William E. Doar, Jr. PCS to change name to City Arts & Prep

Tonight at the monthly meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board a vote will be taken to change the name on August 1, 2016 of the William E. Doar, Jr. PCS to City Arts and Prep PCS.

The move makes sense since none of the creators of WEDJ are currently associated with the school.  Julie Doar-Sinkfield, Mr. Doar’s daughter, who was the first board chair and executive director, had a public battle with the charter in 2011 when she and the two original founders, Mary Robbins and Nadia Casseus-Torney, attempted to wrestle control of the school from its board of directors.  The issue made it to D.C. Superior Court with a judge issuing a restraining order blocking the three women from involvement with the charter before they decided to drop their effort.  WEDJ received legal assistance from Stephen Marcus, the same attorney who is now facilitating the FOCUS engineered lawsuit against the city regarding inequity charter school funding, and ironically, the lawyer who negotiated WEDJ’s original lease with the landlord at 705 Edgewood Street, N.E.

Despite all of the controversy I hate to see the change.  I was part of the founding group of the school who met in Ms. Doar’s basement apartment on Capitol Hill over a decade ago to write the charter.  She cooked dinner for us as we sought to develop the best charter school the nation’s capital had ever seen.  I went on to succeed Ms. Doar as WEDJ’s board chair for five years.

I never met Mr. Doar since he passed away in 1982.  But he was obviously a remarkable man.  Here is a small portion of his biography:

“During his lifetime, he took steps to initiate the desegregation of facilities at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and is responsible for placing the first African-American doctor on its staff. He was a member continuously since 1945 of the United Bowling League of Brooklyn, the league most responsible for the integration of the American Bowling Congress. He helped to bring about the integration of the Nursing School at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital and was responsible for placing the first black youth in the biology laboratory of that hospital. He worked with the late Congressman Adam Powell in integrating the stores on 125th Street in Harlem. With the New York State Employment Service he brought the discrimination at Bell Telephone Laboratories and Western Electric to a halt with the cooperation of the NAACP.”

Mr. Doar was a member of the Kappa Beta Sigma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity for over 48 years, holding a variety of leadership positions.  His involvement led in 1995 to the international headquarters of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity on Kennedy Street, N.W. to be named the William E. Doar, Jr. Building.

While I did not get the chance to know him I spent many hours with his wife.  I found Mrs. Doar to be the epitome of class and kindness.  She has a fantastic sense of humor which she expresses with a broad smile.  I especially welcomed that look when Julie would become completely frustrated when she couldn’t get people to do exactly as she wanted.

Julie, as well as Mary and Nadia, taught me so much about charters, regarding both pedagogy and governance.  The potential of these individuals to do good in the world was never more evident than on one of the annual faculty performances that we held as fundraisers.  We spoke of everything that was being accomplished at the school and everything that was still be be done.  We laughed at the joy being brought to us by those gathered in the room.

And we talked about William E. Doar, Jr.


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