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Towne to fight charter revocation

Franklin Towne Charter is poised to continue to educate its high school students while it appeals a decision by the Philadelphia Board of Education on Aug. 18 to begin the process of revoking the school’s operating charter. The board voted 8-1 to send FTC a notice of charter revocation, citing evidence that the school’s lottery process was not random, which may have discriminated against students in majority black neighborhoods.

In a statement posted on its website dated Aug. 18, FTC High School CEO Brianna O’Donnell recommitted the school to serving its students and faculty and defend against the charges against it.

“Let me assure you that Franklin Towne will continue to educate our students so that they can succeed at the high school level,” O’Donnell said. “Our students’ seats are secure as are our staff members’ jobs. Some of our new teachers that we hired over the summer left local underperforming schools so that they could make real connections with our students in their specific content.

“(Our faculty) are aware of the allegations of the past administration but have remained committed to our school. Our faculty and staff are prepared to serve the students of Philadelphia in the Towne tradition of academic excellence.”

Recognized as a National Blue Ribbon public high school, Franklin Towne boasts a 97 percent graduation rate. The school has vowed to remain open through a process that could ultimately take years to resolve.

The school district contends that Franklin Towne’s high school “has failed to conduct a lawful and compliant admissions and lottery process for students applying to the school over the course of the charter.” The allegations do not include Franklin Towne’s primary school.

In an Aug. 14 memo, the district’s acting chief of charter schools, Peng Chao, reported that no students from 17 of the city’s 48 ZIP codes were offered admission to the school despite more than 100 students applying for admission for the upcoming school year from those geographic areas.

The board contends that the lack of students from those areas amounts to discrimination.

Franklin Towne previously faced discrimination allegations in 2014 and 2016. In 2018, an advocacy group alleged that FTC discriminated in its Individualized Education Programs. Those claims were refuted by the school at the time.

In February, before allegations were published in the media, longtime Franklin Towne CEO Joseph Venditti resigned.

New Franklin Towne CEO Brianna O’Donnell outlined the school’s next steps

“While we are disappointed the Board of Education did not reject the Charter Schools Office’s recommendation for revocation hearings, justice is still possible at the school district level,” O’Donnell said. “We will now go through a series of hearings in the months to come before a Board-appointed hearing officer.

“The hearing officer will make a recommendation to The Board of Education, and then the Board will vote on whether revocation is warranted. We believe the facts and the evidence do not support revocation, and that the Board will ultimately vote to not revoke our charter.”

Should the board choose to uphold the revocation, Franklin Towne has the right to appeal that decision in front of the state’s Charter Appeal Board.

“While the entire process could last several years, we remain confident in our likelihood of success on appeal and the restoration of our charter by the CAB,” O’Donnell said.

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