I’ll start today with an apology. Sometimes things in life are so great that they go beyond the written word. So it was yesterday at the Grand Opening of the Washington Latin Public Charter School on Second Street, N.W.
Allow me to give you a taste. Gathered in a shimmering, bright, right out-of-the package new multipurpose room was Mayor Vincent Gray, Councilman David Catania, Councilwoman Muriel Bowser, Deputy Mayor of Education Abigail Smith, PCSB executive director Scott Pearson, former PCSB executive director Josephine Baker, FOCUS executive director Robert Cane, and Building Hope President Joe Bruno. This does not include all of the enormously special individuals, too numerous to name, that had major roles in perfectly renovating the 75,000 square foot former Rudolph Elementary.
When you get that many prominent officials in one space an event can go in either direction. On Monday the way was straight up. Here you had the Mayor asserting that it made no sense to have DCPS buildings sitting vacant when highly performing academic programs with hundreds of kids on waiting lists could use them. He added that while some shuttered traditional schools have been turned over to charters he promised that this was only the beginning. I know it was Mr. Gray who was addressing the crowd of over one hundred people, but by the words he was using you might have thought that it was Mr. Cane up on that stage.
It only gets better. As part of the undertaking to renovate Rudolph there were insufficient funds to build a gym. $1.1 million has been raised so far in a capital campaign to complete the project. The space is important for several reasons. Of course, it would support the athletic program. But in addition, the idea was that this was something that could be shared with the community as a way to build closer ties with those living in the area. Finally, the gym would be the only area of the school in which the entire student body could gather at one time. Mr. Catania spoke next and pledged to allocate $3 million in the city’s budget to make this addition a reality.
It was then Ms. Bowser’s turn. I always value seeing her at Washington Latin programs because of the crucial role she played in our charter acquiring this building. It is something I will never forget. In her remarks she practically guaranteed that she would find additional property in Ward Four for a Washington Latin expansion so that the school’s eight hundred student waiting list could be reduced to zero.
But the most moving speaker of the morning was Donte Branch, a Washington Latin senior who came to the charter as a fifth grader. Mr. Branch expressed what an honor it was for him to be addressing the crowd. He spoke about his years at Latin and about the community that the school has become. Mr. Branch related how much the teachers care for him and his fellow students and how much his schoolmates care for each other. He had extremely kind word for head of school Martha Cutts and her genuine concern for the success of each and every individual on the campus.
Besides an address by Mrs. Cutts and opening remarks by Washington Latin Board President Chinesom Ejiasa, the Washington Latin chorus performed at the start and conclusion of the ceremony. At the beginning they sang the National Anthem as they did so beautifully at Friday night’s Charter School Night baseball game, and concluded with “To Sir with Love.” By the time the audience heard the words “but how do you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume” there was not a dry eye in the house.