Last week, 6ABC broke the story that the Harambee Institute in West
Philadelphia was housing a nightclub whose liquor license is expired.
I have to applaud them for being the first ones to report this story,
especially when this arrangement has been going on for some time.
The story goes into great detail about when the license expired, and
then to see if the claims that the club was still serving alcohol, a
reporter went in and was able to purchase liquor, surrounded by others
who were as well.
The story also opened the door for further investigation and other
news stories: why is the school’s CEO on the board of Harambee
Institute, Inc, the corporate arm of the school that sanctions the
club? Since the money for charter schools isn’t as heavily regulated,
how much of that $3.6 million in tax money that Harambee receives
going toward funding the club? Why was a club allowed to open up
inside a school, even though many times, a nightclub or bar will not
be allowed to set up shop less than 300 feet from a school?
As the week went on, other stories broke from this one – on 3/30, 6ABC
reported that the City Controller Alan Butkovitz did in fact find
questionable use of taxpayer funds. The next day, the Inquirer and
Daily News reported that district officials visited the school to
investigate the charges reported by 6ABC. And the Inquirer reported
that the club would be shut down permanently.
One thing that has not been addressed fully is the extent to which the
District knew this was going on. Was Arlene Ackerman wise to this?
How much did she know? How did the CFO of Harambee – who held similar
positions at three other charter schools – manage to get her
construction worker husband more than $7 million in contracts with that
These are all stories that will continue to be reported on. Still,
kudos to 6ABC for investigating further into a claim, and breaking a
huge story that has the potential to affect hundreds of people, and
has essentially already affected change in the city – the club is
closed, with no plans to re-open.
– Renee Cree