SRC denies Germantown charter-school bids

 The SRC hears speaker testimony at Wednesday's charter school hearing. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The SRC hears speaker testimony at Wednesday's charter school hearing. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Down, but not out.

That’s the sentiment the teams behind two proposed charter schools in Germantown are embracing after watching the School Reform Commission deny their applications Wednesday night. 

Neither the Germantown Community Charter School nor the Philadelphia Career and Technical Academy will open in 2016 as members had hoped, but both groups say this won’t be the last you hear from them.

“We’re not done yet,” said Julie Stapleton-Carroll, who spearheaded the coalition pushing to open the Germantown Community Charter School.

Stapleton-Carroll said the group intends to approach district officials about what options may be on the table for opening a school at the former home of Germantown High School.

Creating a district-run community school is one idea, but the group is also prepared to file with the state’s Charter School Appeal Board.

“We’ve got real momentum that we don’t want to see go away,” said Stapleton-Carroll.

The team tied to the Philadelphia Career and Technical Academy will take a different tact.

Frank Robinson, president of Redemptive Enterprises, said Wednesday that his group plans to file a new application next year.

“We keep pressing. We keep moving. We are a resilient group and we love what we’re doing,” he said.

If approved, the Philadelphia Career and Technical Academy would have opened along Germantown Avenue in southwest Germantown.

The school’s application detailed a school offering a STEM-based curriculum and vocational training to 600 students from the neighborhood and beyond.

In addition to taking classes in core subjects, students would get certified in one of five specialties. Options would include certified nursing, automotive technology, computer networking, culinary arts and business.

Stapleton’s coalition wants to open an independent charter school that would ultimately serve 1,050 neighborhood students in grades six through 12.

Students would be taught traditional subjects, but also “21st century” skills tied to job-readiness, namely in hospitality and the building trades.

Down the road, neighbors hope the school can co-locate with a boutique hotel and a restaurant. Both would be folded into the school’s curriculum in some way.

Wednesday night’s special session came after more than a 100 hours of application hearings and 12 hours of public comment.

The emotional, marathon meeting included more than a few disruptions from protestors, who chanted, sang and, during the voting portion of the evening, were arrested.

During two hours of public comment, speaker after speaker urged the SRC to reject all 39 applications, one calling the approval of even one proposed charter school a “death knell” for traditional public schools.

The stretch followed a roughly equal period of charter school applicants making their final pitches.

In the end, the SRC approved five applications. The other 34 applications were denied, several unanimously.

Applications for Independence Charter School, KIPP Dubois Charter School, MaST Community Charter School, TECH Freire Charter School and Mastery Gillespie were granted.

“We called balls and strikes as we saw them with respect to each application on its merits,” said SRC Chairman Bill Green.

Before Wednesday, the SRC had not approved a charter school application since 2009.

The recently passed $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes included a provision that mandated the district lift its moratorium and accept applications.

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