Sad story of D.C.’s Options Public Charter School comes to an end

On Saturday the Washington Post’s Michael Alison Chandler revealed that a civil lawsuit by the D.C. Attorney General against the leaders of Options PCS has been settled.  As a reminder, towards the end of 2013, the U.S. Attorney accused Donna Montgomery, David Cranford and Paul Dalton, managers of Options, of stealing $3 million dollars in public funds belonging to the charter through a private company that they had established to provide school services. Others caught up in this mess included long time WUSA Channel 9 newscaster J.C. Hayward, who was Options board chair when a contractual arrangement was struck between the school and the former managers, and who was allegedly paid to attend board meetings, and Jeremy Williams, a hero to those of us involved in D.C.’s charter movement until it was discovered that he was hiding the Options financial scheme through his position as the chief financial officer of the DC Public Charter School Board.  When this news broke Ms. Hayward was placed on leave by the station and she eventually retired.

Options was established to teach severely emotionally and physically disabled students that no other schools were equipped to serve.

Last summer the U.S. Attorney ended a criminal investigation against the same individuals.  Ms. Hayward had been dismissed from the case earlier.  The civil action had been on hold while the criminal complaint was progressing.

Under the civil settlement, Ms. Chander indicates, Ms. Montgomery, Mr. Cranford, and Mr. Dalton will together have to pay $575,000 to Kingsman Academy PCS, the charter that replaced Options in August 2015.  Mr. Williams is being charged $84,237 in an agreement reached the week before.  The Post reporter also states that “the defendants agreed that they would not serve in a leadership role of any nonprofit corporation in the District until October 2020.”

The article includes the additional information that Kent Amos, the founder of Dorothy I. Height Community Academy PCS, also settled a civil lawsuit with the city in 2015 after it was found that he was skimming over a million dollars a year from his institution for himself and family members. The charter was shuttered the same year by the PCSB.

There was some good that came out of the Options disaster.  My friend Shannon Dodge took over Kingsman Academy PCS and she and her team are doing thoroughly impressive work.  I interviewed Ms. Dodge last May.  In addition, Josh Kern, through his role at Ten Square Consulting, demonstrated for all to see as the court-appointed Options Receiver how to superiorly manage a school turnaround.



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