Community leaders expressed cautious optimism after Wednesday’s private meeting with Councilwoman Cindy Bass and state Rep. Stephen Kinsey about for-profit Camelot Schools’ plan to bring alternative education to Germantown High School.
The private meeting, which occurred after representatives from Camelot further detailed the company’s plan to consolidate its three locations at Germantown High School, took place at Janes Memorial United Methodist Church. Afterward, some attendees indicated they could support Camelot’s proposal with some stipulations. Others said they were against the proposal, but pledged to work with Camelot if the proposal was approved. Bass and Kinsey are expected to make a recommendation to the School Reform Commission (SRC) next week.
Among the 15 represented community organizations were the Germantown Special Services District, Germantown Community Connection, Germantown Clergy Initiative, Germantown High School Alumni Association, Historic Germantown, the Germantown Business Center, West Central Germantown Neighbors, and Germantown United.
“It went well,” said attendee Vern Moore, of the Germantown Clergy Initiative. “I think Councilwoman Bass and Rep. Kinsey really have demonstrated really good leadership. This is the third time we’ve had a chance for the Camelot administrators and or students to give us an understanding of their program. They did quite well. They had some data identifying their program of helping kids catch up and transition. The stats and data look good. They were well prepared and pretty enthusiastic about partnering with the community.”
But the manner in which the closing happened still rankles, Moore said. “There were stakeholders that were concerned about how everything went down; how the SRC didn’t respect our process or proposals, and within 45 days people are saying, ‘Put an alternative program in there.’ It didn’t pass the smell test. It didn’t feel or smell right. Several stakeholders had some concerns, especially after the SRC ignored our concerns.”
Not all the community leaders felt that the Camelot proposal was enough. With Bass and Kinsey’s cooperation, they are planning to ask Camelot to agree to five basic things. They include: A community oversight review committee; a community benefits agreement; the development of a recruitment plan that targets children in Northwest Philadelphia who would fall within Camelot’s alternative education guidelines; allowing Germantown High School Alumni Association and other community organizations to utilize the school’s facilities, and; offering employment and vending opportunities to qualified community residents, businesses or organizations.
There were some complaints from community members who were not invited to the meeting. Kinsey said he wanted to focus on those who would be directly affected by the decision on Germantown, not those who live two miles away from the school. Still, Kinsey said, the whole community would be involved if the proposal is approved.
“Everything we talked about was geared toward community engagement,” Kinsey said. “The development of the community benefits agreement would involve the community.”
SRC sources say the vote on Camelot’s proposal could be on the agenda at its next meeting on Aug. 22.