Schools turned around under the Renaissance Schools initiative, both charter conversions and District-run Promise Academies, showed student achievement gains in the first year that outpaced those of comparable schools, according to a study released today by Research for Action.
[Updated 1:30 a.m.] In an unexpected move, the School Reform Commission voted Thursday to approve a previously unannounced "walk-on" resolution to suspend a portion of the Pennsylvania Public School Code so that it can expedite its pending decision on the District's recommendation to close nine schools.
[Updated 3:45 p.m. with clarification on maintenance staff.]
Even while slashing staff, programs, and hours at schools across the city in an effort to close an enormous budget gap, the School District has been swallowing millions of dollars in facilities-related expenses at its 13 Renaissance Schools now run by outside charter operators.
Nowhere is the situation more pronounced than at Audenried High in South Philadelphia. There, the District has allowed Universal Companies to operate cost-free in a new, $55 million District-owned building since July because the parties have yet to come to terms on a facility license agreement.
Naomi Klein, in her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, lays out in considerable detail how right-wing politicians have used natural and man-made disasters to impose privatization and market-driven "reforms" while bypassing the messy business of democratic decision-making.
While the School Reform Commission's focus over the next few months will be trying to pull the District back from the brink of financial catastrophe, there will also be plenty of other important - and controversial - work to be tackled.
Yesterday the District announced the beginning of Renaissance Schools Year III and the call for proposals from potential charter operators. The 89-page Request for Proposals document describes the steps to apply to operate a Renaissance School.
It also gives a timeline for the process this year. Targeted schools and the providers who will compete to operate them will both be announced on February 20. The process for matching schools and providers will start the next day and run until March 22. The School Reform Commission is currently scheduled to vote on the pairings on March 29.
UPDATED 9:30 p.m.
There will be a year three of the Renaissance Schools initiative after all.
Despite significant uncertainty caused by ongoing budget cuts and leadership changes, the District announced today that it will expand its program for converting low-performing schools to charters. Prospective "turnaround teams" are invited to submit proposals by February 7, three months later than last year.
"Even in this difficult budget environment, the District is not sitting still on our goal of improving outcomes for students," said District Deputy for Strategic Programs Thomas Darden. "The decision to move forward with another round of Renaissance Charter Schools is an important part of our overall strategy."
Universal Companies, which was in the running to receive a chunk of federal money to establish a Promise Neighborhood in South Philadelphia, has lost out on receiving an implementation grant.
Philadelphia was not included in the list of five awardees released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education. The five organizations received between $1.5 million and $6 million each from the U.S. Department of Education.
Myron Patterson wasn’t taking any chances.
The dozen or so police officers from the 22nd District milled around in the Strawberry Mansion High School auditorium Thursday night – just in case.
“You can have a volatile meeting,” explained Patterson, a police chief inspector in charge of safety in the District.
In one of 17 scheduled community meetings on the facilities master plan, officials had come to discuss proposed school closings and grade reconfigurations in this part of North Philadelphia.The most far-reaching would close FitzSimons High, convert Rhodes High to a middle school, and send students from both schools to Strawberry Mansion.
Strawberry Mansion and FitzSimons are just blocks apart, but serve students representing different factions in intense, longstanding neighborhood rivalries.
FitzSimons High School (7-12) School to be closed in 2013. Current students in grades 8-10 will transition to Strawberry Mansion H.S. next fall.
Harrison Elementary (K-8) Students to be reassigned to Dunbar Promise Academy, Ludlow Elementary, or Spring Garden Elementary.
Sheridan West Academy (6-8) Phased out over two years, with all current students remaining until the school closes in 2014.