- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 6, 2001

The D.C. Board of Education last night unanimously voted to revoke the charter of the New Vistas Preparatory Public Charter School.
The board came to its decision after a two-hour hearing, during which they heard comments from school officials, who said they deserved another chance to remain open.
The two other schools — World Public Charter School and Milburn Alternative High School — which also faced the threat of having their charters revoked, obtained an interim stay from the D.C. Court of Appeals yesterday afternoon.
New Vistas, on Lawrence Street in Northeast, recently came under fire by D.C. school officials because the school's curriculum was not up to par and, in some cases, the facilities did not have enough books and desks for its 150 students. School officials also were investigating accusations of discipline policies that were not clear, poor or nonexistent special education programs, and, in some cases, child neglect.
After the decision was announced, New Vistas officials said they were disappointed with the outcome. "What can I say, I'm very disappointed," said David Pendergast, chairman of the board of trustees. He said he did not know whether the board would appeal last night's decision.
Throughout the two-hour hearings, New Vistas officials defended themselves against the charges and told the D.C. school board that efforts have been made to correct any violations that had been found.
Last month, the public school board voted to revoke New Vistas' charter after learning of the accusations through a report prepared by a group that monitored the city's 33 charter schools. Under the District's charter school law, a school has 15 days to request a response hearing, then the board has 30 days to conduct hearings and take a final vote.
New Vistas school officials said last night that they hired a new principal, Richard Johnson, to oversee the school's operations. He would have replaced Mary Jenkins, principal since it opened two years ago.
They also said they have ordered new books for the upcoming school year that were to be delivered by Sept. 7, conducted background checks on all school employees, and tried to fix some of the building's fire-code violations.
Officials also said they paid for special-education services, which were not offered to students last year because the school had not paid the contractor.
"We assure you that whatever has been broken has or will be fixed," Mr. Pendergast told the board.
But board members said they still were not convinced the school had made enough effort to get organized.
"How long would this have gone on if the board didn't take action?" asked board member William Lockridge. "We wouldn't be here unless the board had heard about these violations."
Board member Tommie Wells agreed. "We're entering the third year, and I'm not sure how many years a school needs to get it right."
Other board members said they were worried that New Vistas officials would operate the school in the same manner if it was allowed to remain open.
"What I would need to hear is some reason to believe that it's going to be different," said board member Charles Lawrence. "No one has told me anything to persuade me that things will change."
The meeting became heated at times as New Vistas parents and students tried to persuade board members to keep the school open. At one point a group of parents began to shout "Give us a chance," until D.C. school board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz quickly called the meeting to order.
Sylvia Johnson, a parent whose daughter attends New Vistas, went up to the podium and pleaded with the board members to keep the school open. "You all [the school board] have had problems, just like the charter schools. But you haven't given New Vistas a chance," Miss Johnson said.
"Give us probation, and let us work it out. God gives everyone a chance."


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