Just to be clear. On Friday the charter's CEO/Principal (I hate school leaders calling themselves CEOs...) announced the school would close on Monday.
Can anyone even imagine reading a letter like this from their child's school?
Here's a list of things I find peculiar about this particular closure, in no particular order.
1. Solomon Charter School was approved as a CYBER charter school, so someone has to explain to me how there were "safety concerns." They did also have a "brick and mortar" facility (they annoyingly refer to their delivery model as "brick and click") but if the majority of their instruction was supposed to be online, shouldn't there be an easy way around any such concerns?
2. Solomon Charter School wasn't just a cyber charter, they were also a language immersion charter, teaching both Chinese and Hebrew language. A recent report in the Jewish Exponent marveled that Solomon was teaching Hebrew but had not managed to enroll any Jewish students.
Solomon, which opened in September, offers a rare Yin and Yang of Hebrew and Chinese and embodies a fairly new educational model: It’s part cyber school and part bricks-and-mortar academy.Which makes me wonder - can a Hebrew Immersion charter school succeed without the support of Michael Steinhardt and the Hebrew Charter School Center or Peter Deutsch and the Ben Gamla network?
Solomon is believed to be the only public school in the region currently offering Hebrew. In the past, it has been offered in the Philadelphia school district, Lower Merion High School and several other suburban schools.
What it doesn’t have —which may appear odd for a school with a kosher kitchen, a Hebrew curriculum and an early closing on Friday afternoon for Shabbat — are any Jewish students.
Not being Jewish is one thing the 40 students enrolled in the school’s four Hebrew classes — as well as all 150 students in the school — have in common. Beyond that, they represent an array of ethnic and religious backgrounds.
3. Solomon just opened last year, which says to me that this school, as indicated in the title of another Jewish Exponent article, was little more than A Cyber Experiment.
Chinese and Hebrew may seem like an unusual combination but organizers of the new venture point out that both are ancient languages that originated on the Asian continent.
The Solomon Charter School is an experimental, publicly funded cyber charter school that will focus on Asian culture and history as well as provide an immersion approach to language instruction.
Call me crazy, but it seems like there should have been more questions BEFORE their inaugural year...It will surely face a number of questions in its inaugural year.
4. When Solomon was approved, then Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Ron Tomalis said:
“Charter schools, both brick-and-mortar and cyber, provide families with a viable alternative to traditional public schools. Parents may choose to enroll their child in a charter school for a variety of reasons. Regardless of socioeconomic status or geographic location, all students deserve an environment that is conducive for their academic growth." (emphasis mine)You really have to wonder if guys like Tomalis really believe what they are selling to trusting parents. Solomon was approved and opened in 2012, and abruptly shuttered in 2013. And not shuttered by the state mind you, the school leaders just shut their doors and rolled up the carpet.
Clearly, Solomon was not "a viable alternative" to anything. But what does Tomalis care, he's already moved on to bigger and better things.
Tomalis, 51, declined to comment through the Department of Education, which he led from 2011 until May, when Corbett replaced him but let him keep his salary and work from home as special adviser to the governor on higher education. (emphasis mine)Tomalis is sitting pretty, set up by the Governor himself, in a cushy job with no office hours and a six figure salary. And these kids get booted out of their new school with no notice.
Well, that seems fair.
5. And I just can't let this go. The Solomon website has an icon on the homepage of a little ninja carving out the name of the school with his sword. While this may just seem whimsical to some, if I saw this on the website of my kids' school I would seriously wonder about the judgement of the school leaders.
Watch this video.
Parents are furious and barge into the school to get answers.
What were the safety concerns?
- There was a rehab center for sex offenders a few doors down.
- The Executive Director is being accused of using the schools credit card for personal use.
- Because it was approved as a cyber school and the majority of the instruction was supposed to be on-line. However, it appears they were more 'brick' than 'click.'
Another TV news report:
And this from the Philadelphia Inquirer.
I was right, since Solomon was supposed to be a cyber charter school, safety issues seemed an improbable reason for the closure.
"We closed 1225 Vine about a week and a half ago because of what we learned," said Weathington.
As a cyber charter school, Solomon provides all students with iMacs to use at home.
So what was the real reason for the closure??"They were not missing any instructional time," Weathington said.
Solomon had been fighting the Education Department's attempts to revoke its charter on the ground that it was acting more like a traditional charter than a cyber charter and was even serving lunch. The department alleged that Solomon was not meeting the state requirement that cyber charters offer a significant portion of instruction to students online.
The state said Solomon was only authorized to enroll students from sixth through 11th grades. As a result, the School District of Philadelphia had refused to pay tuition for the 200 younger students who had enrolled this fall.
"How were we supposed to function?" Weathington asked. "We can't."
Just to be clear.District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the district had received invoices from Solomon for 343 students. He confirmed that the district had withheld payment for the students in kindergarten through fifth grades because of the state's ruling.
- The charter was approved for students in grades 6-12 but took it upon themselves to enroll kids in grades K-5 too. I just love that the principal seems put out by the fact that the district wouldn't pay for kids they weren't approved to take in the first place.
- The charter was approved to operate a cyber school but instead opened a brick and mortar school in the SAME BUILDING AS A SEX OFFENDER REHABILITATION FACILITY.
- The video makes it quite clear; the facility was not only in the SAME BUILDING AS A SEX OFFENDER REHABILITATION FACILITY, there was water damage, mold, exposed wire and buckling tiles.
Leave it to Fox to really dial up the drama.