- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2006

Agents from three federal and D.C. agencies searched a D.C. public charter school Thursday night, confiscating more than a dozen file cabinets.

The search occurred at the New School for Enterprise and Development Public Charter School at 1920 Bladensburg Road NE.

“We don’t know anything about the investigation,” said Nona Richardson, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which oversees the school. “We were not informed by the authorities.”

She confirmed that a warrant was issued Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

The New School for Enterprise and Development was chartered in 1999 by the D.C. Public Charter School Board, but will close permanently June 30 because it failed to meet academic standards, Ms. Richardson said.

The agencies involved in the raid included the FBI, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General and the D.C. Inspector General’s Office.

It is fairly normal operating procedure to have multiple agencies working together during searches, said Debbie Weierman, a spokeswoman for the FBI.

Over several hours, agents confiscated and loaded nearly 15 heavy gray file cabinets filled with files into a small U-Haul truck parked just inside a pair of iron gates.

“This is why we go to training,” said a female agent as she helped push a heavy cabinet up the ramp and into the truck.

The agents finished at about 9 p.m.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the D.C. Inspector General’s Office would not comment on the search, saying the investigation is still pending and the affidavit is sealed.

However, federal authorities said the search was not connected to a current investigation of Brenda Belton, the executive director of the D.C. Board of Education’s charter school office.

That investigation is looking into possible abuse of federal funding that’s supposed to go to charter schools.

The FBI searched Ms. Belton’s home and office Wednesday as well as the offices of Equal Access in Education, a company hired to monitor the performance of charter schools, the FBI said.

The D.C. Board of Education announced Thursday it is placing the D.C. charter school office staff members on administrative leave while the investigation continues.

Russell Smith, the board’s executive director, will oversee charter schools in the interim.

The New School for Enterprise and Development is overseen by the D.C. Public Charter School Board, not the D.C. Board of Education charter school office.

The D.C. Public Charter School Board oversees 17 of the 51 D.C. public charter schools. The D.C. Board of Education charter school office oversees the remaining 34.

Eighty-seven percent of the nearly 300 students at the New School for Enterprise and Development are considered low-income.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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