The Upper Darby School District has received an application to open a charter school in the Clifton Heights area, again. The site on Radbourne Road was proposed in 2012 as a charter school by a group that is made up of many of the same personnel that applied for the new charter school. Creative Edge Academy Charter School, which was established by Kathleen Duffy, is very similar to an earlier application in 2012, by Choices Charter School founded by Duffy’s father. The similarities have also shown that both companies have employed Dr. Harold Kurtz as an educational consultant.
Tuesday morning, according to the Pottsville School District, another charter school, the Gillingham Charter School, would not have their charter renewed. According to public records, Dr. Kurtz is also an educational consultant for Gillingham. Superintendent Jeffrey S. Zwiebel of the school district said that, “We have academic concerns.” board member Charles R. Wagner said, “The poor academic performance aspect of it jumps out at you. Year after year after year their scores are extremely low.” Board President John F. Boran also stated that the charter school “the special Ed issue” are also bothersome.
According to Boran, “The school district requested on November 13th that supplemental information from the charter school after an on-site visit on Nov. 3, and the charter school has asked for an extension of time, until Dec. 2, in which to respond to said request.” The information still has not been received. In the Upper Darby application for a charter school, Kathleen Duffy cited state-issued school performance profiles during her testimony in calling 10 of the district’s 13 elementary and middle schools as failing. Collective SPP averages for the 13 buildings were 69.32 and 66.33 for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years, respectively. Scores were not issued for these buildings for 2014-15. Yet the Pottsville School District has expressed that the charter school that Kurtz is a consultant for is also failing its’ students. In addition to Upper Darby, Choices and Odyssey of the Mind has failed to land at William Penn and Chester Upland school districts.
In still another parallel with the Gillingham Charter School, Mike Whisman, is listed as the financial advisor for both charter schools. Whisman is listed as the advocate, CPA and member of the corporation Charter Choices. The purpose of Charter Choices is “The design and development of efficient systems and strategies that keep your school afloat.” Their goal is to create more charter schools in the area. Financial markets, cash management, revenue application, training, board members and creating annual reports.
The Upper Darby School District will hold a second hearing in January on the merits of the charter school applications. Presently, in a recent poll held on Facebook for Upper Darby residents, those who were against charter schools coming to the Upper Darby School District was overwhelming. One Pennsylvania State Representative, James Santora, R-164, has stated he does not support creating a charter school in the Upper Darby School District. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania State Representative Margo Davidson, D-164 helped to open the only charter school in Lansdowne in September.