Last evening during the monthly meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board Rashida Young, the organization’s equity and fidelity senior manager, provided an excellent overview of the 2016 Equity Reports that I recently wrote about here. When it came to the portion of the study that covered student suspension rates, Scott Pearson, the PCSB executive director, asked Ms. Young to talk about Kingsman Academy PCS. It was at this point that the staffer dropped a bombshell. Ms. Young revealed that this year the charter school has eliminated student suspensions.
For those of you who may not remember, Kingsman PCS is the reincarnated Options PCS that was slated for closure by the PCSB after it was revealed in 2013 that former managers of the school had siphoned millions of dollars to themselves through unethical and almost certainly illegal contracts struck with the charter. It was a particularly sad case in that caught up in the mess were two local heroes. Long-term Channel 9 newscaster J.C. Hayward was the Options board chair when all the shenanigans around money was going on. She eventually retired from the network and was removed from the legal case. Also involved was Jeremy Williams, the former PCSB chief financial officer who was loved by the many charter school leaders who he helped. It turned out that he was paid to hide the contracting situation from his bosses. The criminal complaint against him has also been closed.
The entire matter was especially tragic because Options took care of kids that no one else wanted to teach. These were about 400 severely emotionally and physically disabled middle and high school special education students. After all of the news broke about this school, the plan was to shutter its doors.
But then something amazing happened. Josh Kern, through his Ten Square consulting group, was made the Court-ordered Receiver of Options PCS. In something that can only be described as miraculous, he and his team did a complete management restructuring of the school, refining every detail of its operation. I appreciated from behind the scenes what Mr. Kern was doing and I began arguing on my blog to keep Options going citing these efforts. During the darkest periods of this mess, when it looked like the end of the school was a forgone conclusion, I met with Mr. Kern and then communicated through other means to see how I could best support his work.
In the end, the charter board decided to to offer a new charter to a group that would take over the Options facility. The fine team that Mr. Kern assembled to run the school won the bid which leaves us where we are today: a charter teaching the most challenging young scholars that has come to the conclusion that it can accomplish its goals by eliminating the need to suspend its students for even one hour.
It is a fantastic story perfectly suited for this holiday season.