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District recommends non-renewal of four Renaissance charters

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

Updated | 7 p.m.

The School District’s charter school office is recommending not renewing the charters of four converted District schools, all run by major local charter operators.

They are Audenried high school and Vare middle school, run by Universal Companies, and John B. Stetson middle school and Olney high school, run by ASPIRA. All four were converted under the District’s Renaissance schools turnaround initiative.

Five other schools had their charters recommended for renewal, three with conditions. West Philadelphia Achievement Charter School, which in February won a far-reaching state Supreme Court ruling against the District over enrollment caps, is still awaiting the outcome of its evaluation.

"Obviously we are disappointed and disagree with those recommendations," said Universal in a statement. "We call upon the School Reform Commission and Dr. Hite to objectively review those recommendations and the education programs and student progress taking place at Vare and Audenried."

Universal officials intend to make their case for renewal when the District makes its official recommendations to the School Reform Commission at a meeting scheduled for April 28.

Fred Ramirez, board chair of Olney and Stetson, said in a statement that ASPIRA had been in discussions with the District regarding the recommendations and looked forward "to continuing a productive dialogue."

"Consistent with the goals of the School District’s Renaissance Initiative, the students attending Stetson and Olney have shown significant academic progress in the dynamic and positive environment for learning that has been created at each school; an accomplishment in which our parents, children and staff take great pride," said Ramirez.

Mastery Shoemaker, a former District school turned over to Mastery 10 years ago, was recommended for renewal without conditions. Mastery Clymer elementary and Mastery Simon Gratz, both Renaissance schools, were renewed with conditions.

Two other charters were renewed, including YouthBuild Philadelphia, which serves students between the ages of 18 and 21 who have dropped out and need a manageable amount of credits to graduate. Many of them have been foster children or are coming from the juvenile justice system. The school was renewed without conditions.

Harambee Institute of Technology Charter School, one of the city’s first charters, established in 1997 and now run by former School Reform Commission chair Sandra Dungee Glenn, was renewed with conditions.

On the District’s School Progress Report metric used to rate schools, both ASPIRA’s Stetson and Universal’s Vare moved up a tier, from “intervene” to “watch” this year. DawnLynne Kacer, head of the District’s charter office, said that Renaissance charters are held to a higher standard than other charters.

Mastery Clymer was recommended for renewal, despite dropping down from “watch” to “intervene” status. Mastery’s Gratz and Shoemaker campuses both moved down from “reinforce” to “watch.”

Harambee stayed at “watch” and YouthBuild did not participate in the School Progress Reports.

The renewal recommendation reports can be found on the District’s website. Summaries of the recommendations can be found below.

Kevin McCorry of NewsWorks contributed to this report.

Mastery Clymer

School District of Philadelphia

Mastery Shoemaker

Mastery Gratz

School District of Philadelphia

Olney

School District of Philadelphia

John B. Stetson

School District of Philadelphia

Universal Vare

School District of Philadelphia

Universal Audenreid

School District of Philadelphia

YouthBuild

School District of Philadelphia

Harambee Institute of Technology

School District of Philadelphia

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