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Three Renaissance charter renewals in question

An SRC meeting is scheduled Monday to consider a dozen renewals, including 5 of 7 Renaissance charters launched in 2010.

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

The School Reform Commission will consider more than a dozen charter renewals on Monday and is expected to hear at least two recommendations for nonrenewal — including one at a District school that was turned over to a private operator for turnaround.

The District’s Charter Schools Office is opposing renewal for Bluford Elementary, which is a Renaissance turnaround charter operated by Universal Companies. It is also recommending non-renewal for Delaware Valley Charter High School, citing academic inconsistencies and fiscal issues.

In addition, there is no recommendation listed for two other Renaissance charters that are up for renewal: Young Scholars Frederick Douglass and Stetson Middle School, which is run by ASPIRA of Pennsylvania.

Several teachers at Young Scholars Frederick Douglass said they were told that the charter office’s recommendation was not to renew. Parents and teachers have been asked to mobilize their support.

The nonrenewal recommendation for Bluford cited "insufficient academic progress" and concerns over services for special education students and English language learners. In a response, Universal said that the District’s evaluation was flawed and inaccurate and that the District did not conduct two planned reviews.

In the District’s School Progress Reports, Young Scholars rated in the lowest category, "intervene," for academic achievement and progress, and slightly higher for climate. Overall, its score was just 17 percent toward reaching benchmarks, and it was near the bottom among its demographic peer group of schools.

In January, the charter office sent a letter to ASPIRA listing 17 changes required before it would consider recommending Stetson’s charter for renewal. The letter was obtained in March by the Daily News.

The overall score for Stetson on the School Progress Report was 22 percent, and it was also near the bottom in its peer group.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard confrmed that Young Scholars Frederick Douglass and Stetson are not among the schools on the agenda for May 11 (see table below). They may be considered at the May 21 meeting, he said.

He did not give a reason for the delay in completing those recommendations, which are not on the District’s charter web page with the others.

The District’s Renaissance initiative started with seven schools, which were given five-year charters in 2010. The four others that are up for renewal this year — Daroff, also operated by Universal, and three Mastery buildings, Harrity, Mann, and Smedley, are being recommended for renewal.

More than 20 low-performing District schools have been turned over to private operators in the Renaissance initiative, which has been on hold for the last two years due to budgetary constraints, officials have said.

Gallard said that if a Renaissance charter is revoked, the options are to close the school, return it to District control, or start another Renaissance process to turn it over to a different operator.

School (click or press for renewal reports) Charter type Recommendation
Delaware Valley Charter High School Traditional Nonrenewal
Folk Arts Cultural Treasures Charter School Traditional Renewal w/ conditions
Independence Charter School Traditional Renewal w/ conditions
Mastery Charter High School Traditional Renewal w/ conditions
Mastery Charter School Harrity Elementary Renaissance Renewal w/ conditions
Mastery Charter School Mann Elementary Renaissance Renewal
Mastery Charter School Smedley Elementary Renaissance Renewal w/ conditions
Mastery Charter School Thomas Campus Traditional Renewal w/ conditions
Northwood Academy Charter School Traditional Renewal
People for People Charter School Traditional Renewal w/ conditions
Russell Byers Charter School Traditional Renewal w/ conditions
Universal Bluford Charter School Renaissance Nonrenewal
Universal Daroff Charter School Renaissance Renewal w/ conditions

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