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Scott Pearson and Josh Kern disagree on closing of Options PCS

Yesterday's public statements before Councilman David Catania's Education Committee by D.C. Public Charter School Board executive director Scott Pearson and the D.C. Superior Court appointed Receiver for Options Public Charter School Josh Kern exposed a split in opinion between the two men as to whether the troubled facility should be closed. Mr. Pearson remarked that "In fact, at Mr. Kern’s request, we delayed the initiation of revocation proceedings to give him more time to assess conditions at the school. Yet despite Mr. Kern’s excellent work, we were unable to find any cause for PCSB to further defer revoking Options PCS’ charter, which we believe is required by a plain reading of the School Reform Act." Mr. Kern's written attestation presented at the same hearing states that "As I explained in my testimony to the PCSB, I do not believe revocation of the charter is required."

The debate over whether Options PCS needs to be closed is far from a philosophical one. Caught right in the cross-hair are an extremely at-risk population of students. As Mr. Kern explained, of the approximately 400 kids currently attending the school:

  • Eight percent – one in twelve – of Options students are homeless,
  • In any given week, seven to ten students are absent because they have been incarcerated,
  • Before enrolling at Options, students on average have attended 2.3 D.C. schools serving grades six through twelve—meaning schools in which they could have remained enrolled,
  • Of the Options’ students who transferred from another grade six-through-twelve school, 71 percent transferred from a DCPS school, with 58 percent of these transferees having severe learning and emotional disabilities.

During Wednesday's session the Washington Post's Emma Brown tweeted that DCPS's chief of special education Dr. Nathaniel Beers commented that if Options closes and all kids go to already struggling DCPS neighborhood schools "we would have a crisis." His remark is a direct repudiation of PCSB's assertion, written regarding its recommendation to shutter the school dated December 10, 2013, that "Staff has discussed this possibility with DCPS, who have expressed confidence that, with enough notice, they could serve, and serve well, the Options students."

Mr. Kern has done an award-winning first-class job turning around Options in an amazingly short period. There is now no real reason to inject new instability when everyone associated with this school has already lived through the recent horrible instances of management malpractice. Options is not the same school it was in the past. The PCSB should reverse its vote to begin revocation proceedings and allow the school to remain open.

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