This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Now that Scholar Academies has decided to pull out of Philadelphia’s Kenderton Elementary School, parents on the School Advisory Council are pushing for the school to be turned over to Mastery Charter Schools.
At an emergency meeting in early May, Scholar Academies informed parents of its plans to cease control of operations at the school due to fiscal constraints.
The charter agreed to take over the North Philadelphia neighborhood school in 2013 through the Renaissance process, signing a contract that lasts through 2018.
CEO Lars Beck attributed the sudden change of plans to the fiscal burden of serving the school’s substantial special-education student population.
Parents were livid about the decision.
In addition to Philadelphia, Scholar Academies runs schools in Trenton, Washington, D.C., and Memphis, where it’s opening a new school in 2016-17.
Beck informed parents at the time that the school would be handed off to another charter or returned to District control. That decision sits with the board of Young Scholars Kenderton, which officially holds the charter.
Last year, facing the prospect of non-renewal, Scholar Academies transferred operations of Douglass Elementary, another Renaissance charter, to Mastery.
This time around, Mastery was reluctant to take on the responsibility.
"We met with parents and talked through our hesitations in applying at this late date and told them we would not apply," said Mastery’s chief innovations officer, Courtney Collins-Shapiro, in an email message Wednesday.
Parents at Kenderton, though, pleaded with them to change course.
"It’s the only plausible idea that’s going to work in such a short time frame," said Shereda Cromwell, Kenderton’s SAC president.
Collins-Shapiro says the pleas worked. Mastery submitted an application to the school’s board, but said it would only take over the school if the K-8 is allowed to scale back to a K-6.
Here is an excerpt of Mastery’s application:
"Mastery’s experience operating K-8 schools is that they require two leadership teams to operate effectively. Middle school students have significantly different curricular and instructional needs than younger students. Middle school students also have distinct school culture and behavioral support needs. A foundation of Mastery’s success is that school leaders have deep understanding of and are able to support the curriculum, instruction, and social-emotional programming in their schools. Thus, it is very challenging for leaders to have that level of expertise over the entire K-8 continuum. Given Kenderton’s small size, it is not financially feasible to support two leadership teams in a 550 student school."
Under Mastery’s proposal, Kenderton’s current 6th and 7th graders would go to its nearby Simon Gratz Middle School, known as Mastery Prep.