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Predictions: DC PCSB to close one charter, keep another open

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This coming Wednesday evening the D.C. Public Charter School Board will hold an informal public hearing considering the 15 year renewal of Arts and Technology Public Charter School. The PCSB staff has recommended that this charter cease operations at the end of the current school year. This is the right decision.

Arts and Technology PCS began operation in 1999 under the authority of the PCSB. It currently has 624 students in grades Pre-Kindergarten 3 to 5th grade. The Ward 7 school located in Northeast has a student body in which 95 percent are characterized as low income.

Unfortunately for this school its Performance Management Framework scores have been heading in the wrong direction. Arts and Technology has been graded as a Tier 3 school for each of the last 3 years. Its 31.9 percent 2013 rating completes a downward linear line begun in 2011 with its 41.4 percent result and followed with a 34.0 percent tally last year. Being in Tier 3 for three consecutive years makes the school a candidate for charter revocation under the PMF guidelines.

The PCSB conducted a Qualitative Site Review of the school just last April. It evaluated the “mission/goals of the school’s charter, classroom environments, instructional delivery, meeting the needs of all learners, professional development, and school climate.” For all areas that could be assessed the school received positive comments almost without exception. Therefore, perhaps the body needs to seek better alignment between the QSR and PMF scores.

What a great opportunity this is for a high performing school to take the place of ATA PCS and continue educating these children without interruption.

A school which should not be shuttered is Options PCS. This question will be considered at tonight's monthly PCSB session. Remember that the charter board threatened to pull the plug once the negative press came out regarding its highly irregular financial practices. Closing this campus would be extremely detrimental to the student body which is comprised primarily of children with disabilities.

Anyone at all interested in the subject of non-profit management should have the December 13 report by court-appointed Receiver Josh Kern on their must read list. The document stands as a cookbook for effective administration as he and his team are turning around the charter in the areas of financial controls, special education compliance, budgeting, hiring, cost reduction, family and community relations, and legal needs. The recommendations and actions contained in the nine page brief are actually an extension of those included in the October 21st findings to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. This one contains multiple interesting new tidbits including the fact that Mr. Kern has reduced “redundant and ineffective staff” saving $825,000, constructed a $14 million operating budget containing a $4 million reserve fund, is in the process of hiring a new COO/CFO, while simultaneously only losing 6 staff members since all of the trouble began.

The PCSB should allow Options to remain open while at the same time presenting Mr. Kern with an award for showing the rest of us how it is done.

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