Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's decision to delay the plan to overhaul West Philadelphia High School by one year has turned a messy situation even messier. The school, which was deemed eligible for the district's Renaissance program in January, has already experienced numerous delays in the process of choosing a manager. Because of this rocky situation, many teachers have found employment elsewhere.

Ackerman’s decision is based on allegations that four parents on the 15-member School Advisory Council (SAC) had a conflict of interest because they were paid by a nonprofit closely allied with SAC’s chosen manager for the school, Johns Hopkins/Diplomas Now. The nonprofit, the Philadelphia Education Fund, paid three of these parents $8 an hour to reach out to parents and provide them with information about the Renaissance Schools initiative over the course of a few months. The fourth parent is a part-time employee of PEF.
That the three were paid to perform outreach, and not to advocate for any particular provider, suggests that any conflict by them was minor. Two of the parents did not even vote for Hopkins as a provider, and the outreach began before West was slated to be a Renaissance school.
For weeks, Ackerman knew about one parent’s ties to the PEF, yet she remained silent until the commissions’ decision was deferred on May 26. Archie said he couldn't remember who brought up the potential conflict, and he is not disclosing who on the commission agreed to withdraw the decision about West’s provider.
With just three months before the school year begins, the school has already lost 19 out of 72 teachers, and uncertainty over the school’s future may lead others to look elsewhere for employment.
Ackerman and Archie should be more forthcoming about how the commission decided to delay the overhaul. There’s a lot at stake for West. Rather than delay things for another year, Ackerman should either accept the request sent by SAC last Friday to ratify the decision to elect Hopkins the provider or she should forget about making West a Renaissance school. If the school remains in limbo for another year, teachers won’t want to work there and students will try to transfer to a more stable school.
The opinions of Wests' parents and teachers must be given more consideration. Maybe this unfortunate situation will convince the district that the way it handled this matter is not the most effective way to improve schools.