- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

Two charter schools threatened with closure for faulty governance and financial mismanagement yesterday lost their legal battle against the D.C. school board.

The D.C. Court of Appeals denied an appeal from Richard Milburn Public Charter Alternative High School and World Public Charter School of Washington, which challenged the board's decision last August to revoke their charters.

The board had cited several problems at the schools, including financial and organizational mismanagement. "A monitor found that the schools were not living up to the goals of their charters," said Linda McKay, executive director of the D.C. public charter school board.

Board members said the court decision would bring closure to children and teachers at the two schools.

"We heaved a great sigh of relief. We can notify parents right away that they can place their children elsewhere next year," said school board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz. At present, 140 students are enrolled at Richard Milburn and 79 students attend World.

When the board started revocation proceedings against the schools last year, it offered them informal hearings to argue their cases. However, the schools challenged the board in court, demanding a trial-type hearing.

Yesterday, the court ruled that the board was not required to give the schools such a hearing under the 1995 act that created charter schools in the District.

The board will now most likely offer the schools informal hearings, after which it will vote on whether or not to revoke their charters.

The board has revoked the charters of four schools since the first such school was created in the city in 1996. Marcus Garvey Public Charter School lost its charter in 1998 and the Young Technocrats Math and Science Public Charter School had its charter revoked a year later.

Last year, New Vistas Preparatory Public Charter School lost its charter, and earlier this year, Techworld Public Charter School had its charter revoked. In most cases, the board cited financial mismanagement, among other reasons.

There currently are 36 charter schools in the city.

A monitor contracted by the school board last year found 16 children sharing eight desks at World. The monitor also found that the school was not providing special-education services to students as required by law, had not completed background checks on employees, and lacked proof of residency in the District for some students.

At Richard Milburn, students lacked textbooks and teachers, and lavatories at one of the school's sites had been maintained in a "filthy" state, the monitor found.

Dorothy Goodman, founder of World Public Charter School, said she had not yet reviewed the court appeal and could not comment on it.

George Clark, an attorney for World, said, "There are other avenues we can pursue, although no decision has been made yet to pursue them."

He said they were still optimistic that the board would decide in the school's favor.

"Whatever problems the monitor found have been rectified, and the board has been provided with additional materials to that effect," he said.

Mrs. Cafritz said, however, that she had not seen any evidence so far that the school was in compliance.

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