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Vindicated on Options Public Charter School

Beginning last November, when D.C. Superior Court-appointed Receiver Josh Kern first released his report on Options Public Charter School, I have argued that the students there would be best supported by keeping it open. I took this stand because I was highly impressed with the numerous improvements Mr. Kern successfully implemented at Options over an exceptionally short period. He has essentially created a road map for fixing administrative malpractice.

Over the six months that the financial problems at the school for disabled students were identified those watching the matter have sat in the backseat of a wild roller coaster ride of possible outcomes. First the D.C. Public Charter School Board voted to begin revocation proceedings. That course was scrapped in favor of a public hearing. Then PCSB executive director Scott Pearson reversed his position on permanently shutting the doors and announced that there was a plan for DCPS to temporarily run Options before an experienced charter operator was identified to take it over. All of this occurred while a prominent long-term local anchorwoman was taken off the air due to her involvement with the school, a well-respected previous employee of the PCSB was found to be entangled in the mess, and the head of Building Hope became Receiver of the two for-profit companies alleged to have directed public money belonging to Options to their firms. Now it appears the charter will be allowed to keep going with Mr. Kern at the helm.

Today, the Washington Post quotes D.C. Superior Court Judge Craig Iscoe as remarking, “'Schools should not be operated by judges.' But he said Options students have been 'far better served' under Kern’s oversight than they would have had the court declined to intervene."

Apparently, the parties involved could not find a legal way to transfer Options over to DCPS. The strategy is for Mr. Kern to manage Options through the 2014 to 2015 school year with the hiring of an executive director. A hearing is now set by the PCSB for April 23rd with a decision to be made on April 29th. Perhaps then a final path forward for the school will be devised.

One matter that has not yet been broached is the reconstitution of the school's board of directors. Charter leaders believe their schools should be under the authority of non-profit boards. After all, there are 60 of these bodies overseeing 106 campuses here in the nation's capital. When the Options story first broke I offered Mr. Kern to become the new Options board chair. My idea would be to call in Charter Board Partners, FOCUS, and many of the other fine charter support organizations in this town to assist in creating a first class governing group. What an honor it would be as a volunteer to make a difference in the lives of these disadvantaged students. The PCSB should insist that the formation of an Options board of directors go forward now in plenty of time before Mr. Kern's term as Receiver expires.

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