High school opens, transformed by controversial Ackerman initiative

When one South Philadelphia school opens its doors tomorrow, part of ousted Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s signature Renaissance Schools initiative will move forward despite protests by some students and parents.

Audenried High School is now a charter school managed by Universal Companies, which was founded by music mogul Kenny Gamble.Walking through the hallways Monday, Principal Robert Rouse pointed up to rows of signs hanging from the ceiling.  “Most of them are “I” statements which really reflect…what they should be saying,” Rouse said. “So, ‘I love problem solving,’ ‘I believe in me.’  So it’s all “I’ statements throughout the posters.”Rouse said the school will be different this year.  “We had three teachers that returned from last year.  You have more direct supervision for the teachers as well as the students.  The school will be safer,” Rouse said. “What’s different also is we built into the schedule a period for credit recovery so…most of our students will stay on track for graduation.”The decision to take a radically new direction at Audenried was controversial.  But some are hopeful it will work.Sitting across the street from the school, enjoying the weather, South Philadelphian Eddie Mack said he thinks the teachers will be better qualified to help the students.”Universal gonna tell their teachers, ‘Look ya’ll goin down to South Philly, you know what kind of neighborhood you’re in, take time with the kids,'” Mack said. “The kids might come up and run their mouth – Hey take time with ’em cause you know where he come from.  He might have a mother just at home – she don’t have time to do all that, get the school and go to work, by herself.”Sitting next to Mack, Audenried grad Joseph Rose said as a volunteer basketball coach he’s come across students from another Universal school.  He said they’ve shown leadership skills and respect for authority, and he hopes the same thing will happen for Audenried students.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.