PARENTS AND teachers last night spoke out against the school district's plan to convert three low-performing schools to charters, claiming the process excludes parents and would expand the reach of costly charters in the district.
Under the proposal, Huey, Cooke and Wister schools would be turned over to charter operators and be designated as Renaissance charters, which now include about 20 formerly district-run schools.
Deanna Lewis, a teacher at Huey, on Pine Street near 52nd in West Philadelphia, said the faculty is fully capable of helping students achieve but hasn't been given the necessary resources.
"With the provision of adequate resources and supports, our dedicated, collegial and experienced staff members would and will produce a nonfailing school," Lewis told the School Reform Commission before a packed auditorium.
In 2014, parents at both Steel and Munoz-Marin schools voted down a proposal to convert the schools to charters. This year, the district has restructured the process so that parents will not be for or against charter conversion, but instead for which operator.
"This is personal for me. Our children are not cattle!" shouted Renita Brown, a Cooke alumna and parent of a seventh-grader at the school. She claimed the district held a community meeting on the topic but did not inform parents, sending some on what she called "a dummy chase."
"If you're not going to do your job, then remove yourself," she urged the panel.
Many in the crowd, including dozens of members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, booed Superintendent William Hite and called for his resignation. During a brief stoppage in the meeting, they chanted: "Hite must go!"
But a few people spoke in favor of Renaissance charters. Elizabeth Moffitt - whose grandson, a special-education student, attended Mastery Mann Elementary - said she witnessed a turnaround after initially being skeptical of the conversion.
"My own experience has been an excellent one. It has been several years and my grandchild continues to make great strides," Moffitt said. "I, for one, am grateful the district has made a stated goal to try to turn [around] failing schools."
The district has issued a request for qualifications from interested charter operators. Scott Gordon, CEO of Mastery - the district's largest Renaissance charter operator, with seven schools - said the organization plans to apply for the latest round.
The SRC must approve the recommended Renaissance charters. That vote is scheduled for January.
The district also has proposed opening two new schools - Science Leadership Academy Middle School and Big Picture High School - and closing Leeds and Beeber, both middle schools.
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