The most dramatic part of last Monday’s monthly meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board came before the session even started. The board of Monument Academy PCS, that on June 8th had voted to close the school at the end of this academic year, has now agreed to continue its operation under a partnership with the Friendship Educational Foundation. One of the most interesting aspects of this arrangement to me is that Monument is not being added to the portfolio of Friendship PCS. Rather, the support of Monument comes through the consulting arm of Friendship that will allow the boarding school to have its own board of directors and operate as a separate Local Education Agency. Patricia Brantley, Friendship PCS’s chief executive officer, will become the school’s new interim board chair as part of a group that includes Brian Jones, the former chair of the DC PCSB and president of Stayer University; Shawn Harnett, the founder and executive director of Statesman College Preparatory Academy for Boys PCS; and Tameria Lewis, deputy director of Kingsman Academy PCS, among others. Emily Bloomfield, the founder and CEO of Monument Academy PCS, becomes an ex-officio member of the board. Representatives of the school expressed that this board composition may be revised going forward.
The head of school will be Dr. Jeffrey Grant, an individual with 27 years of experience in public education, including being principal of Friendship’s Blow-Pierce Academy when it became a Performance Management Framework Tier 1 facility. He provided an extremely engaging, energetic, and confident presentation to the PCSB. Dr. Grant has made a three year commitment to the school.
I had asked others to come to the aid of Monument when I first learned it was in trouble. As a community, that is exactly what happened. Besides the Friendship Foundation answering the call, the Monument Academy turnaround plan states that a dozen foundations, including Bainum Family, CityBridge Education, Flamboyan, and Cafritz responded to the tune $1.7 million in financial support. This brings tears to my eyes.
The relationship Monument Academy has forged with the Friendship Foundation does not require approve of the charter board.
In other news from Monday night, Digital Pioneers Academy PCS is seeking to move into the Capitol Hill location that Cesar Chavez PCS is vacating. Statesman Academy PCS plans to locate in the same Ward 8 multipurpose building that houses Ingenuity Prep PCS and the shuttering National Collegiate Prep PCS.
Mr. Pearson observed that in the case of Digital Pioneers and Statesman we have two schools that were situated in Ward 7 that wanted to stay in this part of the District where their students could walk to their classrooms. He went on to point out that both organizations had identified vacant DCPS facilities in Ward 7 that are available for use and continue to be empty. He called the situation a failure of our city to support our public schools.
A final interesting development from the evening is that the charter amendment that was to be voted on allowing Washington Latin PCS to replicate was pulled from the agenda with no date offered for re-consideration. Board chair Rick Cruz, in announcing the modification to the agenda, provided no explanation for the move. But a hint of a problem with the desire of Latin to grow came from trustee Steve Bumbaugh, who criticized the school for enrolling the second lowest level of at-risk children among charters at 6.8 percent while suspending these students at four times the rate of the overall population. I am sure there will be much more to come on this issue.