Home National Stories Principal David Krakoff Drives School Improvement While Confronting Controversial Charter Revocation

Principal David Krakoff Drives School Improvement While Confronting Controversial Charter Revocation

David Krakoff
Principal David Krakoff holds a town hall meeting with students to discuss the recent events surrounding their school.

The Erie School District voted to revocate Erie Rise Leadership Academy Charter School’s charter at its Board January board meeting citing Erie Rise’s inability to meet academic goals on the 2022 Pennsylvania state assessments that were included in a 2019 agreed upon improvement plan. The Erie School District’s approved resolution calls for the charter school to cease operation on or before June 30th of this year, but the action ignited quite a controversy and debate.

“This is about equity or lack thereof, “ said veteran Principal David Krakoff, who serves as Erie Rise’s director of education. “ because of Erie Rise’s recent academic growth since in-person learning resumed during the 2021-2022 school year following shutdowns involving the Covid-19 pandemic. “The data shows that our student population was the hardest hit by the national health crisis. Once our students returned to in-person learning, our student data has exploded in a positive direction, and our students and staff have earned the opportunity to continue past this school year.”

Erie Rise has seen its struggles.A school that serves a student population that is 87% students of color with all students receiving free lunches because of being considered economically disadvantaged, its test scores plummeted during the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Principal David Krakoff was hired in a dual role as principal and director of education in January of 2022 and asked to guide a turnaround with the school’s charter due to expire in June of 2024. In less than one year’s time, Principal David Krakoff, formerly a principal in Lancaster and Florida, developed a new instructional system for the school that resulted in increases in student proficiency in all subjects on Pennsylvania’s state tests while also meeting or exceeding student growth standards established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. As far as the Erie School District was concerned, it wasn’t enough.

“To hold our school accountable for not achieving proficiency rates on the state tests that were set prior to the pandemic is unreasonable, “ said Principal David Krakoff. “Schools across the nation suffered considerable learning loss and students like our amazing kids were the hardest hit because many didn’t even have access to online learning. Not taking the pandemic and our student population into account reflects inequitable thinking.”

For comparison, the Erie School District serves a student population that includes 61.8% students of color and a 69.5% rate of students who qualify for free or reduced lunches. None of Erie School District’s 13 elementary and middle schools achieved all of the academic goals that Erie Rise is being held responsible for not reaching on the 2022 state tests although the majority of Erie School District schools did perform better than Erie Rise. This is data that Principal David Krakoff says is being weaponized against Erie Rise’s students.

“It’s heartbreaking to see data post-pandemic being used to move forward on a plan of shutting our school down just when Erie Rise is showing great growth and an exciting movement forward,” Krakoff said. “We aren’t the best school in Erie yet, but we are absolutely the best school for our students. We serve and support the absolute population of students that was hit hardest by the pandemic. Now just as our school is taking off in a positive trajectory, it’s the time to traumatize our students after they were healing from Covid-19?”

Sarah Frailey, Erie Rise’s student discipline coordinator, has worked at the school for the past four years and said that the Erie School District’s decision to close Erie Rise at the end of the 2022-2023 school year has added mid-year trauma to all students and staff.

“I have seen Erie Rise perform well, decline during Covid-19, and now experience a rebirth,” Frailey said. “Once Principal Krakoff came last year, he added structure and systems that our staff and students could connect to our school’s mission. Our culture has turned around in one year’s time to one of teamwork, good relationships, and being student-centered. Our data shows it.”

In addition to gains in proficiency rates and producing student growth rates that exceed the state’s expectations on state testing in the past year, Erie Rise’s monthly rate of student disciplinary events has reduced by 85% and the 90% of students who have been written up during the 2022-2023 school year have avoided a similar infraction.

“We have developed a student disciplinary system based on Dr. William Glasser’s Choice Theory, reflection, and restorative practices,” said Principal David Krakoff. “When our students violate our code of conduct, we prioritize educating them to make wrongs right and to learn to make better choices so that we change behavior. Discipline is part of a student’s education. “

Principal David Krakoff, who led Stuart Middle School in Florida as its principal to three consecutive “A” ratings from the Florida Department of Education and mentored Florida’s 2021 state teacher of year, Krista Stanley, as principal at Yearling Middle School, said that Erie Rise will focus on finishing the current school year prioritizing providing a quality education for all students and rely on its Board of Trustees to decide how or if to defend its charter.

“We will continue to put students first,” Krakoff said. “But the inequity of this decision weighs heavily on all of us.”