At a D.C. Public Charter Board monthly meeting that nearly lasted into the following day the body approved two new schools out of nine accepted applications. Lee Montessori was the first charter given the green light to open in the fall 2014, a PreK3 to 6th grade school that will enroll 228 students and be located in Ward 5 or Ward 7. Academy of Hope was also approved. This school will serve 260 adult learners in Wards 7 and 8 and represents a conversion from an existing non-profit that has provided the same mission as the new charter for over 28 years.
Both of these schools received enthusiastic applause from the audience when the final votes were cast.
A charter that was not approved was One World PCS, proposed by alumni of Sidwell Friends that received some publicity in the Washington Post. Another applicant that had I predicted would not be granted a charter was Nannie Helen Burroughs, an institution that had operated for over 100 years as a parochial school but closed due to a lack of private school voucher funding.
All of the decisions on proposed charters were unanimous as is PCSB’s long standing pattern. This trend included the votes of two board members absent from the evening’s meeting.
Usually, the rulings on proposed new schools are the highlight of the month’s meeting, however, not yesterday. You see after the charter for Community Academy was approved for another 15 years it was Friendship Public Charter School’s turn, and of course this means that Chairman Donald Hense will take the stage.
And take the stage he did. In no uncertain terms he laid out the case for his school’s right to continue educating over 6,000 students. He pointed out that Friendship includes the largest charter high school in the nation. The graduate rate at Collegiate Academy is over 91 percent of all children in four years and the charter teaches some of the most difficult at-risk pupils in the nation’s capital. The college acceptance rate is 100 percent, with Mr. Hense pointing out that each student must be accepted to more than one school so that we are not talking about admission to “some rinky-dink place down the street.” Over 80 percent of all college accepted scholars have either graduated or are currently enrolled.
Friendship has created this track record despite the fact that the schools will accept any student in any grade, in sharp contrast to plenty of other charters that do not admit students after a particular level.
The renewal conversation included a long discussion on whether Friendship was required to have two non-profit boards; one to handle the charter and the other to oversee Friendship’s schools in Baltimore and the one that it manages in contract with DCPS. Mr. Hense would have none of the bureaucratic squabbling. He pointed out that he is just doing what’s best for the kids.
Boy, I wish I could be like Donald Hense.