SRC OKs renewal of 3 charter schools, nixes another

Posted: January 17, 2014

THE SCHOOL Reform Commission approved five-year renewals for three city charter schools, while taking steps to not renew the charter of another that serves mainly foster-care students.

Planet Abacus and Laboratory Charter - both founded by Dorothy June Brown, who is expected to be retried on federal charges that she defrauded the schools - were approved with a slew of conditions related to personnel, governance, financial oversight, training of faculty and staff, and enrollment barriers.

Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter, one of several city schools accused of cheating on standardized tests, also must comply with several conditions related to testing protocol and integrity and governance.

The renewals for all three schools followed several delays by the SRC as district staff finalized the conditions. Parents, students, teachers and administrators of the schools, many of whom testified in support of the schools, broke into applause following the board's vote.

"We are very happy," said Terrence Satterfield, a parent of three students at Laboratory Charter and president of its parent-teacher organization. "We know we have an outstanding school [and] dynamic administrators and teachers."

The news was not so good for Arise Academy Charter High School. The school, which serves about 100 foster-care students in West Oak Lane, is not being renewed due to poor academic performance and financial problems.

Three students testified that the school was a close-knit community in which the teachers, administrators and students were like family.

"Before I came to Arise I felt like I didn't have that much family support," said Donna Varner, 19, a mother of two. "Being here at Arise helps me when I am at my worst."

The SRC initially began the process for nonrenewal in April 2012 but postponed it to give the school another year to turn things around.

According to district officials, the school's attendance and academic indicators all lagged far behind targets. Arise also received overpayments from the district from July through October based on lower enrollment.

The school is scheduled for a public hearing next month.

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