Kenny Gamble's Universal Companies convinced the Philadelphia School District last year that it should run Audenried High School and Vare Middle School as part of its plans to create a Promise Neighborhood.

It apparently wasn't as easy to convince the federal government.

The South Philly-based community-development and education company was not among the five organizations to win Promise Neighborhood implementation grants Monday.

The winners will receive a first-year grant of up to $5 million, and worth up to $30 million over the life of the grant, to support "cradle-to-career" services aimed at helping improve the education and healthy development of children in disadvantaged communities from preschool until college or career training.

It is modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone in New York, founded by Geoffrey Canada.

The district awarded Audenried and Vare to Universal over the objections of some teachers, students and community members, to help the company get the grant. Universal was one of 21 groups to win a $500,000 planning grant last year.

Spokesman Fernando Gallard said the district is "disappointed," but its expectation is "that the turnaround work at Audenried and Vare will continue unimpeded."

He said that the district's agreement with Universal stated that the "work programs and services that they agreed to provide . . . will be done whether or not the federal grant was approved."

Universal did not return calls for comment.

The winning organizations were: Westminster Foundation in Buffalo, N.Y.; Northside Achievement Zone in Minneapolis; Berea College in Kentucky; United Way of San Antonio; and California State University - East Bay, in Hayward, Calif.