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The D.C. Public Charter School Board has voted tonight to convert seven Catholic schools to charters. The vote was unanimous, after about 15 minutes of discussion. More to come.
UPDATE, 10 P.M.: The Catholic conversions, to be known as the Center City Public Charter School, were the only application to be accepted unconditionally by the board this year. The application for the National Collegiate Preparatory Academy, a high school, was also approved unanimously, albeit with conditions to be specified. The board denied the applications from the other seven schools, all but two unanimously.
While introducing the charter-applications portion of the agenda, board chair Tom Nida mentioned that letters and petitions had been received in opposition to the Center City application, but during the discussion of the proposal, virtually every member spoke in praise of it.
“These have been well-run schools with a culture of achievement and high standards,” said member Will Marshall.
Member Dora Marcus called Center City’s a “strong application” and said it was “our duty” to keep the schools open.
The only even mildly negative comments came from member Karl Jentoft, who expressed concerns (somewhat self-servingly) at higher level of oversight and accountability the schools would have as a charter, and from member and executive director Josephine Baker, who expressed some dismay at the size of the proposed school—-possibly more than 1,000 students across seven campuses. Both voted to approve.
Jentoft dismissed much of the hullabaloo surrounding the decision: “There’s been a lot of political stuff going on,” he said, “but our role is to look at the application and make sure the children get an education.”
Nida closed discussion after about 15 minutes with a defense of the board’s procedures. “We’re in a situation where I come back to our process,” he said. “The process has been followed….Has it been followed? Is it fair to the parties concerned? This is a test of our process.”
He included a poke at the old D.C. Board of Education, which used to share chartering authority with the Public Charter School Board before giving up that authority in 2006 with the achievement of its schools in doubt: “This is why we’re the sole authorizer. Our process has worked.”