Kaya Henderson stepping down as DCPS Chancellor

Shock waves reverberated throughout the nation’s capital yesterday afternoon when news came onto the Washington Post website that Kaya Henderson had decided to step down as Chancellor of the District of Columbia public school system.  According to the story Ms. Henderson was leaving her position after six years at the end of September, with a total of 10 years spent working for DCPS.  Mayor Muriel Bowser immediately named John Davis, the current DCPS chief of schools, as interim Chancellor beginning October 1st, while simultaneously declaring that she did not ask Ms. Henderson to go.  A national search will begin for a successor, with a replacement not expected to be named until the start of the 2017 to 2018 school term.

There were a few significant reasons that Ms. Henderson’s resignation was such a surprise.  Most people assumed that she would stick around until 2017 to see the conclusion of her five year strategic plan.  She is exiting at a period in which enrollment has increased in the traditional school system for four consecutive years.  Her pupils have demonstrated the strongest academic growth of any urban school district in this country.  New families are moving to D.C., drawn in part by improvements to the public schools.

But in the end I guess the pressure associated with her role overcame the rewards of her success.  She told the Post, “This is dog years on your life,” Henderson said of her job. “Leadership is about knowing when to pass the baton. I know that there are other people that can pick it up and run with it.”

I have been writing about public education in D.C. since 2009.  As a fierce school choice advocate I have advanced the position that all of Washington’s schools should be charters, writing that DCPS facilities that are under-performing be turned over to those that are rated as Tier 1 on the DC Public Charter School Board’s Performance Management Framework. I wanted the regular school system dismantled.

I did not just say this once but repeated it over and over again.  Then, at the end of 2015, I was granted an interview with Kaya Henderson.  It is not an understatement to state that after meeting her my life has never been the same.  Here was someone that was energetic, positive, direct, and kind who was determined with all of her might not to tear apart what she had to work with but to strengthen her schools from within.  She would accomplish this feat with dignity one teacher, one principal, and one student at a time.  Here is what I wrote about our session:

“What I do understand is that we have a superstar in our possession that we must all support. Recent public conversations about whether a new Mayor would retain the services of Ms. Henderson do not help anyone. She is an individual who is totally convinced in her heart and in her head that by working together we can finally provide all students with a quality education, no matter their background. For me, today, this is more than sufficient.”

Thank you Kaya, my friend.  You have helped so many children, not only in your own sector but because you have been such a strong competitor, you have pushed charters to improve.  I guess then it is the appropriate moment to leave.  You reached your goal.





“We have to go back to selling mix tapes out of the back of a car”

Yesterday, the Center for Education Reform sent this tidbit from Dr. Howard Fuller who is attending this week’s National Charter School Conference.  The entire quotation is as follows:

“Charter schools are kind of like Snoop Dogg. Nobody ever thought he’d be mainstream.  Now charter schools are mainstream. But we have to go back to selling mix tapes out of the back of a car.”

His is of course echoing the call to arms that CER’s founder and chief executive officer Jeanne Allen offered a few weeks ago in which she advanced the argument that the school reform movement has become complacent and stale.  She was talking about change on a national level but she could have been referring to the situation right here in Washington, D.C.

I can even tell you the date that things started to go drastically downhill.  It was March 20, 2015.

Please consider that we have a FOCUS engineered lawsuit regarding the fact that charters receive about $100 million a year less in funding than the traditional schools but no one really seems to care.  In fact, if it wasn’t for the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools becoming a party to the legal action only two charters, Washington Latin PCS and Eagle Academy PCS would have joined the effort.  This is exceptionally sad.

There was a concerted campaign in this budget cycle to raise the charter school facility allotment from $3,124 a pupil a year where it has stood for years to $3,250. It didn’t happen, but no one really seems to care.

Charter schools are desperate for permanent facilities and DCPS is holding about a dozen empty buildings.  Is there an organized effort to have these spaces released so that they can be filled with kids learning in the classroom?  Not at all.  No one seems to care.

Meanwhile, we drive around town seeing the capital renovations to the traditional schools that seem to escape any type of budget cap.  It appears these DCPS palaces are everywhere. Charters are severely limited in the amount of money they can borrow from private sources to acquire and renovate buildings, if they are even permitted to obtain a loan that must be paid back.   But do we in our local movement even offer a whisper about this situation?  No.  No one seems to care.

