Science charter school faces budget crisis
It’s now become apparent that charter schools aren’t exempt to budgetary shutdowns and closures, and Truebright Science Academy charter school is just the latest school to face extinction.
Echoing the grassroots missions that were at least partially responsible for saving E.M. Stanton and Isaac A. Sheppard elementary schools, stakeholders and involved parents recently held a town hall meeting at the suggestion of state Sen. Shirley Kitchen, said Truebright CEO Beker Duz.
“The town hall meeting with Senator Kitchen was about our charter school renewal, in regard to the recommendation from the Charter School Office,” Duz said. “More than 100 people were there, expressing their concerns to Kitchen. So she is supporting us, doing everything she can to save Truebright.
“No one wants to see Truebright closed.”
Duz is Truebright’s second CEO since it opened in 2007. It is now up for charter renewal, and a final meeting to decide Truebright’s fate will be held on April 19; however, Duz considers such a meeting a fait d’accompli, since the CSO has already decided to close Truebright.
Duz said the school’s consistent academic achievements have earned Truebright some respite.
“I am happy to tell you that Truebright is meeting its goal” of providing core knowledge that prepares students for college or other post-high school education, Duz said. “We have graduated 97 percent from our first senior class, and of those graduates, 100 percent were accepted to college, so we’ve had real great success.
“We’re located in a part of the city where the poverty rate is really high, and economically, this part of the city has been hit the hardest.”
Truebright’s officials aren’t relenting in their drive to save their school. It has released a massive, 105-page rebuttal of the CSO’s plan to close the North Philadelphia-based school. It goes into great detail in laying out Truebright’s strengths — and its value to the community.
For example, the rebuttal contends that the CSO may have drawn conclusions based on inaccurate and incomplete data. The documents provided by Truebright suggest that CSO believed that Truebright only made Adequate Yearly Progress — AYP — in two of the past four years; has consistently lagged behind state and district standards; that 45 percent of Truebright students are below basic levels, and that Truebright has been placed on warning notice for the 2010–2011 school year.
Duz contends that Truebright has only had AYP status for three years, and reached the qualifications in two of them. Truebright has also matched the statewide and district-wide numbers for math and reading comprehension. Under Duz’ leadership, Truebright has also instituted a volunteer Saturday program, where students — those excelling in their studies and other who aren’t — can go sharpen their skills or receive additional instruction.
Duz believes Truebright’s hybrid nature — the school serves students in grades 7 through 12 — and that the CSO’s decision is based on a too-small data pool also played a role in the reasoning to shutter the school.
“Truebright is a middle and high school, but we have only 90 students in our middle school. There are 200-plus in our high school, so [the CSO’s] decision is based on a small portion of students, and that doesn’t make sense.
“We are making even greater gains, when one considers we have to address the significant learning deficits in the student body,” Duz continued. “Truebright has met previous standards, but even with all the success we’ve had, the CSO is still looking at a very small portion of the student body. “
When reached for comment, the CSO referred to the SRC for comment, but as of Tribune press time, the SRC hadn’t returned calls for comment. Duz said he has reached out numerous times to both the SRC and CSO, netting minimal results.
“We have invited the SRC to [Truebright], but it was renewal time and was told they couldn’t talk to us directly,” Duz said. “And that is why we prepared the rebuttal.
“It doesn’t make sense to reverse a course of action that benefits our most precious resource, our children.”