Mastery poised to take over another Philly charter school

Frederick Douglass School, a former district elementary school at 2118 W. Norris St., was among the first low-performing district schools converted to Renaissance charters under the academic-turnaround program developed by then-Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman. (Google Maps)

Mastery Charter Schools is poised to take over another former Philadelphia district school.

The School Reform Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether Scholar Academies can hand over management of the Frederick Douglass School in North Philadelphia to Mastery.

The district's charter school office will recommend the change beginning with the 2015-16 academic year.

Scholar Academies asked Mastery to consider managing the school a little more than two weeks ago after the district's charter office said it would not recommend renewing the school's operating agreement because Scholar Academies had not delivered the academic improvement it had promised five years ago.

Douglass, a former district elementary school at 2118 W. Norris St., was among the first low-performing district schools converted to Renaissance charters under the academic-turnaround program developed by then-Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman.

When Scholar Academies learned the charter office would not recommend renewal, it decided that fighting to retain control of Douglass would create uncertainty for families and disrupt the community it had worked to build over the last five years. School enrollment has grown from 485 to 780 students.

It approached Mastery, a local charter-management organization, based on its successful record of academic turnarounds.

Scott Gordon, Mastery's CEO, said he was surprised by the overture.

If the SRC approves the renewal agreement for Douglass, he said, it would be Mastery's eighth Renaissance charter in the district.

Kevin Royster, a parent who chairs the school advisory council at Douglass, said that Lars Beck, CEO of Scholar Academies, sees Mastery as the best "fit" to manage Douglass.

"He felt Mastery would be the one to not only maintain what they started but build upon it and make it better," Royster said.

The council secretary visited one of Mastery's Renaissance charters last week, and Mastery representatives met with Douglass parents.

"We heard from parents that they are very fond of the school and are appreciative of the changes that have happened from 2010," Gordon said. "It became a safer and warmer community, and they want greater academic achievement."

Royster, who is scheduled to speak at the SRC meeting, said that the council supports Mastery's managing the school.

Back in 2010, he said, Mastery had been the first choice of the Douglass advisory council. He said the school was paired with Scholar Academies, its second choice for charter manager, because Mastery already had three Renaissance charters.

Beck said that Scholar Academies was honored to have worked with Douglass. He said in a statement: "For the past five years, we have raised student achievement scores and created a safe and vibrant neighborhood school in which parents have chosen to reenroll their children."

 


martha.woodall@phillynews.com 215-854-2789 @marwooda