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Friday, July 19, 2013

Charter Founder: Linda Moore, Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS

Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS Founder Linda Moore 

“Creating a school is the best job I ever had”
Linda Moore, Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS

After we submitted our application, I immediately went home and took a nap. I was absolutely exhausted after staying up all night completing the proposal. Technology was not as user-friendly 15 years ago as it is today and the cold, dank basement of my home had served as charter school central for completing the application to create DC’s first-ever French and Spanish bilingual elementary public charter school.

When we applied, DC still had two charter authorizers, and we had submitted to the D.C. Board of Education. During the review process, I thought, “Why are the reviewers asking these particular questions?  What is it that I haven’t made clear?”

While numerous people contributed to developing the design of the Elsie Whitlow Stokes School, when the Board of Education finally approved the school, I was a little sad because I was the sole representative of our group present.  The review panel had asked us to go back so many times and do so many revisions that I had become reluctant to ask people to join me at the meetings.  That day I expected to have to meet more conditions before approval but, instead, I got a green light. I never thought that would be the moment when my dream to open a school would become a reality. But I always had confidence that the school would someday come to be.

Now, surrounded by our 350 students and dedicated teachers who make up our school community, I’m anything but alone. Each year as our students return, I look forward to the possibilities. In our case, that means welcoming another new cohort of three and four-year-old students eager to attend “real” school - and learn Spanish or French while they are doing that - and greeting the older students who have matured and learned important lessons over the summer.  For the past 15 years that the school has been open, I have seen our scholars fulfill the promise of discovering new learning, making new friends, exercising leadership in serving others.

Creating a school is the best job I ever had.  It is also my most challenging job ever. But I would not trade these experiences for any other.

Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School opened with 35 students in kindergarten and first grade in September 1998 in a rented space in the basement of St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in Ward 1. Today, Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School owns its building in Ward 5, and serves 350 students in grades PK3 to 6. 

Posted by: PCSB at 3:30 p.m.
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