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State education secretary moderates panel on charter schools

Pedro Rivera
Pedro Rivera (Photo: Darryl Murphy)

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

State Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera moderated a panel discussion on charter schools Wednesday as part of Al Dia News Media’s series on the state of education in Pennsylvania.

The panel included Farah Jimenez, president/CEO of Philadelphia Education Fund; Angel Figueroa, founder and CEO of I-LEAD Charter School in Reading; Darcy Russotto, principal of Pan American Academy Charter School in Philadelphia; and Alfredo Calderon Santini, president and CEO of ASPIRA Inc.

The event, held at the Pyramid Club in Center City, comes at a time of renewed national focus on charter schools. In recent weeks, both the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives have called for a ban on charter expansion, citing concerns about transparency and lack of oversight.

Panelists at the Al Dia event discussed community engagement, alternative methods of education, and the role that charters play in the future of education.

Jimenez, who is also a member of the Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission, said charter schools require a higher level of parent engagement than District schools.

“There is an affirmative, active role that a parent or family must play in order to get their child engaged with the charter sector. It requires their choice, their activism, their enrollment, their application,” she said.

“The bigger question, really, is how does one engage parents and community with the District schools, where you can be a passive consumer of that service? That’s where the work really needs to go.”

Santini allowed that charters are not the sole solution to education problems in the United States, adding that the answers may be found outside the nation’s borders.

“There are other countries out there that are performing well,” Santini said. “What are they doing right that we can assimilate? That we can take from them and learn from them?”

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