan

No shortage of counselors at Promise Academies

By Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 26, 2013 05:11 PM

Due to the District's fiscal crisis, most schools in Philadelphia are suffering a counselor drought. But Promise Academies are not among them.

In fact, the 12 Promise Academies -- the District's in-house turnaround schools -- have 19 counselors, which amounts to 15 percent of the 126 counselors available to all 220 or so District-run schools.

More than half the District's schools -- 115 of them, with a population of more than 48,000 students -- are sharing 16 "itinerant" counselors who travel from school to school and have caseloads averaging about 3,000 students each.

In the Promise Academies, which have a combined enrollment of about 8,000, the average caseload works out to one counselor per about 420 students, much closer to the recommendations of the American School Counselor Association.

SRC approves Renaissance conversions and grants to expand three District schools

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 26, 2013 06:11 PM

The School Reform Commission approved the Renaissance charter agreements for three schools on Friday, officially turning Pastorius over to Mastery Charter Schools, Kenderton to Scholar Academies, and Alcorn to Universal Companies.

At a tense, four-hour meeting, the SRC also accepted $1.1 million in grant money from the Philadelphia School Partnership to expand three high-performing District schools: converting the experimental Sustainability Workshop into the Workshop School; creating a second campus of Science Leadership Academy; and expanding the middle school Hill-Freedman to include high school grades.

But it did so over the persistent objections of Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky, who did a financial analysis showing that the District will be absorbing considerable extra cost for these schools after this year -- a move he called financially irresponsible given the District's shaky budget picture. Earlier in the meeting, the District had announced that it only had enough funding to rehire a few hundred of the 3,800 staff laid off this summer.

SRC delays Renaissance conversions, renews charters for five schools

By Connie Langland on Jun 20, 2013 12:34 AM

Strong-armed into agreeing to enrollment caps, five charter schools won five-year operating renewals in votes Wednesday night by the School Reform Commission, but five others still have not come to terms with District officials determined to contain costs in the midst of its fiscal crisis.

Funding uncertainties also spurred a decision by Superintendent William Hite to delay the conversion of three low-performing elementary schools — Alcorn, Kenderton and Pastorius — into Renaissance charters under the District’s school turnaround initiative. The SRC had been scheduled to approve assignment of Alcorn to Universal Companies, Kenderton to Scholar Academies and Pastorius to Mastery Charter Schools.

Hite said that the turnovers were tabled “because of the unpredictability of the budget situation” but that the plan would proceed apace “once we have a clearer picture of our revenue and our funding.”

SRC matches Alcorn with Universal, but it's not over yet

By Connie Langland on May 31, 2013 11:47 AM

By a 4-1 vote of the School Reform Commission, Universal Companies last night came one step closer to winning the charter to run Alcorn Elementary School under the District’s Renaissance turnaround program.

But there’s one big "if."

The granting of the charter is still not official, and Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn emphasized last night that the handover remained contingent on Universal coming to new terms with the District for the use of Audenried High School and Vare Middle School, both in South Philadelphia.

Charter-school operators take their pitches directly to Pastorius Elementary

By the Notebook on Apr 9, 2013 03:07 PM

by Aaron Moselle for NewsWorks

In a week, Pastorius Elementary's School Advisory Council will make an important recommendation: which charter school operator it would prefer to turn around the struggling East Germantown school next year.

In advance of that decision, the three organizations selected by the School District of Philadelphia as Renaissance School finalists — Universal Companies, Scholar Academies and Mastery Charter Schools — each made pitches at the East Chelten Avenue school Monday night as they vie to be chosen.

District promises to get tough with new Renaissance charter operators

By by Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner on Apr 2, 2013 06:24 PM

The Philadelphia School District is vowing to take a hard line on two issues that have caused confusion when charter operators take over traditional public schools: special education and facilities costs.

Even as the District tries to convert three more of its schools into charters, officials and parents alike are wading through confusion over “exceptions” that past administrations granted to outside managers in previous years of the District’s Renaissance school turnaround initiative.

Head of District's Charter Schools Office resigns

By by Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner on Apr 1, 2013 12:02 PM

For the second time in less than a year, the head of the Philadelphia School District's Charter Schools Office is stepping down.

Doresah Ford-Bey, the District's executive director of charter schools, will resign effective this Friday. In an email to colleagues, Ford-Bey wrote that she has taken a position with Chicago Public Schools.

Nonprofit gives $3.4 million to expand two Philadelphia charters

By Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner on Mar 13, 2013 11:44 PM
Updated, 3 p.m. with quotes from Mark Gleason (PSP), Marc Mannella (KIPP Philadelphia), and Helen Gym (Parents United for Public Education)


The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) announced Thursday that it will give $3.4 million to charter school operators KIPP Philadelphia and Scholar Academies so they can expand by a combined 1,500 students.

The moves could mean as much as $10 million a year in unplanned expenses for the struggling Philadelphia School District.

The push to grow KIPP also comes just eight months after the School Reform Commission, citing concerns about academics and cost, mostly denied requests made by KIPP to expand its existing schools in North and West Philadelphia.

9 schools to undergo Renaissance overhaul

By David Limm on Feb 22, 2013 04:28 PM

Nine struggling schools in Philadelphia will be remodeled as Renaissance Schools this year, the District has announced, with three of them facing conversion to charter status.  

Two high schools and seven elementary schools will be transformed under the now three-year-old initiative, a signature program of former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman that seeks to turn around the District's worst-performing schools. 

Renaissance schools program enters its fourth year

By David Limm on Feb 1, 2013 02:44 PM

The District announced that it will continue its fourth year of the Renaissance schools initiative, the turnaround process in which management of struggling schools is outsourced to outside charter school operators. The District has invited applicants to submit proposals in response to its RFP by March 5. The announcement of which schools are set to become Renaissance schools will be made on Feb. 11. 


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