At last night’s monthly meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board, Rick Cruz was named the new chairman, replacing Dr. Darren Woodruff. Traditionally, the vice-chairman has transitioned into the chair position when the current leader’s term is up, but in this case that role was being played by Don Soifer, who is now employed out of state as the president of Nevada Action for School Options. Saba Bireda was elected as vice-chair. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Cruz handles matters regarding Prep PCS in his new post, and whether he recuses himself when issues concerning the charter come before the board. Remember that for a little over a year Mr. Cruz was the CEO of the school with the intent of replacing Emily Lawson, but that arrangement did not work out. In the recent past as a member of the board, Mr. Cruz has weighed in on decisions regarding DC Prep.
The other extremely interesting aspect of yesterday’s session was not on the official agenda. When the floor was opened for public statements at the beginning and end, a string of disgruntled parents and teachers came forward to relate negative situations occurring at City Arts and Prep PCS. Remember that City Arts is the renamed William E. Doar, Jr. Public Charter School for the Performing Arts, of which I was a founding board member and chair. The school has been going through a turnaround of late, for a time working with Ten Square Consulting and Charter Board Partners to attempt to raise its academic performance. Look for more fallout from the clearly unstable environment over there.
One other aspect of the proceedings caught my attention. Usually a section of these gatherings which I don’t follow closely is the PMF policy and technical guide updates. But prior to opening up for comment the standards for the current school year, the board’s staff made a startling discovery. From the meeting’s supporting documentation:
“In September 2017, the Board approved the 2017-18 PMF Guide per DC PCSB staff recommendation. At the time, DC PCSB staff simulated the recommended changes using data from school year 2015-16 (the most recent data available at the time). We projected the PK-8 campuses would lose an average of 0.7 PMF points. Since then, we simulated the approved changes using the newly available school year 2016-17 data. We now project that PK-8 campuses would lose an average of 1.9 PMF points. Additionally, we determined that some schools would lose as many as 7.7 PMF points, while others would gain as many as 2.2 points. Appendix B shows the impact analysis for every school based on 2016-17 data with the previously approved floors and targets. While DC PCSB staff recommend adjustments to the PMF Guide almost annually, we have not recommended changes that result in such dramatic performance shifts. The Framework is most valuable when it has stability, allowing stakeholders to rely on its outputs over multiple school years. On January 18, 2018, DC PCSB staff met with the PK-8 task force to share our findings and discuss proposals. An overwhelming majority (87.5%) of schools approved our proposal to revert to the 2016-17 PARCC weights, floors and targets, and to hold the School Environment floors and targets steady for one more year.”
Since the failure of the board to revert back to the 2016-17 PARCC weights, floors, and targets could have a tremendous impact on PMF scoring, schools may want to weigh-in on this proposal. Comments will be accepted until March 19, 2018.
In other actions, a visibly irritated PSCB deputy director Naomi Rubin DeVeaux read into the record a letter received from Excel Academy PCS announcing its decision to become part of DCPS. In addition, Latin American Montessori Bilingual PCS (LAMB) received a renewal for another 15 years, but not before Dr. Woodruff read a prepared statement detailing that despite the exemplary academic results at the school, parents of children enrolled at the facility have expressed severe frustration over leadership changes, a perceived lack of communication, and the situation involving the teacher sentenced a year ago to eight years in prison for sexually abusing six students at the charter. There was much discussion between the board and school representatives over these issues.
Finally, Maya Angelou PCS was up for its 20-year review, and was granted permission to continue operating under a long list of conditions. I have been following the history of this alternative education charter for years and the up-and-down trajectory of its standing with the PCSB continued last evening unabated.