Munoz parents: No charter for us

Shoot down plan in big way

Posted: June 06, 2014


That was the emphatic sentiment from parents at Luis Munoz-Marin Elementary School last night as they eschewed charter control in favor of remaining a district-run public school.

Munoz-Marin, on 3rd Street near Ontario in North Philadelphia, was matched with Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania as part of the district's Renaissance Schools Initiative. Given the choice between charter or district control in a two-part vote, parents and guardians favored district control 223-70 in the popular vote, and 11-0 among the School Advisory Council.

"It just takes one voice," said Luisa Baerga-Vidal, SAC ambassador and parent of a first-grader. "The voice of a whole neighborhood, a whole school to say, 'Hey, this is what we want,' and it worked. You gotta have faith."

Teachers, faculty, union organizers and parents began celebrating inside the school as word of the results trickled out. Once officially announced, it touched off an impromptu party, with supporters dancing outside as the song "Happy" blared from a car radio.

Aspira officials said they were satisfied with the vote, which was overseen by the League of Women Voters of Philadelphia.

"We just wanted to be sure the parents got their voice heard in the process," said Thomas Darden, special assistant to the CEO. "We think today's vote was a fair vote and the parents got a chance to speak, so again, we wish them a lot of success going forward."

Not all were happy with the outcome. Some parents said the school needed new direction.

"I think [the teachers and staff are] pretty good people, but something needs to change," said Angela Andujar, a mother of two students.

Of the 1,049 parents and guardians who were eligible to vote, 295 cast ballots, the district said. Two ballots were blank.

A spokesman for the district said the results would guide its recommendation to the School Reform Commission.

This is the second time parents have opted to remain district-run under the Renaissance process. Edward T. Steel Elementary parents did it last month, turning down Mastery Charter Schools.

Since the Renaissance initiative began in 2010, 20 schools have been converted to Renaissance charters, which now enroll about 15,000 students. This year was the first time parents got to choose between district control and charter management.

The new process caused tension for some parents who said they felt pressure to support the current regime. Aspira has filed a grievance with the district regarding the process, but it is still being reviewed.

When asked about how the process was carried out last night, Darden said, "We tried our best given the way things were structured this year and that's all we could do."

On Twitter: @ChroniclesofSol

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