It is not a surprise that charters have been frozen at teaching 44 percent of all public school students in the nation’s capital.  We are fortunate, considering the efforts of DCPS Chancellor Kay Henderson to attract families, that this number is not lower.  But stay tuned.  It could go down.  And then guess what?  No one will seem to care.


Walton Foundation to help fund charter school facilities in D.C.

Today at the National Alliance for Public Charter School’s National Charter School Conference being held in Nashville, Tennessee, the Walton Family Foundation is to announce a $250 million initiative to help charter schools obtain and expand permanent facilities.  The goal of the program, according to Leslie Brody of the Wall Street Journal, is to add 250,000 seats in charters in 17 cities by 2027.  About 2.7 million students currently receive their public education in charters with over a million pupils on waiting lists.  In Washington D.C., charters educate almost 39,000 children with 8,500 trying to get in.  Excitingly, the nation’s capital is one of 17 cities that are being targeted by the Walton Foundation for charter school growth.

Ms. Brody goes on to explain that the great majority of the Walton funding will go to “low interest loans, offered by nonprofit lenders, for which charters will be able to apply.”  Of course, the obtaining of permanent facilities is the most significant obstacle charters face.  The search and acquisition of buildings often results in a needless distraction for charter leaders away from their focus on the academic progress of their scholars.  Many schools, due to the overwhelming difficulty in finding space, end up locating inappropriately and unfairly in church basements, warehouses, and storefronts.  The Wall Street Journal article quotes Marc Sternberg, director of Walton’s K-12 education program and one of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s deputy chancellors, as saying that the dollars will “level the playing field” for charters in many cities.

The Walton Foundation plan is to be administered by Civic Builders, a not-for-profit New York City developer.  David Umansky, the group’s CEO, states that the investment will allow charters to have broader access to commercial loans and other methods of borrowing.  The initiative comes on top of the $116 million the Foundation has given since 2003 to assist charters in gaining places in which to operate.

This morning’s revelation is not completely a surprise.  When I interviewed Scott Pearson, the executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board, a few weeks ago he informed me that a group of as many as 50 charter school stakeholders had been meeting to try and figure out a solution for the charter school facility dilemma.

The news comes on the 25th anniversary of the national charter school movement and during the 20th year of charters operating in Washington, D.C.  It could not arrive at a better time.  Our local sector has been stuck at teaching 44 percent of public school students for several years now and with more young families moving into the District there is an estimate that 50 new public schools will be needed within the next 10 years.


Student explusion and suspension rates should be part of D.C. charter school ranking

Much has been written in the past week about a recently released study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education regarding how Washington, D.C. and New Orleans are handling public school student expulsions and suspensions.  The authors come to the conclusion that both rates have declined in the nation’s capital over the past three years primarily because of the release of Equity Reports that make these statistics publicly available for individual schools.  From the investigation:

“Since D.C. officials published the first School Equity Reports for the 2012–2013 school year, schools have shown some encouraging trends. Between the 2012–2013 and 2014–2015 school years, the average overall suspension rate across all city schools dropped from 12 percent to 10 percent, as shown in Figure 3. The suspension rate for students with special needs, the group of students most frequently suspended from the city’s schools, fell from 23 percent to 19 percent. The suspension rate for black students, the racial group most frequently suspended, fell from 16 percent to 13 percent. Strictly by the numbers, the city’s schools are suspending and expelling fewer students: the citywide expulsion rate fell from 0.22 percent (22 per 1,000 students) to 0.13 percent (13 per 1,000 students).”

Data from the DC Public Charter School Board states that the out of school suspension rate has gone from a four year high of 14.5 percent in the 2012 to 2013 school year to 10.7 percent in the 2014 to 2015 term.  Moreover, a four-year peak expulsion rate in the 2011 to 2012 school year of 0.8 percent dropped to 0.3 percent during the 2014 to 2015 school year.  These are impressive numbers.  In my interview with Scott Pearson, the PCSB executive director, he himself attributed the two-thirds decline in suspension proportions to making these statistics public.

Still, the CRPE questions whether these indicators could be even smaller if they were included in the tiering of schools that resulted from scoring on the Performance Management Framework.  I have to admit I like the idea.  This information should be incorporated into the PMF not simply because it could help drive down student suspensions and expulsions, but because it gives a fuller picture of the operation of the charter, just as I’ve argued in the past the report card should encompass a grade for board of directors governance and financials.  Parents and their children will benefit from the inclusion of these important school characteristics.

