Phila. officials: Close charter school

Philadelphia school district officials yesterday said Germantown Settlement Charter School should be closed because test scores are low, the school has not provided some financial documents and has failed to meet important provisions of the state charter law.

In all, there are 11 specific reasons which "put together we consider a clear reason for nonrenewal," said Catherine Balsley, executive director of the district's charter office. Her remarks came during a School Reform Commission hearing on closing the school.

The commission voted unanimously in April to deny Germantown Settlement's application to renew its operating charter for five years citing high staff turnover, too many uncertified teachers, and failure to show their curriculum meets state standards.

The commission also said a lack of financial documentation raised questions about the school's solvency.

The school's test scores are low with 17 percent of its students at proficiency in reading in 2006, down from 26.6 percent in 2005. Math scores fell to 15 percent from 21.9 percent. The scores improved in 2007 to 27 percent proficient in reading and 31 percent in math.

The school, which opened in 1999, has 416 students in fifth through eighth grades.

Germantown Settlement has met the standards of the federal No Child Left Behind law only once in the last five years, and met none of its six performance targets in 2006.

Emanuel V. Freeman, president of the charter's board, declined comment yesterday.

Yesterday's hearing was conducted like a civil trial before commission members Heidi A. Ramirez and James P. Gallagher. Allison S. Petersen, an outside lawyer, presided.

The hearing, which recessed yesterday, will continue next month. After the hearing concludes, the commission will accept written comments for 30 days before making a decision later this summer.

The commission began similar proceedings against Renaissance Charter School in Mount Airy last week.


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