Seven of eight district schools pegged for dramatic makeovers have been matched with outside managers who promise to improve student progress, district officials announced during a School Reform Commission meeting yesterday.

The so-called "Renaissance" schools are among the district's lowest-performing, but Mastery Charter Schools founder Scott Gordon said he's up for the challenge of taking over three of them.

"Great things are going to happen in the coming year," said Gordon, whose Philadelphia-based company is known for turning around failing and violent schools.

His group will run West Philadelphia's Harrity School, which is K-8, and Mann and Smedley schools, both of which serve grades K-5. Mann is in Wynnefield, Smedley is in Frankford.

The fate of the eighth school - West Philadelphia High - is uncertain, district officials said. Officials expect to receive the school's recommendation in time for the next SRC meeting, May 26.

The West Philly High School council is considering Johns Hopkins University as a provider. The organization already provides services at the school's freshman academy.

Over the next few months, providers will continue to recruit teachers and principals, meet with parents and students and finalize curriculum.

The short time frame to prepare schools to open in September shouldn't be a problem, said Shahied Dawan, chief financial officer for Universal Cos., which will run West Philadelphia elementary schools Bluford, which is K-6, and Daroff, which serves K-8.

"You never have enough time," he said. "But we've done this before, so we're going to hit the ground running."

Aspira Inc. will operate Stetson Middle School in Fairhill, which is grades 5-8, while Young Scholars will run Douglass in North Philly, grades K-8.

The commission also voted to approve the Renaissance charter school applications for the four providers, which jump-starts the process by which schools are converted into charters.

Since March, school advisory councils - made up of parents, teachers, and community members - at each of the eight schools toured schools now run by the providers and interviewed company officials. They then submitted their recommendations to Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, who made the final matches.

The Renaissance plan is the district's latest attempt to turn around a group of schools by handing them to outside providers. Meanwhile, six schools dubbed "Promise Academies" will be run by Ackerman and a team of Central Office staff.

The Promise Academies are: elementary and middle schools Potter-Thomas, Clemente, Dunbar and Ethel Allen, and University City and Vaux high schools.