Yesterday, thanks to the effort of Councilperson Yvette Alexander, the D.C. Council proclaimed yesterday, October 11, 2016, Donald Hense Day. Mr. Hense is, of course, the founder and until this school year the executive director of Friendship Public Charter School. He remains the chairman of its board of directors. The proclamation comes as Friendship is about to mark twenty years since the original charter was written.
The recognition is extremely well deserved. As a wrote on the occasion of his retirement party last summer:
“Friendship has grown to 11 campuses teaching over 4,200 children. In addition, there are two partnership schools in Baltimore and one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 99 percent of Friendship’s student population is African-American with 75 percent qualifying for free or reduced price meals. Three out of four pupils live in Wards 7 and 8. 15 percent are special education students.
Three of Friendship’s campuses are now classified as Tier 1 on the DC Public Charter School’s Performance Management Framework. Friendship’s four-year high school graduate rate is around 95 percent, much higher than DCPS’s 64 percent and the overall rate of charters at 72 percent.
Over 95 percent of its 2,500 high school graduates have gone on to college. Through Friendship’s efforts these students have been awarded over $40 million in scholarships.”
This next statement is no exaggeration. If it were not for Donald Hense many poor African-American children would have ended up in jail or would not be alive today. Instead, he is sending these scholars off to college. His contribution to our city and to public education nationally cannot be underestimated.
The award comes at a perfect moment. As the editors of the Washington Post note today, on October 15th the board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is set to vote on a resolution that calls for a moratorium on charter schools. The creation of the resolution sparked a reaction by 160 education leaders across America that calls for the NAACP to reject the move.
Among those in the nation’s capital that oppose the action by the NAACP are Peter Anderson, head of school Washington Latin PCS; Patricia Brantley, CEO Friendship PCS; Dr. Marco Clark, CEO Richard Wright PCS; Diane Cottman, executive director Latin American Montessori Bilingual PCS; Jami Dunham, CEO Paul PCS; Dr. Ramona Edelin, executive director D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools; Brian Jones, chair National Alliance for Public Charter School and D.C. Prep board member; Linda Moore, founder and senior advisor Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community PCS; the late Cassandra Pinkney, founder and executive director Eagle Academy PCS; Dr. Joe Smith, COO and CFO Eagle Academy PCS; Deborah Dantzler Williams, head of school Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS; and Shantelle Wright, CEO Achievement Prep PCS.
Donald Hense was also a signatory to the letter. But that is only logical. A moratorium would be a direct refutation of the life’s work of our local hero.