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Private managers could lose schools under SRC proposal

Private managers stand to lose some of the Philadelphia schools they currently run if a recommendation made to the School Reform Commission today is adopted.

Private managers stand to lose some of the Philadelphia schools they currently run if a recommendation made to the School Reform Commission today is adopted.

The district should not throw out all outside managers or sign new contracts with all of them, said Tim Field, a special assistant to chief executive Arlene Ackerman.

Rather, the district needs to evaluate each of those 38 schools and return to the district the lowest-performing ones beginning in September.

Schools will fall into one of three categories - lowest performing; limited progress, which will get a one-year contract with the current provider, with an eye toward replacing the provider for the next school year; and positive progress, which will receive a one-year contract with an eye toward multi-year renewal.

A determination of where each school falls has not yet been made. They will be evaluated on a combination of student performance and school climate, officials said.

Sandra Dungee Glenn, commission chairwoman, said the recommendation was likely to carry at next week's voting meeting. She was an early opponent of the movement to turn schools over to private managers, but now considers herself an "agnostic," she said.

"By their nature, they are not a silver bullet to reform," Dungee Glenn said. "Where they work, we should learn from them and where they don't, we need to correct and move on."

Schools will be evaluated on an index that combines student performance, including test scores; and school climate, including safety, leadership and parent involvement.

The lowest-performing schools generally have high teacher turnover, unfocused professional development, many violent incidents, and limited parental involvement. They will be given extensive support by the district, officials said.

The next tier, the limited progress schools, will have increased direction from the school district next year.

Todd McIntire, general manager of Edison Schools Inc., the provider with the most schools at 20, said Edison is supportive of the recommendation.

"We applaud a school-by-school approach," said McIntire, who pointed out that the outside managers took the district's most troubled schools when the "diverse provider" experiment began in 2002.

Currently, 18,000 city schoolchildren attend the 38 schools run by outside managers.

Also today a task force whose majority members represent charter schools urged the commission to create an independent charter office that would report directly to the commission. The charter school office now reports to the district's CEO.

The office would be responsible for making sure that charters comply with state regulations, "serve as an advocate for charters" in the district and assist charters working with other district offices.

The recommendation was among nine made by a 10-member task force to strengthen relations between the district and charters, but a co-chair of the task force said the proposal for changing the charter office was key.

The task force, which included two parents, representatives from charter schools, as well as civic leaders, held two public meetings last month. .

The task force was created in December at the urging of commission member James Gallagher to improve communications between the district and the city's 61 charter schools.

The action came at the same meeting when the commission adopted a new policy to increase district scrutiny of charter schools.

Dungee Glenn said she didn't know if she would support having the charter office report directly to the commission. "I don't know if that's the best way to go."

Dungee Glenn, who has taken a more cautious approach to charters, noted that the recommendation was coming from a group largely drawn from the charter community and addressed charters' perceptions.

She said she did not believe any of the task force's recommendations would reduce the commission's oversight of charters.

Dungee Glenn also said she expects the commission will vote next week on extending the charter of Philadelphia Academy Charter School for five years.

The charter has been under district scrutiny and the subject of a federal probe into allegations of financial mismanagement, nepotism and conflicts of interest.

Contact staff writer Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146 or