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Two schools challenge district's charter revocation recommendations

SRC will vote today on charter school renewals, including two district has declined to recommend for renewals.

File photo: This is a shot of a class at the Imani school, at risk of losing its charter.
File photo: This is a shot of a class at the Imani school, at risk of losing its charter.Read more

DISCOVERY Charter School will pull out all the stops today to avoid closure based on what officials term a "billing dispute."

The school in Wynnefield, which has met the federal Adequate Yearly Progress standard the last four years and plans to open a new $14 million school building in September, will rally with students, families and alumni in front of district headquarters before today's School Reform Commission meeting.

The SRC will vote on charter-school renewals recommended by the district. The district has recommended not to renew Discovery and Imani Education Circle Charter School, in Germantown.

The district contends that Discovery added more seats than its 620 maximum allotment, per a September 2008 agreement. The school began to bill the cost of the 73 additional seats in November to the state Department of Education, which reimbursed Discovery. Because of that reimbursement, the state is withholding $406,000 in funding originally scheduled to go to the district.

In an April 10 letter sent to Discovery, Sophie Bryan, director of the district's Office of Charter, Partnership and New Schools, informed officials that the school had to pay the amount or the district would revoke its charter.

"If they apply common sense, they should renew the charter," said Sean P. Stevens, chairman of the board at Discovery. "We met all the demands for renewal."

Stevens contends that the enrollment agreement was approved in April 2008, three months before a change in the charter law allowed such a contract.

But the agreement was signed in September, after the updated law took effect. And that is what counts, said district spokesman Fernando Gallard.

"The charter agreement clearly shows that Discovery representatives agreed to the conditions in the charter on September of 2008," he said.

Marianna Branchetti Academy Charter School was sent a similar letter in April for its additional seats, which cost the district $435,000, Gallard said. Branchetti then paid its bill.

Imani won't be recommended, based on a district review of its "academic record, financial audit and site visit," Gallard said. Imani failed to make AYP in the last two years.

"We are disheartened by the Office of Charter Schools' hasty recommendation of nonrenewal," read a statement released by the board of directors. "In the meantime, our students will continue to receive a high-quality education unaffected by the recommendation of nonrenewal."

The SRC also is expected to vote on matches between turnaround teams and newly designated Renaissance Schools Alcorn, Kenderton and Pastorius.