Quietly, West Chester Area revokes Sankofa Academy's charter

Posted: April 30, 2014

In 2005, the founders of Sankofa Academy convinced a skeptical school board of the need for an African-centered charter in West Chester. Nearly a decade later, that charter was revoked Monday night without a word of protest from Sankofa's director, board members, teachers, or students.

As the West Chester Area school board voted unanimously to close the school at the end of the academic year, only two members of Sankofa's community sat in the audience.

"We didn't do a good job," Sankofa board president Fred Franklin said, shaking his head, as he left the meeting with his wife.

The vote came after the district disclosed last month that Sankofa had failed to meet nearly all its obligations to the district for the last four years. Superintendent James Scanlon, when he recommended shuttering the school, noted low test scores, unpaid bills sent to the district's offices, and a removed leader who has ignored requests for information.

That director, Lamont McKim, and his wife, Lois Moses, did not attend Monday's meeting. Franklin said the two founders had also been largely absent from the discussions since Scanlon recommended closing the school, which draws students from around the region.

Franklin, a retired Air Force colonel who was involved with the school's founding, said the board had been unaware of the depth of problems at Sankofa and was seeking answers from McKim. But he said it was clear early on that Sankofa was in trouble.

Selling the African-centered curriculum to prospective students was the first problem, he said.

"All the hopes were beginning to be dashed when we couldn't increase enrollment. When you can't do that, the finances go down," he said.

The school's enrollment peaked at about 65, and tax returns showed as much as $131,000 in debt in 2007. Franklin said he believes the problems worsened, without the board being aware, two to three years ago.

"I gave [the district] a list of things I was doing to get the ship right," Franklin said. "But we don't have that kind of time."


tnadolny@phillynews.com

610-313-8205 @TriciaNadolny

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