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SRC keeps charter policy on track

The commission brushed aside some operators' request to delay next week's vote on oversight.

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission's chairwoman expects a vote next week on a new policy to increase oversight of charter schools, even though some charter operators have asked for a 90-day delay to help craft an alternative.

"I am not planning to recommend delay or to request it be removed from the agenda," Sandra Dungee Glenn said after yesterday's commission meeting. "There are four of us, so whether it will ultimately be approved, I can't say."

Earlier, the commission heard from charter operators divided over the proposed policy, which would allow district officials to visit charter schools more frequently.

Walter Palmer, founder and president of Leadership Learning Partners Charter School, said many of the city's 61 charter operators favored a delay so they could collaborate with the district on a policy.

"I think this is a conversation that must go on," he said.

But David P. Hardy, chief executive of Boys' Latin of Philadelphia Charter School, said that while charter operators should have been consulted, a stalemate would not benefit charters or the district.

He said the district's charter office had pledged to work with operators to address their concerns.

"Therefore, let us hope that this resolution, which seeks greater accountability for charters, will be the beginning of a new day for all public schools in Philadelphia," Hardy said.

Among other things, the proposal would clarify that at least 75 percent of a school's teachers must be certified for its charter to be renewed. In granting renewals, the district would consider a school's performance on federally mandated achievement tests.

The measure also would give the the district the flexibility to consider charter applications every two years, instead of annually, as required by the state's 1997 charter law.

The legislation that authorized the state takeover of the Philadelphia schools in December 2001 exempts the commission from many provisions in the charter law.

The commission postponed voting on the policy last month after charter operators complained that they had not received copies of it.

Also yesterday, top district officials announced that next week they would roll out a schedule of public meetings to give parents and others ample opportunities to comment on the proposed budget for the 2008-09 academic year.

Tom Brady, interim chief executive officer, said the district was responding to complaints from parents who said they had not had a chance to comment on this year's budget until May and June.

A draft of the schedule calls for briefings on the budget to begin next week and includes evening meetings for parents in each of the district's eight regions in January and February.

Brady also reassured worried parents yesterday that despite neighborhood rumors, the district had not decided to close Childs Elementary School, at 17th and Dickinson Streets in Point Breeze, and send students from the kindergarten-through-sixth-grade school to nearby Barratt Middle School.

He pledged that public meetings would be held before to any decisions were made.