At last evening’s meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board the group mostly recovered from the unevenness of last month’s session. First on the agenda was the presentation of an Exceptional Service Award to my longtime friend Josephine Baker. As almost everyone associated with our local movement knows, Ms. Baker served as the first board chair of the PCSB and was for years its executive director. I mostly associate her involvement as one half of the dynamic team that was formed with Tom Nida during the period of explosive growth of charters in the nation’s capital. Executive director Scott Pearson reminded the audience that Ms. Baker played a vital role in the development of all of the initial processes developed by the board including the application procedure for the approval of new schools, the integration of charters granted by the old D.C. Board of Education into the oversight of the PCSB, and the strengthening of accountability which included the creation of the Performance Management Framework. Obviously this was a well deserved honor, and Ms. Baker appeared especially grateful to be recognized by her peers.
This is the second consecutive meeting that the board has given out an Exceptional Service Award, with the first going to past chair John “Skip” McKoy.
There was no suspense when it came to decisions regarding which of the two schools would be given the go-ahead to begin operating next year. Exactly as I predicted in April, Interactive Academy’s application was denied and Sustainable Future’s was granted for exactly the reasons I detailed a month ago. My only comment is that it is a sad state for our city when only two bids for new schools are received, especially considering all of the high performing Charter Management Organizations that are currently operating across the United States. It now seems like a difficult uphill slog to get our sector above the 44 percent share of public school students in the nation’s capital.
A significant amount of the rest of the meeting was spent over a public hearing regarding the planned relocation of Lee Montessori PCS from its current site at 200 Douglas Street, N.E., where it shares its building with Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS, to the spectacularly beautiful St. Paul’s College on Fourth Street, N.E. near Catholic University. Lee Montessori would co-locate with Washington Leadership Academy PCS, a new school opening in the 2016 to 2017 term. Lee is in its second year with approximately 74 students in grades Pre-Kindergarten three to two, eventually going up to the sixth grade. It already has a wait list of 482 students.
Many people spoke publicly about the proposed move of Lee Montessori, with the great majority expressing support for the new facility. A few members of the community from Chancellor’s Row, a townhouse development which is actually a part of the college grounds, stated that the charters had only recently informed them of their plans, and that the schools would bring an excessive amount of traffic to the area. However, the supporting documentation to the charter amendment details multiple activities conducted by both schools to inform residents, and if you are at all familiar with the area around the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception you know that the presence of these charters will have a negligible impact on automobile congestion in this part of town. The permanent facility should be approved.