Hearings began today on the School District’s effort to deauthorize and shut down Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School, even as the founder’s plan to steer the school through its immediate financial crisis has apparently fallen through.
Speaking after this morning’s testimony, Palmer said he does not know how much cash the 1,200-student school has on hand or how much longer it can stay open without some kind of fresh financial support.
With legal and financial options dwindling for Walter Palmer's charter school, Palmer says he’s prepared to give up the school to save it.
“If I have been an impediment, I will step down. If I have been the problem, I will resign,” said the founder of the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School yesterday, during a community meeting at the school. “I will not get in the way of us educating our children.”
There’s at least one new bright spot in a district unsettled by budget cuts, lawsuits, layoffs, and surprise resignations: Lea Elementary has a new playground.
“We’re excited for the work that’s been done, and the work to come,” said Amara Rockar of the West Philly Coalition for Public Schools, just before cutting the ribbon that officially opened Lea’s colorful new play structure to the public.
As happy students clambered about on its monkey bars and sliding poles, Rockar said the installation of the structure was an “important first step” toward transforming Lea’s one-acre asphalt lot into a tree-lined green space that can serve as a park for residents of all ages.
In a district roiled by budget cuts and layoffs, the new principal at Henry Lea Elementary is counting on a network of community supporters to help keep the West Philadelphia school on an even keel.
“The cuts are probably going to be the biggest challenge. How do you function, as a building, with less than we’ve ever had?” said Jennifer Duffy, a former District administrator hired just last week to run the 600-student school.
But, she said, “This school, more than any others I looked at, has a tremendous network.”
Lisa Haver, a retired teacher and a founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS), is a fixture at School Reform Commission meetings and a consistent advocate for transparency, adequate funding, and a strong union role in public education.
“Public schools must continue to be a civic enterprise where district policies and decisions are formulated in public forums,” says the APPS mission statement, “not a financial enterprise controlled by corporate interests."