Archie champions charter firm he’s linked with for contract

    The Philadelphia School Reform Commission met publicly for the first time since NewsWorks.org/WHYY and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook revealed concerns that the SRC chairman twisted arms over a nearly $60 million contract to run Martin Luther King Jr. High School.

    That same official, SRC Chairman Robert Archie, used the meeting to advocate publicly for approval of another charter school contract.

    Archie, who has ties to Universal Companies, touted the nonprofit company’s accomplishments as a Universal representative made a pitch for the contract to run two Philadelphia  schools.

    While Universal’s chief financial officer Shahied Dawan made the case for his firm to take over two schools — Audenried High School and Vare Middle School — Archie stepped in to bolster the presentation.

    “They have a track record of basically turning around neighborhoods and using the schools as the magnet for it. You’re being very modest about this, and I thought I’d just lead you through that scenario if you want to,” Archie said.

    After Dawan thanked Archie for his help, Archie again stepped in, noting Universal’s accomplishments at other schools.

    Archie was on the board of Universal, and Universal is represented by his law firm Duane Morris.

    Plans for Universal to take over Audenried have garnered intense opposition from parents, students and teachers at the school.

    Archie recused himself from casting a vote; the rest of the School Reform Commission awarded the contract to Universal. The estimated value of the Audenried and Vare charters is $45 million over five years.

    State investigation possible

    Archie has yet to comment on what happened in a March 16 closed-door meeting about the charter school contract for the Martin Luther King Jr. High School. Archie recused himself from a public vote on that charter contract because his law firm represented one of the competing charter companies — Foundations Inc.

    More than a week after NewsWorks.org/WHYY and the Public School Notebook reported on the secret meeting that also included state Rep. Dwight Evans, a school district official and the head of Mosaica Education, no one is talking about what was said at the session.

    But questions remain about why Mosaica Education the next day pulled out of a potential contract to run King high school.

    Tuesday, state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said he wants the Department of Education to investigate the matter.

    “It necessarily raises the question, is this just the tip of the iceberg?” said Pileggi. “Do we have more systemic problems in the district that reflect a lack of stewardship of state taxpayer dollars?”

    Mayor Michael Nutter announced earlier this week that his chief integrity officer will investigate the King situation.

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