I was especially eager to tune into last night’s monthly meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board. I had seen the social media announcements that three new members would be joining the board at this session. The charter board had been down to three directors for over six months and people were wondering if Mayor Muriel Bowser would ever submit nominations for replacements. The new additions are Shukurat Adamoh-Faniyan, executive director of Reading Partners and former executive director of Democracy Prep PCS and Imagine Southeast PCS; Nick Rodriquez, CEO of Delivery Associates; and Shantelle Wright, who needs no introduction.
While DC PCSB executive director Michelle Walker-Davis expressed a couple of times Monday evening about how happy she was to have a full complement of board members, it was announced by chair Lea Crusey that this was the last meeting for Rick Cruz.
This previously undisclosed news then resulted in a roundtable of compliments for Mr. Cruz’s volunteer work over eight years at the charter board by Dr. Walker-Davis and all of the other members of the PCSB. The accolades are well deserved. Mr. Cruz’s tenure on the board, which included two years as chair, was characterized by the same steady leadership and respect for others that defined the leadership of previous individuals who have had this position including Tom Nida, Skip McCoy, Brian Jones, and Darrin Woodruff. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Cruz a couple of times when he headed the board and found him to be approachable and kind. I also had the chance to talk to him when he was chief executive officer DC Prep PCS. He is one of only two people I have had conversations with who have held two important roles in our local charter movement. The other is Josh Kern, who I interviewed as founder and managing partner of TenSquare Consulting and as co-founder and executive director of the Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School.
Mr. Cruz thanked everyone for their kinds words. He remarked that he found his efforts on the board to be the most important role he has played. He then added that he felt that the board had accomplished much during his time of service but that there was much more to be done. I could not agree more. Here is my list:
- Solve the charter school permanent facility issues. The pandemic has provided an excellent opportunity to set aside commercial real estate for use by charters,
- Increase the number of charters by having the DC PCSB rapidly approve school replications and expansions, and significantly raise the number of new schools approved to open. The greater the number of families who send their children to charters, the more advocates for our sector we have,
- Settle once and for all funding inequities between charters and DCPS. The newly planned update to the Adequacy Study should play a key role here, and
- Close the academic achievement gap. The board can play a tremendous part here. Expand those schools that have figured out how to get this done. Close those that are not doing their part. This includes DCPS sites.
The fact that the level of learning between affluent and low income kids continues to demonstrate a wide gulf of difference after hundreds of millions of dollars has been spent for school reform in the nation’s capital should make our blood boil. Morally, we cannot sit back and do nothing. Do not blow it.