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Options charter revocation on hold

Last evening the D.C. Public Charter School Board held the second consecutive meeting in two days to consider applications for new schools for the 2015 to 2016 term. If you could not make the session or was unable to catch the live feed of the event you did not miss much. Two applicants presented and neither one stands a good chance to be given the green light to accept students.

Xcelerate Institute is a proposed charter for young adults who fail to graduate from high school in four years. The 400 student school would prepare individuals to enter the workforce by providing an academic curriculum centered on preparation to pass the GED as well as teaching the soft skills that will assist them in being successful in their careers.

The major issue regarding this application revolved around the plan to teach using a blended learning approach. I have now seen a number of charter proposals self-destruct when school representatives start talking about instruction utilizing technology. The most common cause is a failure to be able to adequately describe exactly what this model looks like on a day-to-day basis. So was the case with Xcelerate.

The discussion around the Student Parent Achievement Center of Excellency (SPACE) application unfortunately mostly focused on the school's proposal from two years ago when it was denied a charter and how it had been revised based upon feedback from the PCSB's staff. The school's representatives denied ever having received the information even after several requests by phone and email. This appeared odd since each of the board members had the document as part of their materials for the meeting. But the candidates must have learned something from their experience because missing now is the idea of a fee-based pre-school. It's too bad things went so poorly because SPACE would be a 400 Pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade Arabic immersion school, and the only charter to be located in Ward 3.

The session started with a public hearing regarding Options Public Charter School. Here we learned a couple of new details about the troubled charter. First, Court-Appointed Receiver Josh Kern just yesterday was also given the title of Custodian of the school, thereby officially allowing him to make decisions far beyond the financial matters he was initially brought on to address. In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding has now been drafted between Options and the PCSB, which if approved by the D.C. Superior Court and the Board would allow the school to continue operating through the 2014 to 2015 term. But what was abundantly clear was how far the PCSB's attitude has changed. When the media first reported problems at Options the discussion only revolved around charter revocation. Last night's conversation began with board member Don Soifer asking what his group could do to support Mr. Kern in his effort to keep the school operating. The matter will be taken up by the PCSB on April 29th.

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