The two-year-old Philadelphia School Partnership, at the center of the city's strategy to support "great" schools regardless of who runs them, announced Thursday that it was more than halfway to its goal of raising $100 million from area foundations, corporations and individuals.
At a press conference attended by Mayor Nutter and School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos, PSP executive director Michael Gleason said that his group has commitments for $51.9 million.
By Dale Mezzacappa and Benjamin Herold
The School District released a 119-page document on Thursday that summarized the analyses and recommendations of the Boston Consulting Group, an outside firm retained at private expense to help the District avert a financial meltdown by radically overhauling its business operations and delivery of education.
The document details BCG’s work and thinking on hot-button topics ranging from charter expansion to labor negotiations. It also includes the previously unreleased analyses behind controversial District proposals to close dozens of schools and reorganize those that are left into decentralized, independently managed “achievement networks.”
A divided School Reform Commission approved the expansion of two more charters on Friday, but delayed decisions on two others pending the result of the state’s ongoing investigation of possible cheating on state tests. Five other schools also have pending renewal or modification requests.
Charter school expansions approved by the School Reform Commission this spring are projected to cost the cash-strapped School District $139 million over the next five years – $100 million more than District officials had previously stated.
The School Reform Commission brought closure Friday to two running controversies from this spring, formally granting a charter for Universal Companies to run Creighton Elementary as a Renaissance charter and accepting a proposal from Hope Charter High School to close in 2013.
Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission renewed all five charters up for consideration Friday, but not before a sometimes brusque debate among the commissioners about the growing cost to the District of expanding charter enrollment.
Friday’s renewals and modifications added more than 1,600 charter seats to the District at a projected cost of $40 million over five years. District officials were not immediately able to provide an overview of the total number of charter seats added during this year’s renewal and modification process or how much those new seats are projected to cost.
High-profile charters including Mastery-Pickett, KIPP West Philadelphia, and Boys' Latin were among those renewed on Friday.
The School District of Philadelphia and its largest charter school turnaround operator have agreed on the outlines of a deal that will prevent the relocation of 12 severely disabled children from one of the city’s Renaissance charters.
The deal avoids a potentially traumatic move for students in two Multiple Disabilities Support (MDS) classrooms at Mastery Charter Clymer Elementary in North Philadelphia. It also allays, at least for now, the concerns of disabilities rights advocates that the District had established a precedent for exempting charters from their responsibility to educate some of the city’s most vulnerable – and expensive to serve – students.
“I think we came up with a really positive solution,” said Courtney Collins-Shapiro, deputy chief innovation officer at Mastery Charter Schools.
“I think this is a good sign of the District and charters partnering.”
The U.S. Department of Labor pulled a multimillion dollar grant at the former Olney West High after the school was converted to a charter as part of the District’s Renaissance Schools initiative.
Also a factor in the decision was that Olney West is no longer considered a "persistently dangerous" school.
The DOL retracted $4.4 million of the grant, said District spokesperson Fernando Gallard. The grant's total value was $6.27 million.
The District is paying an estimated total of $1,776,832 to completely subsidize the facilities costs of charter operator Universal Companies in two District-owned buildings this school year.
The costs cover 14 District staffers across the two buildings, including three building engineers, four custodial assistants, and seven general cleaners. Services being provided free of charge by the District this year also include utilities, trash pickup, and cleaning and building engineer supplies.
On Friday, after months of delay, District officials announced they had reached a resolution with Universal on a long-standing dispute about facilities license agreements at the two South Philadelphia schools, which were both awarded to Universal last year as part of the District’s Renaissance Schools initiative.
[Updated, 9:30 p.m.] After hearing passionate testimony Friday afternoon for two competing proposals to overhaul Creighton Elementary School in the Lower Northeast, the School Reform Commission came down on the side of Universal Companies. They voted 4-0 in favor of the recommendation by School District staff to authorize Universal to submit a proposal to manage the school as a charter starting in the fall.