The fight over the performance of online charter schools

Last week the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools issued a report critical of the academic performance of online charter schools. The organization states that as of August, 2014 there were 135 such full-time schools operating in 23 states and the District of Columbia educating about 180,000 students, a jump of 50 percent in the number of schools since 2008. Three states, California, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, enroll over half of all full-time online charter school students, and 25 percent of all online charter schools enroll over 80 percent of all students. 70 percent of online charter schools are run by for-profit companies.

Demographically, online charter schools enroll more white students than regular charter schools, fewer English Language Learners, a lower number of Hispanic students, and about the same number of black students.  They also serve a lower number of special education students and a higher proportion of kids living in poverty compared to brick and mortar charters.

Academically the two models perform much differently.  In Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) most recent study in 2015 regular charter schools added “40 additional days of learning growth in math and 28 days of additional growth in reading” a year compared to traditional schools.  Here in D.C. the results are significantly greater with Scott Pearson, the executive director of the Public Charter School Board, pointing out to me recently that students gain an extra 70 to 100 days of learning a year compared to those that go to a DCPS facility.

But this is not the case when it comes to online charter schools.  In the NAPCS examination conducted by three research groups, in a year “full-time virtual charter school students experience 80 fewer days of learning in math and 72 fewer days of learning in reading in comparison to traditional public school students.” The organization then offers a set of policy solutions to try and turn this situation around.

Jeanne Allen, the founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, has attacked the report’s findings.  “Researchers agree that this view of the data is superficial and ignores who and what is gained by a particular kind of schooling approach. Many students who enroll in virtual charter school do so because of extenuating circumstances or because they simply are not served well in a brick-and-mortar learning environment. This report is troubling in that it suggests that the measure of a school’s effectiveness is an average of who gets tested, not who gets served and the conditions under which they enter or leave.”

But I have to disagree in this case with Ms. Allen. One of the researchers for the National Alliance study is CREDO, and their investigation is anything but superficial.  The Stanford University group does point out that when it first looked at the academic performance of charters in 2009 learning in these schools lagged compared to that going on in regular classrooms.  These authors speculate that the same pattern of improvement may come about as online schools mature.  Let’s all hope that this is the case.



D.C. charter board acts as school board

“The charter authorizer here in D.C. now perceives itself as the school board. They are involved in everything and all that we do is regulated. We have lost ourselves.”

The above words were spoken by Friendship Public Charter School founder, chairman, and chief executive officer Donald Hense at an event last week sponsored by the Center for Education Reform.  At the time I didn’t know the specific acts of the DC Public Charter School Board to which Mr. Hense was referring.  From watching the PCSB for years I gleaned that the charter agreements forged between schools and the regulatory body at the time of charter renewals were often contentious, but this was only conjecture on my part that this is what the Friendship CEO had in mind.  But last night viewing the monthly meeting of the PCSB I realized exactly what he was talking about.

Much of the session was spent discussing the co-location of Lee Montessori PCS with Washington Leadership Academy PCS at St. Paul’s College on Fourth Street, N.E.  The ruling should have been a simple “yes” but because of concerns from nearby residents of the Chancellor’s Row community the proposal turned into a decision akin to whether to drop the bomb.  In fact, the charter board staff met on several occasions directly with homeowners to understand their issues with the proposed facility.  In the end the plan was approved, but not before the PCSB imposed five exceedingly detailed steps that the schools will need to take in order to occupy the site.

If we are to believe that charter school autonomy is something the PCSB guards at every turn as it does its work, then this matter could have been handled in a much different manner.  The schools should develop their own plan, which then would have received a up or down vote.  What I observed last evening was micromanagement of the highest degree.

But its not only the PCSB getting into this act.  Recently, D.C. councilman and chairman of the education committee David Grosso introduced the “Planning Actively for Comprehensive Education Facilities Amendment Act of 2016.”  While this proposed law deals almost exclusively with DCPS, in announcing the legislation Mr. Gosso brought up the issue of a school deciding to open in close proximity to another with the same academic program as something this act will seek to prevent.  Of course, he was referring to the situation in which Harmony PCS located across the street from a DCPS school that shares a STEM focus.  One section of the bill states that any local education agency, which all charter schools are by definition, that does not provide requested information to the government “for the development of a Master Facilities Plan and bi-annual supplement, or to provide the Department of General Services with adequate access to facilities to conduct the annual survey as required” will lose their facility funding.

It looks like charters may need to hire their own attorneys to try to protect their Congressionally authorized freedom to operate independently.


