This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
John Davidson still remembers the date: February 11, 2011.
That’s the day his boss, Mastery Charter Schools CEO Scott Gordon, called him with a simple message.
“It’s a go,” Davidson recalls Gordon saying.
Davidson, an assistant principal for school culture at Mastery’s Lenfest campus, had been lobbying Gordon and other administrators at Philadelphia’s largest charter network to start a football program. The purpose wasn’t to achieve gridiron glory, but instead to retain students who had been leaving Mastery for high schools with stronger sports programs.
“A lot of our young men were leaving in high school,” Davidson said.
Football, Davidson argued, would keep kids engaged and enrolled. The Mastery brass agreed, and in the fall of 2011, students from five network campuses merged to form the Mastery North Pumas.