City schools want to close 2 more charter schools

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Pittsburgh Public Schools administrators last night recommended shutting down two more charter schools, saying one offered poor instruction while the other's problems included a lack of police clearances for employees.

Representatives of the schools, Career Connections Charter High School in Lawrenceville and Renaissance Academy of Pittsburgh Alternative of Hope in East Liberty, disputed the review teams' findings.

"To me, it's clear there's a bias against charter schools," said Kenneth Stevenson, founder and chairman of the 4-year-old RAPAH elementary school.

The Pittsburgh school board must hold a public hearing and vote twice on denying each school a five-year charter renewal. The state Charter School Appeal Board also may hear the cases.

The school district already is locked in a dispute with Career Connections Charter Middle School. The board voted Sept. 27 to revoke the school's charter and shut it down, but the school has defied the vote and remained open.

Jerri Lippert, the school district's executive director of professional development, offered the school board Education Committee a scathing critique of academics at 8-year-old Career Connections high school.

She said the team found no evidence of a written curriculum, a possible explanation for declining test scores. She said the school had graduated some students without the required credits and in some cases had given students credit for classes they had failed.

The review team's report contained inaccuracies, said Tim McElhone, executive vice president of the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania, which operates the Career Connections schools. He said criticism of the high school may be linked to the dispute over the middle school.

A review team said RAPAH is financially insolvent and lacks a foreign language teacher, even though its charter calls for all students to learn a second language. Team members said they found no police clearances for office personnel and some other employees, a point the school disputed.

"They need to have the facts straight," Dr. Stevenson said. He criticized the review team for "glossing over" the school's achievement of federal performance standards last year.

Administrators last night recommended a five-year charter renewal for City Charter High School, calling it a model school.


Joe Smydo can be reached at jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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