The Center for Education Reform’s New Opportunity Agenda

I had the great fortune to attend a luncheon last Wednesday hosted by the Center for Education Reform held at the stately National Press Club.  The reason that an overflow crowd of about 300 people gathered together was to hear from CER founder and chief executive officer Jeanne Allen about a subject I wrote about a year ago.  Last May, I opined that the pace of school reform has stalled in Washington, D.C.  Ms. Allen has observed that this is not only true in the nation’s capital but around the entire United States.

For example, Ms. Allen informed the audience that following the release 40 years ago of the Reagan administration’s Nation at Risk study with its devastating findings regarding the condition of educational instruction taking place at American schools there were 36 reform laws passed over the nine years between 1991 and 2001.  However, she passionately explained, today one in three third grade students are not proficient in reading, and it appears that no one seems to care.  Of course, what she was stating is perfectly obvious.  If you have followed this cycle’s Presidential election contests at all you will see that the one area that both the candidates on the right and the left can agree on is that education reform in our public schools is an afterthought.

Ms. Allen and her 23 year old organization desperately want to change this dire situation.  To dissect the current environment further, and to make recommendations for improvement, the program proceeded from the CER CEO’s opening remarks to a fascinating panel discussion featuring John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable and former governor of Michigan; Donald Hense, chair, founder, and CEO of Friendship Public Charter School; and David Levin, president and CEO of McGraw-Hill Education.  Anytime you have the opportunity to hear my hero Mr. Hense speak he will not disappoint and this was certainly the case five days ago.  “We have  turned our movement over to people who have not done anything for the last 100 years,” Mr. Hense calmly explained.  “The charter authorizer here in D.C. now perceives itself as the school board. They are involved in everything and all that we do is regulated. We have lost ourselves. We [school reformers] thought we were done and so we hugged each other and applauded. Meanwhile the traditional schools have rearmed.”  He called for expanded school choice whether that means creating options for parents by nonprofit charter management organizations, for-profit CMO’s, or the use of private school vouchers.

The solution for what ails school improvement from the Center for Education Reform’s vantage point is contained in its manifesto that was released at the session entitled “A Movement at Risk.”  It recommends providing greater flexibility in the ability of schools to make decisions for themselves along with the funding to make this a reality, more consumer oriented school choice, and expanded transparency in the information about school performance across the country.  Whether these public policy proposals will improve academic performance of students is, of course, difficult to tell at this point, but based upon the energy and commitment from the people in the room sincere efforts at fixing public education reform are about to be rebooted.

Exclusive interview with Scott Pearson, executive director of the DC PCSB

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down for a discussion with Scott Pearson, the executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board.  The first question on my list was why his organization is widely recognized as one of the best charter school authorizers in the country.  Mr. Pearson answered without hesitation.  “We are focused on school quality,” he explained.  “In 2011 we introduced the Performance Management Framework tool to measure school performance and at the time it was one of the first such frameworks in the United States.  We have stayed consistently faithful to the PMF and to the charter school agreements that we have reached.”

Part of this concentration on quality, Mr. Pearson indicated, is that the PCSB has steadfastly encouraged growth of high quality schools, supported the replication of high performing schools, and has closed under performing schools.

The second reason for the strong reputation, Mr. Pearson explained, is “our emphasis on transparency in a way that respects charter school autonomy.”  For example, he pointed to the two thirds reduction in school expulsions that have been accomplished without the issuance of one regulation by his group.  According to the PCSB executive director this milestone was reached simply as a result of making information public.  Another example of the same phenomenon, Mr. Pearson detailed, is the PCSB’s mystery shopper initiative.  He related that there was a misconception that charter schools were turning away special education students for admission.  The program has allowed the Board to demonstrate that exactly the opposite is true.

One important outcome of the Board’s data transparency initiative, according to Mr. Pearson, is that information is now widely available showing the strong performance of DC charters performance with every demographic subgroup of students.

Mr. Pearson listed the final attribute of the PCSB that has boosted people’s impression of its work as the quality of the staff.  The executive director asserted that “PCSB’s staff are exceptionally talented.  We have been resolute in creating a culture that is not bureaucratic in nature but instead one that is mission-driven,” he said.  “Everyone at PCSB believes in the power of charter schools to significantly enhance the lives of students, and in the ability of authorizers to positively impact the charter school movement.”

