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Community Academy charter wins appeal to stay open

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

Updated | Wednesday, 7 p.m.

The state Charter Appeal Board, in a 4-3 vote, has ordered the School Reform Commission to renew the charter of Community Academy of Philadelphia (CAP).

Community Academy, launched in the 1980s as an alternative for students having difficulty in the traditional system, became a charter school in 1997. It is the city’s oldest charter.

The SRC voted to close the school in January 2013, citing poor academic performance and concerns about financial practices. Those assessments have long been vigorously challenged by the school’s founder and CEO, Joseph Proietta.

The District and CAP have been in a legal tussle since 2011, when just two of four sitting members of the SRC at the time voted to renew the charter – not a majority. The charter maintained that it had been renewed.

The school, founded as a high school, now has some 1,200 students from grades K to 12 with a budget of about $13 million. In preparing the School District’s 2016 spending plan and funding needs, officials had assumed that CAP and several other schools that the SRC has voted not to renew would, in fact, close.

This decision could exacerbate the District’s funding woes. Officials say that the District needs $84 million more next year just to keep current programming. This decision could add $13 million to that figure.

Update: District Chief Financial Officer said Wednesday that next year’s budget assumes that Community Academy would be open next year, but the five-year financial plan assumed it would close by 2017. End update

Community Academy scored a 67.9 on the state’s School Performance Profile, higher than many neighborhood schools from which it draws students, and argued that there was no academic basis to close the school. Although overall academic proficiency rates are still relatively low, the school scored well for making improvement. It also reported a high graduation rate.

A copy of the Appeals Board decision was not immediately available.

Other Philadelphia charters facing the possibility of closure include Imani Education Circle, New Media Technology, and Truebright.

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