"Those are legal matters," Scot R. Withers, a lawyer at Lamb McErlane in West Chester, who represents the boards of both schools, said Friday. "We are negotiating with the School District."
Withers said he would not confirm or deny that the sides were at odds over renewal conditions.
District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the district was negotiating with the two charter schools.
"We have provided the schools with some recommendations and requirements," Gallard said, "and we are still going back and forth."
Both Planet Abacus and Laboratory have received accolades for strong academic performance and safety.
Brown, a former district principal, founded three small K-8 charters in Philadelphia: Laboratory, which has campuses in Northern Liberties, Overbrook, and Wynnefield; Ad Prima, in Overbrook and Frankford; and Planet Abacus, in Tacony.
In other cases where there were allegations of fiscal irregularities at city charters, the schools' boards agreed to make major changes and satisfy long lists of conditions to obtain their renewals.
For example, to renew their charters, the former Raising Horizons Quest, Philadelphia Academy, and New Media Technology charter schools agreed to oust top administrators, sever ties with founders, and replace their boards. The schools made the changes before their founders or any board members or administrators were indicted. Six former officials from those three schools ultimately pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges.
Planet Abacus and Laboratory are the first charter schools in district history where officials were indicted while the schools were in the midst of renewal.
In addition to Brown, the 62-count indictment the federal grand jury returned in July brought charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and witness tampering against Joan Woods Chalker, chief executive officer at Planet Abacus; Michael A. Slade Jr., CEO at Laboratory; Anthony Smoot, former business manager of Brown's schools; and Courteney L. Knight, a Laboratory teacher who is a former CEO at Ad Prima, another charter school Brown founded in the city.
All pleaded not guilty.
Within days of the July 24 indictments, the boards of Planet Abacus and Laboratory held emergency meetings and voted to suspend Chalker and Slade with pay, pending the outcome of the case, and they named interim leaders.
School District officials said renewals for Planet Abacus and Laboratory would be placed on hold while the district studied the indictment.
Gallard said that although the review was continuing, the district and the charters had been discussing the renewals for several months.
"We started negotiations in October, and those negotiations are still ongoing," he said, adding that the district was "hoping to get this resolved as quickly as possible."
Gallard said some of the findings from the district's review were being discussed in the negotiations.
Last month, a superseding indictment added five charges against Brown and three of her codefendants.
Trial is scheduled for Oct. 21 in U.S. District Court.
Two weeks ago, Smoot signaled that he intended to change his plea and to admit the role he played in Brown's alleged scheme to defraud the schools.
Contact Martha Woodall
at 215-854-2789 or martha.woodall@