Temple to take over 5 schools

Preliminary contract talks have started between Temple University and the School Reform Commission, but little has been finalized for negotiations to begin. Greg Rost, chief of staff to President Adamany, said that meetings are continuing

Preliminary contract talks have started between Temple University and the School Reform Commission, but little has been finalized for negotiations to begin.

Greg Rost, chief of staff to President Adamany, said that meetings are continuing to “exchange information” and field questions to the SRC, a first, because interested educational management organizations have been prohibited from talking to SRC officials since the commission started in January.

The five schools Temple is slated to take over are:

  • Tanner Duckrey Elementary
  • Paul L. Dunbar Elementary
  • Joseph C. Ferguson Elementary
  • James Elverson Middle
  • John Wanamaker Middle
  • The negotiations, which should result in a five-year renewable contract, will allow Temple and the SRC to work out how the University will manage the five schools it petitioned to receive.

    Heidi Gold of Ross Associates, the public relations firm representing the SRC, said negotiations had started with the other management firms, but could not elaborate on specifics during the negotiation process.

    Temple initially asked for six schools, but one of those schools didn’t make the list of 42 that will be taken over by outside organizations.

    School officials from several of the schools in Temple’s vicinity expressed positive attitudes toward Temple and the takeover. They noted the presence Temple already has with the many programs already running in their schools.

    This reaction cannot be said for many of the remaining 37 schools, which are being taken over by for-profit companies. Students have taken to protesting the decision.

    “No one has complained to us,” Rost said. “We aren’t Edison.”

    Acting Dean of the College of Education, Joseph DuCette, said the SRC “treated us differently.” He attributed this to Temple’s standing as the only non-profit organization chosen to run Philadelphia’s schools.

    “The Reform Commission needed us,” he said.

    Many of the area public schools felt the same way. Officials said that some of the area schools were asking Temple to manage them, rather than a for-profit. For a while, the number of schools to initially be taken over was unknown. It was only recently that the SRC announced the 70 schools that were being reworked.

    The 28 schools not being taken over have a number of options. Restaffing, or taking on a charter or an independent status.

    Temple officials have been meeting regularly with school officials to keep them updated on the process, as well as to gather information.

    DuCette, said that much was unclear at this stage. Management and service questions were being fielded to the SRC throughout the preliminary stages.

    He said things were “scary in some ways” as the University was trying to understand its place in managing the schools.

    What Temple does know is curriculum evaluation, how they want to change it and professional development.

    The University is looking at a partnership approach to taking over the area schools. Instead of redesigning the curriculum and hiring and firing, University officials want to spend the next year gathering information and offering what services it can. The following academic year, Temple would implement any changes that it, along with school officials and parents deemed necessary.

    Rost said that a “cookie cutter” approach is not even an option to changing the schools. They will each be dealt with on a personal basis.

    DuCette called the takeover a “good opportunity for us to bring together a lot of services and activities we already have in the Philadelphia schools.”

    The University already has major goals it would like to accomplish. Some of the services that Temple plans to offer include psychological and dental screening programs. DuCette also mentioned pulling students from his college to fill substitute teaching positions.

    The most important aspect to the school takeover, according to the SRC, is standardized test score. If at any point those scores fall below pre-takeover scores, the SRC has the power to end a contract early.

    University officials are not weighing this aspect as the major goal. It is an obvious one that DuCette plans to maintain and improve. At the center of what Temple hopes to do is stabilizing the teaching staff, DuCette said. Until a stable teacher base exists, the strong points of each school will be built on and the weak points will be dealt with.

    Although not yet finalized, the College of Education will probably have the largest presence, DuCette said. He added that there was a need to integrate all the schools involved.

    The University has used the College of Education as its biggest selling point through the selection process.

    The University has also kept President Adamany’s past experience in the light. Between his time as president of Wayne State University in Michigan and Temple, he served as interim CEO of the Detroit Public School System during its overhaul.

    Greg Rost called Adamany, “uniquely qualified as a result of his past experiences.”

    Even with all that Temple is putting into its management bid, Rost said the University will not lose sight of its primary goal of “providing education to Temple University students.”

    Brian Swope can be reached at bswope@att.net

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