Kenny Gamble's Universal Cos., which took over two South Philadelphia schools as part of a neighborhood redevelopment initiative, has lost out on millions of dollars in federal grant money that would have been key to funding the turnaround.
The U.S. Department of Education on Monday announced five winners of Promise Neighborhoods implementation grants - up to $6 million in the first year and up to $30 million over the life of the grant.
In January, Universal was awarded a $500,000 planning grant from the program to develop a proposal to revitalize 200 blocks in Point Breeze and Grays Ferry. The nonprofit raised a further $500,000 for planning.
The Promise Neighborhoods program, launched in 2010, seeks to integrate "cradle-to-career services" to boost education, health, safety, and stability in targeted communities.
In support of Universal's efforts, the School District of Philadelphia agreed to let Universal convert Audenried High School and Vare Middle School into charter schools. Universal took control of the schools in April.
What happens to Universal's neighborhood initiative is unclear. Neither Gamble nor Rahim Islam, president of Universal, could be reached for comment Monday night.
The district, however, is clear on what will happen with Audenried and Vare.
"The work of turning around the schools will continue," district spokesman Fernando Gallard said.
He said that the district was disappointed Universal did not receive an implementation grant, but that Gamble's company had a commitment to the district to turn the schools into success stories, "whether or not they will be the grantees of money under this program."
Some community members in Grays Ferry, as well as some teachers and students, opposed turning the schools over to Universal.
Five organizations received implementation grants. An additional 15 were awarded planning grants. None is from Philadelphia.
The Education Department did not respond to requests for comment.