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Time for the D.C. Public Charter School Board to lead

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It is a terribly fascinating period for D.C.'s assertive charter school movement, and one that could impact the direction these alternative schools go for years to come. Issues regarding the use of public money have risen right to the surface of education reform as two charters, Options and Dorothy I. Height Community Academy, are involved in legal disputes with the District's Attorney General over contracts with independent entities. In addition, it was revealed this week that one member of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, Barbara Nophlin, has been consulting for Friendship PCS at the same time that the D.C. School Reform Act precludes members of the Board from working for charters.

This is the moment that the PCSB must show its determination to right the ship. It must proclaim loudly and clearly that when it comes to the responsible use of the community's cash it takes that oversight responsibility as seriously as a mother takes the care of her newborn child. If steps are needed to strengthen the Board's ability to be transparent in this area then those moves should be thrust into the civic discourse so that improvements can be immediately implemented.

In addition, while the Board has little direct control over the level of governance being performed at its 100 campuses, the need for strong training for these bodies must be emphasized. A couple of days ago Charter Board Partners announced a partnership with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools that will spread the organization's fine resources across the country. Simultaneously the PCSB should encourage in any way that it can the improvement of oversight by the non-profit boards that are located right here in the District. It is quite possible that better board training would have avoided both the legal troubles and negative publicity for the system that now educates 44 percent of all public school students.

Next year the city will transition to a new administration and there is great uncertainly about what this will mean to charters. Therefore, it is imperative that we get our house in the highest order before this change occurs. Only then will can we position ourselves for decades of future success.

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