- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2001

The D.C. Board of Education voted yesterday to revoke the charters of three schools it oversees, citing fiscal mismanagement, poor learning conditions and unstable governance.
The six-member board agreed to revoke the charters of Richard Milburn Public Charter Alternative High School, World Public Charter School and New Vistas Preparatory Public Charter School and to freeze their assets. Board members said they would act quickly to place the schools' 450 students at other schools because the new school year starts in three weeks.
"We wanted to see certain issues addressed, and they weren't," said board member Julie Mikuta, District 1. "This process is labor-intensive, which is why this is coming so late in the summer. But we wouldn't be acting if we didn't think these children are receiving a substandard education."
The Washington Times first reported yesterday that the board was considering the action.
This is the third time the board has revoked a charter since the first charter school opened in the District in 1996. Marcus Garvey Public Charter School lost its charter in 1998. The Young Technocrats Math and Science Public Charter School had its charter revoked a year later.
Currently, there are 33 charters, 17 of which are overseen by the Board of Education and 16 that were chartered by the D.C. Public Charter School Board.
Board members called the decision to revoke the charters painful but said that after seeing a lack of improvement over two years, they felt they had little choice.
The schools have 15 days to request a hearing on the decision. The board then has 30 days to conduct a hearing and then take a final vote on revocation. Afterward, the schools can appeal through the courts.
The school board also is scrutinizing two other schools, Techworld Public Charter School and Ideal Academy Public Charter School, for fiscal mismanagement.
Techworld remains on probation pending an audit of its operations after its charter was almost revoked in February.
The board voted yesterday to deny payment on two contracts issued by Techworld and Ideal Academy over $25,000 that failed to get board authorization, as required.
School officials on Monday terminated the contract of charter school monitor Shelvie McCoy pending an investigation into charges of financial improprieties and conflict of interest, school officials said.
Her husband, Samuel McCoy, worked for Richard Milburn until this summer and is currently vice principal at Techworld, a school Mrs. McCoy monitored.
The McCoys declined comment.
School officials have asked the D.C. Auditor and the Inspector General to investigate.
Criticism of the charters' performance came to a head last week after the board received monitoring reports on the three schools that cited financial and operational mismanagement, a lack of textbooks and, in one case, rodent infestation of classrooms.
At New Vistas, monitors said the composition of the school's board of trustees is not clear and possibly violates D.C. law by having only one parent member.
Monitors cited a lack of teachers, a lack of records documenting the residency or updated health status of students, a failure to conduct background checks on all employees, a failure to submit audits of financial statements and incomplete annual reports at the three schools whose charters are to be revoked. Monitors cited water leaks and rat droppings in classrooms at New Vistas.
New Vistas, which opened in 1999, served about 150 middle school students the last school year.
New Vistas founder Mary Jenkins said the school will appeal. "We are fighting for the children," she said after the meeting. "I already have letters from parents."
At World Public Charter School, monitors found 16 children sharing eight desks. World was chartered in 1998 and served about 200 students ages 4 to 18 last school year.
Parents Sais Phillips and Patricia Chittmas, whose children attended the school until recently, applauded the move.
"This is a great day," Mrs. Phillips said. "We have worked for this for months. Our children were going to a school which put them in dorm rooms, gave them few materials, and had one bathroom per floor for boys and girls to share."
At Richard Milburn, monitors found similar problems, including half the children missing from the school in one day.
"If you walk into this building, you know these people shouldn't be given the right to run a school for our kids," said school board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz.
Robert Crosby, a trustee of Richard Milburn, said the school will decide if appealing the decision is worth the effort. "Their reasons have never been discussed with us," he said of the school board.
Robert Cane, executive director of FOCUS, a charter school advocacy group, called the decision to revoke the charters without first holding a hearing "illegal."
"They are being totally irresponsible," he said of the school board. "Procedure and process means everything. And they can't wait to do this three weeks before school starts."

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