Friday, August 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Conflicts, changes, upheaval in Renaissance process

My colleague Susan Snyder just broke the news (http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20110421_MLK_High_charter_plan_falling_apart.html) that Foundations, the nonprofit education company who was on tap to run Martin Luther King High School as a Renaissance charter school in the fall, has withdrawn from consideration.

Conflicts, changes, upheaval in Renaissance process

My colleague Susan Snyder just broke the news (http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20110421_MLK_High_charter_plan_falling_apart.html) that Foundations, the nonprofit education company who was on tap to run Martin Luther King High School as a Renaissance charter school in the fall, has withdrawn from consideration. 

As Sue reports, Foundations backed out Wednesday night, citing a climate of "unrelenting hostility."

Foundations' road has been bumpy.  Initially, the King School Advisory Council selected Mosaica, an Atlanta-based for profit education firm, to run the school.  The SRC even voted to award Mosaica the contract.  But the day after the vote, Mosaica abruptly withdrew, leaving Foundations the school. 

Here's where the intrigue comes in - as The Public School Notebook and NewsWorks.org have reported (http://www.thenotebook.org/blog/113598/src-chair-facing-conflict-interest-questions), SRC chair Robert L. Archie Jr. - who had recused himself from voting on the King contract because of a potential conflict of interest - attended a closed-door meeting with a Mosaica official and state Rep. Dwight Evans, who has strong ties to Foundations.  Mosaica backed out of King only after this meeting.

Rhonda Lauer, Foundations' chief executive, was not at that meeting, but told Sue that "Dwight is absolutely passionate about this," she said. "We've been a partner of Dwight's for many years. Do I believe that he stood up for us? Absolutely."

My colleague Martha Woodall reached Conchevia Washington, chairwoman of King's advisory council, which voted eight to one to award the school to Mosaica.  Washington said: "I wish Foundations all the best.  I hope this was a learning lesson for them that politics and education do not necessarily mix well and that you have to be careful which side of the fence you stand on."

Washington, a parent, said she was expressing her own views, because she had not had a chance to relay the news of Foundations' departure to the committee.

And now, we're back to square one, leaving the door open for Mosaica, whose officials have said they would run King only if they had full community support.

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman launched the Renaissance process of turning around failing schools last year; this is the second round of Renaissance schools, which are either district schools run with extra resources, new staffs and longer school days and years; or schools handed to charters.  King's situation has been especially rocky, but there have been other schools where communities felt politics interfered with education.  West Philadelphia High's Renaissance process last year and Audenried's process this year are other examples.

What do you think of the Renaissance process?  What about the King situation in particular?  Should the district proceed with turning King around for the fall or, given all the upheaval, postpone it for a year, as they did last year with West?

About this blog

Inquirer reporter Kristen Graham writes the Philly School Files blog, where she covers education in Philadelphia, both in and out of the classroom.

During the school year, you’ll frequently find her hosting live chats about the district on Philly.com.

Please do pass along the scoop about what’s going on at your Philadelphia public school; Kristen welcomes tips, story ideas and witty banter.


Kristen Graham Inquirer Staff Writer
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