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West Philly won’t be Ren. School next year

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

West Philadelphia High School won’t be joining the Renaissance after all – at least not for another year.

After receiving complaints about potential conflicts of interest on the West School Advisory Council (SAC), the School District of Philadelphia decided today to delay a decision on matching West with a ‘turnaround team’ in order to "fully investigate" the allegations.

The plan now is for West to become a Renaissance School for the 2011-12 school year.

While complaints about the potential conflict were aired with District officials at least as far back as May 10, someone apparently raised them directly with School Reform Commission Chair Robert Archie on May 26, just moments before the SRC was set to vote on a resolution authorizing a match between West and Johns Hopkins/Diplomas Now.

Citing "certain facts" that had come to light, Archie pulled the resolution.

Absent official word from the District regarding the source and exact nature of the complaint, speculation has focused on City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who recently said she was "glad for the delay."

The complaint appears to revolve around the involvement on the West SAC of parents who were also paid by the Philadelphia Education Fund (PEF) for their work on West’s parent outreach team. PEF has a longstanding relationship with Hopkins, who had already indicated that PEF would be one of their local support providers should Hopkins be matched with West.

With the extended delay, West’s immediate future is unclear.

According to an email message obtained by the Notebook in which Benjamin Rayer, the head of the District’s Renaissance initiative, announced the District’s decision to the West SAC, "[West] will remain in the District’s Empowerment program and receive additional supports as needed over the course of the next school year."

No mention was made of how West – which has been losing dozens of teachers as the Renaissance process has been repeatedly delayed – will be staffed in the coming school year.

More to come.