By Katie McCabe
The School Reform Commission voted Monday to outsource the three top management positions in its transportation department, but recessed until Wednesday to allow more time for talks with the labor union representing bus drivers, mechanics, and other blue-collar workers whose jobs could be facing a similar fate.
Responding to passionate support from parents, community members, and teachers for an “outside-the-box” plan to keep Thomas Creighton Elementary under District control, the School Reform Commission decided Thursday evening to delay a planned vote to convert Creighton into a Renaissance charter.
“I agree with my colleagues that we should table this motion at this point,” said Commissioner Wendell Pritchett.
“We have a lot of schools to turn around, and we need to take advantage of every opportunity to engage with our teachers to do that.”
Listen to Benjamin Herold's radio report for WHYY from Thursday night's meeting.
In a new twist on the District’s process for converting low-performing schools to charters, six pre-approved turnaround teams have publicly declared at the outset of the Renaissance match process which schools they will – and will not – be competing to manage.
Two developments stand out:
The District just released the names of finalists to become Renaissance Schools charter providers. New to the list are two providers that currently operate successful charter schools in Philadelphia. Finalists include:
This guest blog post comes from three Renaissance charter operators in response to a recent Notebook story reporting that the District is incurring significant facilities-related expenses at its Renaissance charter schools.
The article claiming that the District is “eating millions in facilities costs” at Renaissance Charters is misleading.
The facts are:
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."
Arlene Ackerman, Philadelphia's recently departed superintendent of schools, claims she was threatened last spring with disclosure of embarrassing information about her personal finances if she did not help a politically connected bidder, Foundations Inc., land the charter contract for Martin Luther King Jr. High School.
“I was told by someone that if I didn’t get my mind right about this Foundations situation, that something would be leaked about my finances,” Ackerman said in an interview this week.
Ackerman said that conversation took place just days before Fox29 News reported that she owed $20,000 in back taxes. The Fox report aired on April 12, during the heat of a behind-the-scenes battle for King’s charter, a five-year contract worth an estimated $12 million a year.
The School District is pushing forward with plans to add more Promise Academies despite the worst budget climate in recent memory and inconclusive data about the model’s impact on student achievement thus far.