SRC sells William Penn High to Temple

Posted: June 21, 2014

The former William Penn High School, a sprawling structure on North Broad Street, was permanently closed by the School Reform Commission on Thursday night and sold to Temple University for $15 million.

Part of the property will be razed and turned into athletic fields and recreation space for Temple students. The school building fronting Broad Street will remain, and will house a job-training academy run by the Laborers' District Council Education and Training/Apprenticeship Fund. It will offer training in construction crafts and general education topics.

The sale happened over the strong objections of some community members - who had been promised a new life for the high school when it "temporarily" closed in 2009. Then-Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman said at the time that the school would reopen within five years as a career and technical academy for district students.

Commissioner Sylvia Simms was the lone vote against the closure and transaction, saying after the meeting that she thought the community had been "bamboozled."

State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas (D., Phila.) told the SRC he was "highly disappointed, troubled, and angry" as a result of the sale.

Temple president Neil D. Theobald, in a statement, said the sale would put the building to good use.

"Our partnership with the Laborers' District Council Fund furthers Temple's long-standing mission to provide excellent educational opportunities to the community," Theobald said. "With an LDC job-training academy in the heart of North Philadelphia, many more residents will have convenient access to a range of pathways to success."

The commission also voted against renewing New Media Technology Charter School's operating charter on several grounds, including lackluster academic performance, improper admission policies, and shaky finances. The school had a $362,000 deficit at the end of the last fiscal year.

Located in the Stenton section, New Media has 451 students in sixth through 12th grades.

The troubled charter's founding board president and original CEO were sent to prison two years ago after pleading guilty to federal fraud charges.

Hugh C. Clark, the one-time board president, and Ina Walker, a former CEO, admitted stealing $522,000 in taxpayer money to prop up a restaurant, a health-food store, and a private school they controlled.

To obtain a new operating charter in 2010 while the federal investigation was continuing, the SRC required New Media to sever ties with Clark and Walker, replace its board, and adopt new financial and ethics policies.

Several New Media supporters said major changes have been made in the last year, and they pressured the SRC to give it more time to improve.

Board president Wanda Bailey-Green said that although "New Media has not yet attained the standard of excellence that we have set for ourselves," it had momentum and the right people in place to do so.

The SRC, however, voted 3-1 against renewal, with Simms dissenting and Farah Jimenez abstaining because of a potential perceived conflict stemming from her husband's law firm.


kgraham@phillynews.com215-854-5146 @newskag

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