Imani Education Circle Charter School’s fight to stay open kicked off Tuesday inside Philadelphia School District headquarters.
Over the next three days, a hearing officer will listen to testimony concerning the independent Germantown charter school’s academic and financial track record over the course of its last charter term, which began in 2008 and ended this June.
How they got here
Citing poor academic performance and financial woes, the district recommended that Imani’s charter not be renewed beyond this academic year.
In mid-May, the School Reform Commission approved the district’s recommendation, triggering this week’s non-renewal proceedings.
Much of Tuesday’s testimony focused on Imani’s academic performance on state standardized tests over the past four years.
The K-8 school did not make “adequate yearly progress” in 2011 or 2012, but did hit the state benchmark the previous two years. (Statistics for 2013 are not yet available.)
Only 42 percent of Imani students were considered proficient in reading and math in 2012, according to state statistics for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test, given annually to students in grades 3-8.
During a break in Tuesday’s proceedings, Rev. LeRoi Simmons, who sits on Imani’s Board of Directors, called the school a “jewel.”
“It’s hard to measure a child’s progress with AYP scores. Even though we use them, we don’t use them to evaluate the full measure of a child,” said Simmons.
“Most of the children have come from poverty and we are turning them around,” he continued. “We are taking every child that’s available in the community. We’re not screening children like some schools do.”
Allison Petersen, who is representing the district, declined comment as did Imani’s lawyer, Robert O’Donnell.
Wednesday’s proceedings are expected to tackle Imani’s problematic financial past.
During the SRC’s hearing in May, Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn testified that Imani has operated at a deficit between 2009 and 2012 and has seen its net assets dramatically decrease.
Kihn noted that as of June 30, 2012, the school had fewer than 15 days’ cash on hand.
Of 16 charter schools which have applied for renewal this year. Imani Education Circle is the only one currently undergoing non-renewal proceedings.
If it closes, Imani would be the third school to shutter in central Germantown. Germantown High School and Robert Fulton Elementary closed at the end of the school year as part of the district’s facilities master plan.
The Greene Street school was founded in 1999 and currently serves 450 students.