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8 ‘Renaissance’ provider matches are made

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

The School Reform Commission has voted to authorize seven matches between Renaissance Schools and turnaround teams to convert these schools to charters:

In addition, the District plans to convert Potter-Thomas into a Promise Academy (managed by the superintendent’s office).

The resolution on the seven schools to become charters was introduced today, enthusiastically endorsed by several speakers from the affected schools and ultimately approved by a 3-0 vote.

The resolution had to be revoted because SRC Chair Robert Archie initially forgot to recuse himself from the vote. Archie was until 2009 a member of the board of Universal Community Homes and Universal Institute Charter School and his law firm does business with Universal. Archie had said through a District spokesperson last week that he planned not to vote on any resolutions involving Universal. Commissioner Denise McGregor Armbrister was absent.

The resolution notes that "granting of charters and the material terms and conditions of any contracts shall be subject to final approval by the School Reform Commission."

West Philadelphia High School was the only Renaissance School not yet assigned to a provider; Benjamin Rayer, who oversees the Renaissance School process for the District, said the School Advisory Council at West was "requesting a bit more time to evaluate their options and make their decision." West’s council will be expected to make a recommendation to the District by May 26.

The options for West are to convert to a charter under Mastery, operate as a District school managed by Johns Hopkins/Diplomas Now, or become a Promise Academy.

Potter-Thomas was considering providers as a Renaissance School, but has been designated a Promise Academy. According to Potter-Thomas council member Migdalia Lopez, the council’s vote for the Promise Academy option was unanimous.

At the SRC meeting, each of the turnaround teams was invited to briefly address the commission along with a representative from the School Advisory Council at the assigned school, and council members expressed their gratitude for a chance to be involved in the decision-making process and thanked District leadership for the approach.

All schools but Douglass got their first or preferred provider choice, according to Rayer. But he said that the Douglass community was happy with the choice of Young Scholars.

Pamela K. Williams, chair of the council at Daroff, applauded Ackerman for "a vision which includes hope for those who have otherwise been considered hopeless."

"We believe that with the proper oversight, the process will work not only at Daroff but all the schools," Williams said. "Today is a new day in Philadelphia."

The District will be arranging meetings next week where turnaround teams can talk with staff at the schools.

After hearing lots of accolades for the initiative, Ackerman noted that there had been a lot of skepticism about whether a matching process with community input could work on what was an extremely tight timeline.

"We’re going to prove them wrong again in a year," said the superintendent. "People will see the difference in these schools."

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