I then wanted to know from Mr. Pearson the current state of charters in the nation’s capital.  Again, he responded almost before I could finish my inquiry.  “It is very strong,” Mr. Pearson exclaimed.  “Every year we see the quality of schools increasing and we see more and more students attending Tier 1 schools.  Our wait lists keep growing.  And this is happening as we operate alongside a reinvigorated DCPS.  Both charter schools and DCPS schools are improving, and parents are noticing.   Over the past seven years we’ve reversed a 50-year trend as enrollment in public schools has increased.  The charter sector is  growing.  DCPS enrollment is going up. This is the first time in over 50 years that the number of kids in public schools is climbing.  Gone is the talk of closing under-enrolled schools.  In fact, many of us think that D.C. will need 50 new schools over the next 10 years.”

Mr. Pearson continued, “There is no question of how far we have come.  We have almost doubled the old DC CAS proficiency rates in reading and math since 2006.  On the NAEP exam, the nation’s report card, where we were once the lowest scoring city in the nation we are now the fastest growing.”

“Charters continue to outperform DCPS students in every subgroup,” Mr. Pearson detailed, “and research from the CREDO Institute at Stanford University has demonstrated that students attending D.C. charters learn an additional 70 to 100 days a year compared to those in the traditional public schools.  But what’s most exciting is that both sectors keep getting better and better.  DCPS’ scores are higher today than charter scores were five years ago.   It’s a very positive dynamic for our city.

I asked Mr. Pearson for the reason that there are not more high quality charter school seats in consideration of the 8,500 individual students on wait lists.  He replied, “At the PCSB we have a strong sense of obligation to grow our highest performing schools.  I firmly believe that great schools are an engine for economic growth of our city, and we’ve approved most of our Tier 1 schools to grow and educate more students.”

But I was searching for a reason from Mr. Pearson about why there is still an insufficient quantity of spaces to meet demand.

“There are several reasons that there has not been more expansion.  Some of it has to do with charters’ internal capacity to add school leaders.  In addition, the facility issue continues to be frustrating for charters.  DCPS currently has about 12 school buildings that are sitting empty.  But with the anticipated demand we are going to need other solutions besides the takeover of surplus buildings.  Recently, there have been a couple of meetings of about 50 individuals involving the CityBridge Foundation, the DC Schools Fund, the Deputy Mayor for Education, city planners, developers, financiers, bankers, and school leaders trying to find ways to ease the facilities challenges our schools face.”

With charters making so much academic progress, I then turned to whether they should replace all traditional schools.  “Not necessarily,” Mr. Pearson asserted.  “Parents choose a school that is the right fit for their child and for their family.  And in making this choice a lot of people prefer having a neighborhood school because the pupils are enrolled with those that live in close proximity to their homes.  Also, the known school feeder patterns provide them a sense of security.  Paradoxically, a strong traditional public school system provides families with more choice, not less.”

Logically then, I postulated whether we were getting to the point where there are too many charters because they could be pulling students away from the neighborhood schools.  The PCSB executive director would have none of this line of reasoning.  “More and more families are moving into the District.  And more families are choosing to stay.  In the past many families left when their child entered school.  That pattern now is very different, particularly at the elementary school level and to some extent for those attending middle school.

“We are nowhere near the state in which we are threatening the viability of DCPS,” Mr. Pearson related. “There is still plenty of room for both types of schools. The more quality school options we offer, the more families will choose to live here.”

With the addition of successful charter management organizations like BASIS, Rocketship, and Democracy Prep coming to D.C., I asked Mr. Pearson if he wanted more high performing CMOs to come to town.  “I used to believe that when I first assumed my position in 2012,” he responded.  “But I came to realize that we have a lot of outstanding home-grown talent here.  Schools like DC Prep, Achievement Prep, Washington Latin, Thurgood Marshall Academy, Friendship, KIPP DC, Eagle Academy, Two Rivers, and all of the bilingual schools, just to name a few; many cities would do anything to have charters such as these.  We need to enable our best schools to teach more students.  We also have to realize that it is no small feat to have a CMO come to our area.  When you look around the country, many quality schools fail when they try and operate outside of their original location.”

I then postulated that some of our local charters would not be approved now if they were to apply because of the board’s emphasis on being “Tier 1 on Day 1.”  Mr. Pearson commented, “We only had two applications for new schools this cycle and we approved one.  The board is looking at our process to see if there is a way to encourage more submissions.  We want it to be a rigorous application process but it is a balance to make sure we are not discouraging people from trying to open new schools.  Our challenge is to tolerate some risk but to also mitigate the chances for failure.”

