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District seeking ‘turnaround’ applicants

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

In an effort to widen the pool of potential operators of so-called Renaissance Schools, the District is holding two information sessions in December – one on Wednesday at 5 p.m. – detailing how to do business with the District.

Next month, the District is planning to issue a request for proposals (RFP) from individuals, organizations, and companies that have “successful track records” of improving low-performing schools.

The District’s Renaissance School plan envsions two different categories of entities responding to the District’s call for help with school turnarounds: "lead organizations" that can be "the primary entity" coordinating the efforts to change a school and "supporting organizations" that may have "specialized solutions" to contribute but cannot lead the process.

Renaissance schools are a key component of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s overall reform plan for the District. She said she plans to turn around as many as 35 schools over the next several years.

In the first year, however, as the process ramps up, there will be as few as three to five schools chosen.

In January, the District will announce the schools chosen and and the first step of the RFP process – a “request for qualifications” from interested school management organizations, individuals, and companies.

In the first year of the program, the guidelines specify that the turnaround model will not include full-fledged charter conversion because there will not be enough time to resolve legal issues, District officials have said. But charter management organizations, like Mastery, can apply to manage schools on a contract basis.

Mastery has had experience and some success at turning around middle schools in the city, but did so with the complete autonomy accorded to charter schools. Other well-known charter management organizations like KIPP have not done turnarounds, but rather start schools up from scratch.

The workshops will be held at District headquarters at 440 North Broad Street Wednesday, December 16 in Room 1072 at 5 p.m. and again Monday, December 21 in Room 1075 at 5 p.m.

Anyone interested in attending the workshops must register by calling 215-400-6925 or by sending their name and contact information to cjbolger@philasd.org.

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