Charter tries to clone itself

Chris Pienkowski of Mayfair says getting his son Ben into highly ranked, technology-driven MaST Community Charter School in Northeast Philadelphia kept him from "heading out of the city to the burbs."

CHRIS PIENKOWSKI from Mayfair was overjoyed when his middle son, Ben, beat the odds last year and got into kindergarten at MaST Community Charter School through that high-tech haven's computerized lottery.

"Our neighborhood public school is just horrendous on every scale of measurement," Pienkowski told the Daily News.

MaST, on the other hand, is a K-12 educational wonderland where even the youngest among 1,319 students work on their own iPads and work out in the Wii Gym, while high-school kids design sneakers and airplanes on computers, then build them on a 3D printer.

Not surprisingly, there is a wait list of more than 5,000 children hoping to get into MaST (Math and Science Technology) on Byberry Road near Worthington, in Somerton.

And not surprisingly, MaST CEO John Swoyer wants to meet that demand by replicating his vision in new schools on Roosevelt Boulevard and in Center City.

Now, for the first time in several years, he may get the chance because the Philadelphia School District is accepting applications for charter-school replications.

Pienkowski hopes Swoyer succeeds.

"When our first son, Christopher, was starting school, we applied to seven charters," he said. "If he hadn't gotten into one of them [Tacony Academy], we were heading out of the city because of the level of education our kids would get in neighborhood public schools."

Pienkowski said Ben is so excited about going to MaST that he insisted on wearing his tux - which he'd first worn to a dance at St. Christopher's Hospital - to his kindergarten graduation.

Swoyer said that if he can open the two new MaST charter schools he applied for, he'll be able to accommodate thousands of wait-list children who can't get into the existing one.

Benjamin Persofsky, whose son, Nathan, is 3 months old, said the possibility of one day sending him to MaST would be a big inducement to remain in the city.

"I've lived in Center City since 2007," Persofsky said. "I met my wife here.

"When we thought about starting a family," he said, "we realized that all of our married friends were leaving because it was assumed that once your child is ready to be educated and you want a public-school education, you need to start looking for a home in the suburbs."

So the Persofskys asked themselves, "Are we really going to buy a house in the city?"

"We don't own a car," Persofsky said. "We walk everywhere. Work is 15 minutes away on foot. We want a very high-quality education for our son. We need that kind of school downtown. MaST is the first one that came to mind."


On Twitter: @DanGeringer