This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
At an emergency meeting, Scholar Academies informed parents Wednesday afternoon that it is planning to cease control of operations at Kenderton Elementary at the end of the school year due to fiscal constraints.
The charter management organization had taken over the North Philadelphia school in 2013 through the Renaissance process, signing a contract that lasts through 2018.
During a 90-minute meeting with CEO Lars Beck, parents were livid.
"We are so upset. We are angry that our kids are being taken through this process again," said parent Shereda Cromwell. "Scholar Academies made a promise to us and now is letting us down."
Cromwell, president of the School Advisory Council, was one of about 10 parents at the meeting. She stormed out after 30 minutes, feeling furious and betrayed.
"They were full of excuses," she said. "The children are going to be devastated. They went from losing all the teachers they loved in their public school, and now that they started forming bonds with the new teachers, they are now leaving too."
According to Cromwell, Beck told parents that the school would either return to District control or be transferred into the hands of another charter operator.
Scholar Academies is opening a new school in Memphis in 2016-17 as part of Tennessee’s state-run "Achievement School District."
"How do you not have funding to run our school, and you can open a school in Tennessee?" fumed Cromwell, a mother of two Kenderton students with autistic-support needs.
In addition to Philadelphia, Scholar Academies runs schools in Trenton, Washington, D.C., and Memphis.
Kenderton is a hub of special education services in North Philadelphia, and leaders say Scholar Academies’ sudden retreat is directly related to the fiscal burden of that service.
"Kenderton is facing significant financial challenges due to a number of factors, including the school’s rising special education costs. As a result, Scholar Academies has concluded that, next school year, it is no longer able to manage the school in the best interest of kids," said CEO Lars Beck in an emailed statement. "We shared with our staff and the School Advisory Council today that we are working on a plan for the school’s future that is in the best interest of the students, and also of the families, staff and extended school community."