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SRC juggles hot issues at marathon meeting

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

A five-plus-hour SRC meeting Wednesday was topped off by a stream of supporters and critics of the proposal to turn over Audenried High School to Universal Companies as a charter school. The move is part of the Promise Neighborhood and Renaissance School plans.

The unusual evening session of the body delved into a number of the other hot issues – charter expansions, budget cuts, school closings – confronting them this winter:

  • Only four of 20 charter schools requesting enrollment or grade expansions had their long-standing requests approved. Other requests were deferred to an April 20 meeting. Officials cited budget constraints in approving only 425 of the 4,160 seats requested, at a cost of $4.4 million. The four schools approved, each of which had plans to grow by a grade last year and again this year, are Alliance for Progress (25 seats), De Hostos (100 seats), KIPP Philadelphia (150 seats), and New Foundations (150 seats). Over the dissenting vote of Commissioner Johnny Irizarry, the SRC ruled that only charters with a score of 1 or 2 on the District’s school performance index will be considered in April.
  • Community Academy Charter School faces the threat of non-renewal of its charter, after the SRC failed to muster the three votes needed for renewal as recommended by District staff. Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky, who voted no, said he was "troubled by the renewal of a charter that has such a low level of academic performance." The school is in Corrective Action II status. Chair Robert Archie recused himself from the vote.
  • Four other charters, YouthBuild Philadelphia, Harambee Institute, Mastery-Shoemaker, and West Philadelphia Achievement, were awarded five-year renewals.
  • In a budget presentation, Michael Masch, chief financial officer, told the SRC that 25 to 30 percent reductions in central office staff "are where we start," as the District prepares to tackle a budget shortfall in excess of $400 million for next year. Masch said a draft budget for 2011-12, once promised in February, is now not expected until "somewhere in early April." Masch promised extensive community meetings about the budget. He said the District had anticipated the loss of federal stimulus dollars – now estimated to be a $300 million hit – but urged the District’s city and state funders to "do no further harm." Both city and state budget proposals are expected in early March.
  • In a presentation on the District’s facilities master plan, Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery told the commission that they should expect recommendations about school closings and consolidations from staff in March. A round of community meetings to discuss those recommendations will follow.

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