District audibles on plan to close charter school

Posted: May 25, 2014

THE SCHOOL DISTRICT of Philadelphia has called an audible on its plans to close a well-known charter school.

The School Reform Commission voted last month to suspend the charter of Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School and begin the revocation process. The district announced yesterday it would drop the suspension, but move forward with the revocation process in an attempt to avoid potential legal delays.

The change of strategy comes a week after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments on whether the SRC has the power to ignore state law to deal with its financial crisis. The plaintiff in that case is West Philadelphia Achievement Charter Elementary School. Oral arguments are expected in September.

By not suspending Palmer's charter, the school may continue to operate until the revocation process is complete, which could take more than a year. First, there must be a hearing, at which the school can present testimony. That would have to be followed by SRC confirmation and an appeals process.

"I think that they were forced to do it," said Walter Palmer, the school's founder. "I am tacitly pleased, but not because I believe that somehow we've moved the bar."

Palmer said that if the district wants to negotiate, he is willing to negotiate in good faith. If not, he said he is prepared to fight until the end.

"We will show and demonstrate that any of the alleged conditions that are articulated in the revocation article, many of them are patently wrong," he said.

The school, which has approximately 1,300 students, has two locations: a K-4 campus in Northern Liberties and another for grades 5 through 12 in Frankford.

The district said the school has had poor academic performance for more than six years, has violated charter-school law and policy, has failed to meet minimum financial standards and audit requirements, and fraudulently billed the district about $77,000 for students not enrolled at the school.


On Twitter: @ChroniclesofSol

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