Kenderton surrenders charter, returns to district control

Kenderton Charter School. (Google Maps)

Kenderton Charter School. (Google Maps)

Abandoned by its charter operator and stymied in its attempt to find a new charter company, Kenderton Elementary in North Philadelphia will be reabsorbed by the School District of Philadelphia.

The final word on Kenderton’s fate came Wednesday night when the district announced in a press release that the school’s former management organization had surrendered its charter. A spokesperson for the school’s board confirmed the news.

“The School District of Philadelphia is ready with a comprehensive plan to ensure that Kenderton Elementary opens ready for students to succeed in 2016-17 school year,” said Assistant Superintendent John Tupponce in a statement.

The charter surrender ends a chaotic month-and-a-half for Kenderton, which had been part of the district’s Renaissance charter initiative. Through the much-debated turnaround program, the district cedes low-performing schools to charter operators with the expectation they improve quickly. Renaissance charters are considered some of the toughest schools to manage for charter companies, and Young Scholars, the management organization in charge of Kenderton, ran aground quickly.

In early May, Young Scholars announced it was pulling out of Kenderton because the cost of educating the school’s large special education population had grown prohibitive. Kenderton is a regional hub for certain special ed services. Many Kenderton parents urged Mastery, one of the city’s preeminent charter chains, to take the reins. Mastery appeared willing to do so if it could shrink Kenderton from a K-8 school into a K-6. Under the Mastery proposal, Kenderton’s 7th and 8th graders would have attended a nearby middle school also run by Mastery.

The grade reconfiguration required final approval from the School Reform Commission, but a majority of commissioners felt it would have set poor precedent to green light such a drastic change in the middle of a Renaissance charter’s five-year term. Instead the SRC voted last week to let the district take Kenderton back. Now that Young Scholars has officially surrendered the school’s charter, that transaction can take place.

The district now has just a couple months to re-assume control of Kenderton, staff it, and craft a sound educational plan for the beleaguered school. In its statement, the school district vowed to double down on teacher hiring, prioritize its search for a new school principal, and make IT upgrades.

“There will be a coordinated effort to ensure strong student supports, full school staffing, tailored academic program design, and family and community involvement to safeguard that Kenderton never returns to its pre-Renaissance conditions,” said Tupponce.

The SRC has yet to make a final call on four other Renaissance charter schools that have been left in limbo. Two schools run by Universal Companies–Audenreid and Vare–were recommended for nonrenewal by the school district, but SRC votes on the schools ended in gridlock. Meanwhile, the SRC has yet to vote on renewal for Olney High School and Stetson Middle School, both operated by ASPIRA Inc. The district also recommended nonrenewal for Olney and Stetson.

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