It was announced late yesterday that my hero Donald Hense, a member of the National Charter School Hall of Fame, will relinquish his role of chief executive officer of Friendship Public Charter School on June 30, 2016. The founder of Friendship PCS will retain his title of chairman of the board of directors. Patricia Brantley, the school’s chief operating officer, will assume the position of CEO once Mr. Hense steps down.
Mr. Hense created one of the first charters in the District of Columbia in 1997. From the press release announcing the change:
“As chairman Hense has overseen the development and expansion of Friendship’s network of charter school campuses as well as the renewal of the school’s charter after its first fifteen years of operation. Friendship now educates more than 4,200 students in pre-K through the twelfth grade at 11 charter campuses in the District, three of which are classified by the D.C. Public Charter School Board as Tier One, high-performing charter schools. Friendship’s two D.C. high schools, Friendship Collegiate Academy and Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy, have on-time (within four years) graduation rates of 92 and 97 percent, respectively; outperforming the average rates for D.C. public schools (64 percent) and D.C. public charter schools (72 percent).”
Especially impressive is what Mr. Hense has been able to accomplish with a student population that has been one of the most challenging to educate: 99.7 percent are African-American; 75 percent are from Ward Seven and Eight; three out of four students qualify for free or reduced price lunch; and 15 percent have special needs.
The Friendship founder has also expanded his reach to two partnerships with Baltimore public schools, a campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and an online institute. Mr. Hense was also instrumental in making sure that no child was disrupted in his or her education when the DC Public Charter School Board this year closed the 1,600 student Dorothy I. Height Community Academy.
I could go on and on about Mr. Hense’s accomplishments and his leadership regarding school choice in the nation’s capital. At an event last night Linda Moore, the founder of the Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School, described the news regarding Mr. Hense as “the loss of a true pioneer of D.C.’s public charter school movement.” The move comes as we have seen Irasema Salcido leave Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Pubic Policy, Martha Cutts announce her retirement from Washington Latin PCS, and Alexandra Pardo resign as the executive director of Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS. Jennie Niles, who founded E.L. Haynes PCS, resigned her position as executive director to become Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Deputy Mayor for Education. Ms. Moore stepped down as head of Whitlow Stokes a couple of years ago.