Last evening the DC Public Charter School Board decided to close Washington Math Science and Technology Public Charter High School at the end of the current school year. The unanimous decision was reached despite the charter taking heroic efforts to reverse its dire financial state:
- WMST has secured $97,000 in short term debt and other contributions that enabled it to meet the March 23rd payroll and pay other expenses.
- The school’s staff has agreed to defer the April 6th payroll until the charter receives its fourth quarter annual payment which is due next week.
- It has sold its building for $6.25 million with a July closing.
- The charter has negotiated with the purchaser, Douglass Development, to occupy the building during the next school year rent-free.
- WMST has reached an agreement with its mortgage and line-of-credit holders to delay payments of principal dollars until the purchase of the building has been finalized.
- The charter has hired Building Hope to provide back-office financial services.
- Building Hope has completed a financial forecast that shows that the school will have sufficient funds to complete the 2018-to-2019 term.
The forensic accounting firm hired by the PCSB to access the situation, StoneTurn, has concluded that the school still must obtain $500,000 in order to continue operating past June. At the public hearing held on April 5th, the charter was hopeful that this money would come from Industrial Bank, but an agreement could not be finalized. There is now a chance that United Bank will provide the needed cash, but that decision will not be made by this institution until today. Therefore, the PCSB agreed to revoke the charter but will reverse the move if a loan comes through by six p.m. on Tuesday, and an acceptable financial corrective action plan is submitted by the school within the next three days. The strict timeline is being driven by the fact that families have until May 1st to enroll their children in a public school.
Chair Rick Cruz issued the following statement following the board’s vote:
“Because WMST PCHS is not economically viable, we’re required to revoke its charter. I speak for our entire board when I say how deeply saddened we are that this came to pass. Throughout this difficult process, we have provided the school with all the support and flexibility we were able, but unfortunately the school was not able to close the large financial shortfall facing them. To minimize disruption to the students currently attending the school, we’ll ensure the school can operate through the end of the school year. And in the coming days, our enrollment specialists will begin to work closely with every student and family to help them find a new school for the upcoming school year.”
The verdict appears reasonable, but I would provide you with a pass if you had tried to watch these proceedings live remotely and had not been successful in this effort. The PCSB’s referred viewers, as has been the custom, to a Livefeed link in order to observe the session. However, for some unknown reason, the broadcast was switched to Facebook. The sound emitted from this social media website was practically unintelligible and the video seemed as if you were witnessing a meeting taking place on the moon.
In other news, the board heard from three charters proposing to open new schools. There was no word as to why the Friendship PCS plan to expand its on-line campus through the twelfth grade was not included in this cohort. When I first read the remaining three applications I thought none was strong enough to actually be approved to begin operation during the 2019 to 2020 school year. But yesterday changed my mind. Capital Village Academy PCS should definitely be given the green light. The main representative for the charter did a perfectly eloquent job of making the case for the school. It appeared that every facet of the application was well thought out and logical.
The M.E.C.C.A Business Learning Institute-D.C. PCS presentation reflected the lack of clarity contained in its written bid. Bolt PCS is the brain-child of my friend Seth Andrew, although he is not listed as a member of the founding group. It would use his Washington Leadership Academy PCS’s curriculum. The discussion around this school reminded me of the first iteration of WLA with its combination of residential and nonresidential instruction. As occurred with Washington Leadership, this application should be refined.
Let’s sincerely hope that WMST can pull out another miracle today.