The final area of inquiry I approached Mr. Pearson about is whether charters should be allowed to have neighborhood admission preferences.  Here the PCSB executive director became philosophical.  “I have personally evolved on this issue.  I used to be strongly against it.  Our city-wide system of choice has allowed us to transcend neighborhood patterns,” he related.  “But a neighborhood preference could spur development by attracting families to a particular area of town.  Some school leaders have indicated to me that they have purposely opened in a particular Ward, such as 7 or 8, because their mission is to serve the low income children residing there.  In addition, it may make it easier for a charter to open in a locality if it is allowed to serve the kids residing in the surrounding blocks.  Also, many parents want their offspring going to school near home.  For some of our most disadvantaged families having to travel long distances for their children’s school is expensive.  Although kids now ride free on the buses and subways this is not true for the adult students.  It also may be impossible to pull off time-wise based upon work and life schedules.

It may be that with safeguards to protect against segregation and the blocking of access to high quality schools for those less fortunate, it could work.  But this is a highly complicated subject and our first priority must be to ensure that a neighborhood preference doesn’t freeze out kids who can’t afford to live in the neighborhood.  It is my understanding that D.C. Council member and education committee chairman David Grosso is seeking to explore school enrollment patterns.  Let’s see what comes out of that effort.”

D.C. Council passes law to prevent another Community Academy PCS

Last week the D.C. Council amended the School Reform Act of 1995 in an attempt to prevent the kind of financial mismanagement that plagued the Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter School.  The legislation was sought by the DC Public Charter School Board’s executive director Scott Pearson in the aftermath of the closing of Community Academy PCS and another charter, Options PCS, that was also shuttered last year amidst serious issues regarding the use of public funds.  The law was drafted with the input of schools and FOCUS.

Mr. Pearson had complained publicly that although his organization had the power to examine the revenue and spending records of charters it lacked the same authority when it came to charter management organizations.  Remember that what got CAPCS into so much trouble was the exorbitant salaries being paid to Mr. Kent Amos, his wife, and stepson for services his management company claimed it was providing while the school also hired staff to accomplish the same duties.  Now, as a result of the new four-page law, the PCSB can review the books of “an organization that has a contract to provide management or educational services to a public charter school to which the eligible chartering authority has granted a charter when the annual value of the payments to the organization is equal to or exceeds 10% of the school’s annual revenue” or when “the total revenues of the organization derived from any public charter school in the District exceeds 25% of the organization’s total revenue.”

The Public Charter School Fiscal Transparency Amendment Act of 2015 also specifies when a conflict of interest exists between a charter and an entity with which it enters into a contract for services, and the reporting requirements of this conflict to the PCSB.  The language is identical to standard conflict of interest policies already in place in many charter schools.

What is not clear is if this bill would have prevented the situation uncovered at Options PCS.  Certainly the money being paid to the two companies that stole money from the school could have met the requirements under the law for contract review.  However, you have to remember that at that time Jeremy Williams was working for the PCSB as its chief financial officer, and was hiding information about Options spending arrangements from his superiors while simultaneously serving on Option’s board of directors.    He then went on to work for one of the companies involved in the theft.  Perhaps in a highly unusual situation like this there is no way to uncover the criminal activities of exceedingly unethical individuals.



Saba Bireda confirmed as new member of DC charter board

Last Tuesday, the D.C. Council confirmed Mayor Bowser’s nominee Saba Bireda to a four year term on the DC Public Charter School Board, replacing Barbara Nophlin.  Ms. Bireda appears to be a solid choice.  She is a Ward 8 resident who currently serves as senior counsel at the U.S. Department of Education.  Ms. Bireda’s education includes a B.A. in English and political science from Stanford University and a law degree from Harvard.

Ms. Bireda began her professional life as a teacher at Sousa Middle School here in the District of Columbia, where she worked for a couple of years.  She has practiced law in a variety of settings, but then stepped into the think tank world as an education policy analyst at the Center for American Progress.  Among other positions the new PCSB member has held was as deputy director for the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, a policy and legal advisor for EducationCouncil LLC, and a senior counsel at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.  She has also been an adjunct faculty member for the University of the District of Columbia School of Law.

Dr. Darren Woodruff, chairman of the PCSB, testified in his support of Ms. Bireda’s nomination before the D.C. Council Education Committee that he found her “passionate about improving neighborhoods across the District by improving schools and also in ensuring that all students, regardless of race, gender, or economic circumstances, receive the best possible education.”

You can’t ask for a better recommendation.  At the same hearing Committee Chairman Grosso announced that another nominee for the PCSB would be coming from Ms. Bowser shortly.