King High will be a charter next year – current management partner wants to run it

Of the 18 public schools designated for turnaround Wednesday three are in the Northwest, and one of those, Martin Luther King High, will go from a public school to a charter school.

King, Germantown High School and Pennell Elementary each scored a 9 or 10 on the district’s School Performance Index. For comparison, schools like the high performing Masterman and Central high schools scored a one on the same scale.

Foundations Inc. has been King’s school management partner for the last seven years as part of an earlier effort to rescue failing schools. You may think a turnaround designation for King would reflect poorly on a company in that role, but Foundations looks at it differently.

“Not at all,” said John Henderson, executive director of communications for Foundations. “Our position is that we’ve been there for six, going on seven years now, we’ve developed what we consider to be tremendous momentum.”

Momentum like getting the school off the persistently dangerous schools list last year, and moving to a mid-list ranking when compared to other comprehensive high schools (excluding magnets) in overall performance.

Henderson said in the time Foundations has managed King, it never expected the job to be easy, but it could have done more if the so called EMO, or education management organization model for school management was as flexible as the charter school model is.

“The EMO model, although it brought a lot of opportunity for change in school reform, it also had a lot of flaws in it in terms of control,” Henderson said.

Controls like selecting staff, forming curriculum and direct control of the building will be expanded if Foundations becomes the charter manager for King, Henderson said.

The school district hasn’t made anything public about what company will take over King as a charter, but Foundations is not out of the running. The company is on this year’s list of seven possible managers of new Renaissance Charters.

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