Yesterday, the Philadelphia School District hosted its first “parent engagement” meeting on Jay Cooke’s proposed conversion to a Renaissance Charter School, and it happened with a level of deceitfulness aimed at parents whose children attend the school.
Kevin McCorry at WHYY Newsworks reported that it started with omitting the location of the meeting no the letter sent to parents. If parents wanted to attend they had to jump through a series of hoops. They had to call a special hotline, leave a message and then wait for a Philadelphia School District staffer to return with the address.
An hour into the gathering, attendance peaked at a little more than a dozen parents. The school serves more than 400 students.
Many of the parents in attendance attributed the small showing to the district’s convoluted method for informing the community of the details of the meeting.
It purposely omitted the meeting’s address from the letter it mailed to parents that alerted them of the district’s plan.
To find out the details, parents were supposed to call a special hotline, leave a message, and then wait for a call back from a district staffer.
According to McCorry, “district staffers say they opted to hold the meeting at the nearby church and withhold the address from the letter in order to ensure a small gathering of parents.”
In other words, the school district didn’t want to deal with an angry mob, but it did not stop there. In the meeting, school district officials did not throughouly explain how the process will work. Parents were still under the guise that they actually had a say in the process, but those thoughts were shattered when McCorry informed them of the changes that occurred between the failed Steel / Munoz conversions.
Parents will not get to vote for or against charter conversion. A few will be invited (in a still to-be-determined way) to join a review committee (of still to-be-determined size) that will have a say on which charter operator Hite will eventually propose to the SRC as a match for the school.
SRC members will vote on the conversion on Jan. 21, 2016.
This information, though, was not explicitly communicated to parents at Tuesday night’s 90-minute meeting. Many left the gathering still thinking they would have a larger say in the matter.
When I informed Renita Brown of this information as parents filtered out, she became upset.
“No it was not at all communicated that way,” she said. “I’m very, very enraged, and I’ve got a lot of praying to do.”