SRC renews deal for one charter school, tells another to improve

As part of a protest of proposed cutbacks in bus service, the marching band from Girard Academic Music Program magnet school played in front of School District headquarters Wednesday before the School Reform Commission meeting. The board took the issue under advisement. Story, B4.
As part of a protest of proposed cutbacks in bus service, the marching band from Girard Academic Music Program magnet school played in front of School District headquarters Wednesday before the School Reform Commission meeting. The board took the issue under advisement. Story, B4. (STEVEN M. FALK/ Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 19, 2012

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission renewed the operating agreement Wednesday for one charter school that agreed to overhaul its operations, and gave a troubled charter for students in foster care 12 months to improve.

Then the commission heard from parents upset about proposed cuts in bus service for the Girard Academic Music Program, a South Philadelphia magnet school that draws students from all over the city.

In often passionate remarks, parents from Girard said cutting yellow bus service for students in grades five through eight would be dangerous because the children carry expensive instruments that would tempt criminals on public transportation.

"Please allow my grandson a seat on the bus. Don't throw him under the bus," pleaded Gwen Deveaux-Way, 63.

The concerns came even though the cuts would not apply to students who enrolled prior to this year.

The district could save $1 million a year by switching the students to SEPTA TransPasses, which are provided to most district students. Chairman Pedro A. Ramos said his panel would take the concerns under consideration.

The four commissioners present approved a new five-year operating charter for World Communications Charter School. The district's charter school office had recommended against a new charter on multiple grounds, including lack of employee background checks and failure to document expenses.

But Paul Kihn, deputy superintendent, told the SRC that the charter had upgraded its management, hired a financial firm, and made a series of improvements.

Although the district charter office had found World Communications could document only $240,000 in expenses from 2010 to early 2012, Kihn said, a subsequent forensic audit found receipts for most of the questioned items.

The district preliminary report said former CEO Martin Ryder - whose son now runs the school - was still receiving medical and dental insurance from the school. He retired from the charter in July 2011, but was working as a consultant. Kihn said the charter had agreed to sever all business ties with Ryder.

If World Communications does not meet the conditions imposed by the SRC, Kihn said, the commission can move to revoke the charter.

World Communications was one of four city charter schools that opened in 1997, a few months after the state charter law was passed. The school has 550 students in grades 6 through 12.

The SRC also voted to give Arise Academy 12 months to shore up its finances and academics. Kihn said that if Arise did not improve, the district would begin nonrenewal proceedings next September. Commissioner member Joseph A. Dworetzky opposed the delay, saying three years of data showed that Arise was not helping its students.


Contact Martha Woodall

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

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