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Nicetown school holds off charter threat

Steel Elementary School will not become a Renaissance charter, but will remain district-run following a parent vote last week.

PARENTS AT Steel Elementary School spoke and their voices were heard.

The School District of Philadelphia announced yesterday that the Nicetown school, which was slated to be managed by a charter operator due to poor academic performance, would remain district-run following a parent vote last week.

In the May 1 vote, parents and guardians voted in favor of district control 121-55. A smaller group of parents on the School Advisory Council voted in favor of the charter operator, Mastery Charter Schools, by a 9-8 margin, but that vote was contested.

"This process has allowed for the voice of parents and guardians to be included and accounted for when we move forward with the very important work of improving our public schools," Superintendent William Hite said. He commended the school's principal and parents. "We will build upon the energy and dedication shown by the hundreds of individuals involved."

The district said it will meet with Steel's administrative team and SAC in the near future to discuss its plans moving forward.

A few hours before the district's announcement, Mastery announced that it had withdrawn from consideration, calling the Renaissance Charter process "deeply flawed."

"Mastery's mission is to build community by providing an outstanding education to students and families," the organization said in a statement. "The conflict engendered by the Renaissance process is antithetical to our values as an organization."

Kendra Brooks, a Steel parent and president of the SAC, said parents spoke with a clear voice during the vote. She said she intends to push for more funding to help the school, on Wayne Avenue near Rowan Street, improve academically.

"In the weeks ahead, we intend to meet with Dr. Hite and his leadership team to discuss adequate funding for our school. Steel will not remain underfunded another year," she said.

Steel and Munoz-Marin Elementary were chosen as part of the Renaissance Charter process - in its fifth year - which pairs struggling district schools with charter operators. This year for the first time, parents are allowed to vote on whether their school should be run by the district or the charter operator.

Parents at Munoz-Marin, on 3rd Street near Ontario, are set to vote June 5, with Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania as the proposed charter operator.