Pact approved to make Creighton Elementary a charter

Posted: June 30, 2012

After months of controversy over the fate of Creighton Elementary School, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission approved an agreement Friday morning allowing Kenny Gamble's Universal Cos. to turn the site into a charter school.

The vote during a special SRC meeting was a follow-up to the commission's decision four weeks ago to have Universal operate the Crescentville school as a charter.

Creighton teachers had tried to persuade the commission to allow them to turn around the school, and Creighton's advisory committee initially favored that approach.

Under the terms of Friday's resolution, Universal must sign a licensing agreement with the district by Aug. 15 on the use of Creighton facilities to obtain a five-year pact to operate the school as a Renaissance charter.

A few weeks ago, district officials acknowledged that they had just reached an agreement with Universal on outstanding "licensing fees" for two other former district schools the nonprofit had been operating since September.

Universal did not pay to use the Audenried High and Vare Middle School buildings in 2011-12 because its representatives said they had an oral agreement with former Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman and former SRC Chairman Robert L. Archie Jr. that waived the fees.

Starting next month, though, Universal has agreed to pay the district $300,000 a year to use Audenried and $200,000 for Vare. The licensing fees pay for utilities, janitors, and other services.

Renaissance charters are one of the options for transforming low-achieving schools under Ackerman's "Imagine 2014" academic-reform plan.

In other action, the commission voted to extend the operating agreement for Hope Charter School in West Oak Lane for one year so it can help students and staff find spots for the 2013-14 academic year.

The commission had notified the troubled school in the spring that it did not plan to renew its operating charter because of academic and management concerns.

Last week, Hope's board chairman told the commission the school would forgo its right to an appeals hearing if it could remain open for a year to ease the transition for students and staff. The charter, which opened in 2002 as a second-chance school for high school students, will close next June.

Although Friday's session originally was scheduled to consider charter renewals and expansion requests, SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos said the commission plans to schedule special charter meetings July 9 and 13.

The commission has not yet voted on eight of the 25 charter schools whose operating agreements expire June 30.

Ramos said that those schools would be notified of the new meeting dates and that their charters would remain valid until the commission voted on the renewals.


Contact Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or martha.woodall@phillynews.com.

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