Now in DC Public Education: Celebrations and Endings

Tonight, at 6 pm, the DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) will hold a public meeting at the Gala Hispanic Theatre. The meeting itself was posted last week on the PCSB website, but did not have any information listed—just a note that it was a “special meeting.”

A gala, perhaps, at the Gala?

But earlier this week, PCSB made it clear what the meeting was for, by posting the meeting’s agenda. It’s short, with only one item: a vote to revoke the charter of Potomac Prep.

Such a quiet ending stands in stark contrast to recent, quite vocal and star-studded, DC celebrations for public education–whether the gala event DCPS held at the Kennedy Center for teachers or Teach For America’s celebration of a quarter century of putting young college graduates into struggling public schools as teachers.

By comparison, the fate of a small, struggling public school and hundreds of its students isn’t exactly glittering (or, apparently, newsworthy).

Not that the silence is anything new.

Potomac Prep got a 10-year review in October 2014 by the PCSB, which identified problems and led to PCSB’s decision to initiate charter revocation. The school fought back, arguing that mismanagement by Lighthouse Academies for its entire existence was to blame. PCSB then granted the school a year to “turn around,” setting performance benchmarks for the school to meet as a condition of staying open.

Amid a number of important, and yet unanswered, questions (i.e., why did the school get PCSB’s attention apparently only after a decade of problems; why was Lighthouse allowed to take away teacher records, text books, and personnel files when a new management team was put into place in summer 2014; why after more than a year of concern by PCSB is there still apparently nothing in place for where Potomac Prep students will go if the school closes, especially now that the lottery deadline looms?), PCSB determined that Potomac Prep failed to meet its 2014 benchmarks.

As a result, PCSB decided during its December board meeting to put revocation to a vote. That December meeting was also notable because PCSB board members were apparently texting one another on the dais, causing concern among Potomac Prep parents and prompting the head of PCSB, Scott Pearson, to note that board members are “entitled to private conversations.”

(Note to public servants everywhere: of course you are entitled to private conversations! But maybe you should rethink them during public meetings, while you have a sworn duty to the public (and even perhaps a paycheck from the public!) to be paying attention to everything the public is saying at said public meetings. Just that pesky “public” thing–you know, the folks who actually pay the public school bills wanting to actually get something for their money. Kinda like the folks who pour their private money into DC public schools–except maybe without the expensive clothes.)

Anyway, after that December PCSB meeting, Potomac Prep was then granted by PCSB a special meeting in January, after which PCSB set a date to take an official vote–and, according to the school’s head, possibly took provisions for an external reviewer to examine data on the school’s performance.

Tonight, it all comes down to 45 unheralded minutes at the Gala Hispanic Theatre.

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