Two district schools have formally been designated for turnaround, fueled by $3 million in grants from the Philadelphia School Partnership.
Teachers at Blaine Elementary in Strawberry Mansion and W.D. Kelley Elementary in Brewerytown have been informed that they must reapply for their jobs or face forced transfers. The schools will continue to be run by the district in their transformations, to begin in September, but their principals will have greater flexibility in choosing their staffs.
School Reform Commission Chairman Bill Green confirmed the transformation status outside Blaine on Monday morning, where he made good on a promise to eighth grader Khyrie Brown and toured the school with him.
Khyrie, 14, and his mother, Dawn Hawkins, told Green at last month's SRC meeting that Green needed to help the struggling school.
After the visit, Green pronounced Blaine a "very impressive school."
But he saidt change was needed.
"We're going to essentially try to replicate the kind of performance we get in charter-run Renaissance schools," Green said, referencing a district model that gives struggling schools to charter organizations.
But this transformation model is different than that model, or the existing district-run Promise Academy model. Instead of schools being identified for their low performance, Blaine and Kelley were chosen by the well-funded, controversial Philadelphia School Partnership because they received large numbers of students from schools closed in June by the district, and because PSP believes they have strong principals capable of leading a turnaround.
"I'm excited for the future of Blaine and its prospects," Green said.
Blaine and Kelley will receive $1.5 million each, sums that were announced last summer.
Some of that money is being used this year for planning their turnarounds, said Mark Gleason, PSP executive director.
Ultimately, the schools will have autonomy, with ability to rethink curriculum and how they spend their budget.
Mark Gleason, executive director of PSP, said that the both schools are developing "robust transformation plans."
"Part of the planning involves ensuring that what gets implemented in the transformation is sustainable on the regular revenues going forward," Gleason said. "Once the startup money runs out, the school will be able to sustain what it's doing."
Hawkins, Khyrie's mother, said that Green was a good listener on the tour of the school.
But she said she's wary of another big change at Blaine, where parents and staff have forged a solid community. Teachers should not be uprooted, Hawkins said.
"Here we go again," she said. "It's a slap in the face."