SRC renews agreements with two charters

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission on Friday renewed operating agreements with two city charter schools and approved additional students for those two and a third charter.

And in a special session otherwise devoted to charter-school issues, the SRC assured parents from Creighton Elementary that the five-member panel will vote next week on whether the school’s teachers will be given permission to try to turn it around.

"We have to take a vote that resolves the Creighton issue by the end of next week," SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos said.

The SRC was scheduled to vote in April on making Creighton a Renaissance charter school and turning over its operations to Kenny Gamble’s Universal Cos. in an effort to improve the school’s academic performance.

But many Creighton parents and teachers had resisted and told the SRC that 12 of the 15 members of Creighton’s advisory council had preferred a proposed teacher-led transformation.

The SRC had delayed voting on Creighton then to give district staff time study the teachers’ unusual proposal.

Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon said she expects to make a recommendation on the teachers’ plan Tuesday.

Ramos said the recommendation would be posted on the district’s website as soon as it was available.

The SRC, he said, will vote on Creighton’s future at scheduled meetings either next Thursday or Friday.

Several parents from the elementary school in Crescentville who spoke during the morning meeting had asked SRC to vote immediately because they had received notices from the district that said Friday was the deadline for seeking transfers for their children.

Nixon told parents that depending on the SRC’s vote, the district "would open up the transfer process" for Creighton parents. She said the district would send notices to inform the Creighton parents.

In charter business, the SRC added a total of 866 seats in three charter schools and approved new five-year operating agreements for two of them: Southwest Leadership Academy, an elementary school in Southwest Philadelphia, and Alliance for Progress, an elementary school in North Philadelphia.

Noting that questions had been raised about the cost of expanding charter schools, Thomas Darden, a deputy chief who oversees the charter school office, said the district’s five-year budget projections include adding 13,450 charter seats through the 2017 fiscal year.

With Friday’s votes, the commission added 100 seats to Alliance for Progress so it could add an eighth grade. Similarly, Southwest Leadership was granted 56 seats for an eighth grade, although it had asked for 284 more seats overall.

Commissioner Feather Houstoun pointed out that both elementary schools had made significant academic progress only in the past year and said the SRC should closely examine their performance next summer to make sure academic improvement is continuing.

Nueva Esperanza Academy, which is in the third year of its operating charter, was given permission to add 660 seats in seventh and eighth grade and 50 seats in its high school. The Feltonville charter had asked for 1,075 more students so it could become a K-12 school.

The commission delayed acting on a charter renewal for Eastern University Academy Charter School in East Falls to obtain more information about the academic performance of its high school program.

The SRC has scheduled special Friday meetings through June 30 to consider charter renewals and expansion requests.

 

Contact Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or martha.woodall@phillynews.com