D.C. charter schools, please follow these ingredients for continuance

I’m sitting here Wednesday evening listening to the public hearing considering the charter revocation of Excel Academy Public Charter School.  The session is perfectly identical to so many I have seen in the past.  There is an overflow crowd of the school’s parents.  The DC Public Charter School Board is presenting its data demonstrating the reasons the charter should be closed.  The school will then provide testimony promising to revamp its board, change its leadership, and improve its prodigy.  Later, mothers and fathers of enrolled scholars will offer emotionally moving stories about the positive experience attending this school has made toward their children’s growth and development.

It is probably all too late at this point.  The charter has been warned about its academic performance for years.  The bottom line is that we never should have reached this predicament.

Excel PCS, like several of the schools before the board this week, has contracted with the Ten Square Consulting Group, is about to engage with Charter Board Partners, and has hired Stephen Marcus as its attorney.  So please allow me to make a simple suggestion for all of D.C.’s charters.

When considering opening a charter school go through FOCUS’s program that is designed to make this goal a reality.  Please hire Ten Square right from the start to evaluate your program.  Utilize Charter Board Partners to populate the board with members.  Finally engage with Building Hope to secure a permanent facility.  In fact, the DC PCSB should be relied upon as a resource.  We are so extremely fortunate in this town to have so many truly outstanding charter school support organizations.

If you follow my advice good things will happen.  Financial support and other valuable resources may come from groups such as Fight for Children, CityBridge Education, and Education Forward.  Don’t wait unit you get in trouble.  Being proactive may preserve all of the heroic hard work that the school exerted to have their charter accepted by the charter board in the first place.

On this particular night I’m impressed with the testimony of Stephen Marcus.  He successfully introduced an interruption in the steady momentum toward charter revocation when he asked the question of where these students would go if the school was closed.  There is no other all girls school like Excel in the nation’s capital.  Many of the Ward 8 educational institutions located near this facility, both charter and DCPS, score lower on the PARCC standardized test than this one.

The board will vote in January regarding the fate of Excel.  Whatever happens, whether the school’s doors are shuttered at the end of June or if it is allowed to continue operating under a long list of conditions, is almost beside the point.  Sadly, all of this considerable time and energy could and should have been avoided.




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