Parents rally against converting Philly school into charter but supporters show up too

Supporters and opponents of the plan to transform Philadelphia’s Wister Elementary into a Mastery Charter school squared off last night in Germantown. As Mastery prepared to make its pitch to parents, protesters gathered outside to make their displeasure known.

“They’re trying to ram their educational bullcrap down our throats, and I think it’s unfair,” said parent Kenya Nation, who believes that Wister should remain under control of the Philadelphia School District.

“We can turn this into a community school,” Nation said, referring to a model that’s won praise from incoming mayor Jim Kenney, which relies on partnerships with neighborhood organizations. “The time it would take a charter school to turn around this place, is the same time it would take a community school to turn around this place.”

Nation says the School Reform Commission can expect an earful from charter opponents like her when it meets Thursday night.

But the commissioners will also hear from Mastery supporters such as Elizabeth Moffitt, who says her grandson has thrived since leaving a district school for a Mastery charter.

“In the five years that he’s been in Mastery, he’s excelled, excelled, excelled,” Moffitt said. “Had that not happened, he would not have had these opportunities. He wouldn’t have gotten the help he needed, the quality interventions he was supposed to have … He would now be in tenth grade, still below reading level. He wouldn’t be ready for high school.”

Moffitt praised Mastery’s schools as safe and effective. The School Reform Commission will make its final vote on Wister’s future — along with that of two other proposed candidates for a “Renaissance” charter transformation, West Philadelphia’s Huey Elementary and Cooke Elementary in Logan — in January.

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