Parents United for Public Education fully endorses the concerns of parents and community members of Steel Elementary School who are outraged over what is effectively an 8-day process to determine if Steel remains a neighborhood public school or not. More than 100 parents came out on April 8 to hear the District speak for the first time about why Steel was designated for charter conversion – an announcement which came out of the blue on April 1. The District came with few answers and zero information about a responsible process. Parents will hear the FIRST presentations on April 23 and will be forced into a vote on May 1 – 8 days later. That is no process.
We also join with parents and community members upset at the fact that the District is willing to incur costs of almost $2 million to convert Steel to a charter school, but refuses to put in additional money into the school if it remains under District control. Supt. William Hite has called the $4,000 per pupil costs of charter conversion an “investment.” We call it an abdication of the District’s mission.
Parents United supports the community and parent call to scrap a botched parent trigger attempt at Steel Elementary as well as at Munoz-Marin Elementary Schools. We believe that a parent voice matters greater than a false parent choice.
Read the letter by Concerned Neighbors of Nicetown below. Contact us if your organization can support Nicetown community’s efforts for a responsible process and a public investment in the Steel Elementary School.
Update: Sen. Christine Tartaglione and Sen. Shirley Kitchen issued a statement saying the District must reconsider the designation of Steel and Munoz Marin as Renaissance charter targets. Read their letter here.
April 9, 2014
“This is not a process that is respectful to parents”
Concerned Neighbors of Nicetown, parents raise concerns
about 8-day process for Steel Elementary charter vote
PHILADELPHIA – Concerned Neighbors of Nicetown (CNN) and members of the Steel Elementary School parent community today decried an 8-day process to decide whether to turn over Steel Elementary School to a charter school manager.
Parent and community members say eight days is not enough time to make any decision, especially one so serious.
“We are concerned about a lack of process,” said Charisma Presley, president of CNN. “The fact that they are forcing parents to have one week to make a decision about their child’s future – and the future of this whole community – is wrong. No one makes a decision about their future in one week, especially when it involves our children.”
Steel Elementary School is the last public school in Nicetown’s borders, Presley said.
Last night over 100 parents attended a presentation by District officials. District officials explained that Steel Elementary had been targeted for a potential turnover to Mastery Charter network. Parents would be allowed to vote on whether to keep Steel public or vote to go with Mastery. The first presentation, however, will not be held until April 23, and parents must vote on May 1.
“I am not anti-charter. I am anti-this process,” said Steel parent Nikki Bagby, who spoke at the public meeting. “This is not a process that is respectful to parents.”
Bagby said the School District should have informed the Steel community at the beginning of the year about a potential charter conversion – not drop the information suddenly during state testing week. She noted that it was too late for parents to consider other options should Steel be converted to a charter school.
“Charters should be a choice of individual parents – they should not be forced on entire school communities,” Bagby said.
Presley said CNN will draft a formal letter of concern to the School Reform Commission about the eight day vote, saying that the timeline is irresponsible and that the process needs to end.
Pastor Deshawnda Williams of the New Inspirational Baptist Church agreed that it was “important” that Steel Elementary be “given enough time to make sure nothing gets handled inappropriately in respects of our parents and students of this community.”
“We are a community that cares about our schools and our children,” Presley said. “We will not permit a slipshod process to determine our future.”