Upcoming vote to revoke Franklin Towne Charter High School 'blindsides' school community

School District of Philadelphia
Photo credit Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia School Board is considering closing down one of the city’s most decorated charter schools, following the lottery enrollment scandal that surfaced in the spring.

The school board will vote Thursday on whether to start the process to revoke the charter of Franklin Towne Charter High School.

The school, located in Bridesburg with 1300 students, has been one of the best-performing charters in the city. But earlier this year, allegations emerged that the school’s former CEO Joe Venditti directed that applications from mostly West and Southwest Philadelphia be removed from the school’s admissions lottery.

A memo to the school board from Peng Chao, who heads the district’s Charter Schools Office, points out that 110 students living in 17 ZIP codes applied to the school for the upcoming year, but none were accepted.

Chao says students need to have faith that charter school enrollment is fair.

“This is also about making sure that the adults who have the privilege of operating and governing this charter school directly are also held accountable for what has occurred over the course of time.”

New Franklin Towne CEO Brianna O’Donnell said the school was “blindsided” by the recommendation.

She says the school’s own investigation into the actions of former CEO Joseph Venditti is still underway, and that Franklin Towne has hired a national firm to run its admissions lottery.

“We think it’s not fair that the Charter School Office is looking to punish our students, our families and my employees for something that we had no part in,” O’Donnell said.

“Our school should be celebrated, not rushed into condemnation for the alleged actions of individuals no longer employed.”

A vote to revoke would not immediately close the school. It would launch an often years-long process that begins with a series of public hearings. A revocation vote after that could be appealed to the Pennsylvania Charter Appeals Board.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio