Washington, D.C. — Following an investigation of alleged fiscal mismanagement, the DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) announced today a staff recommendation that the charter of Options Public Charter School (Options PCS) be revoked. The next step is that the PCSB Board will consider the recommendation at its next public meeting scheduled for October 16.
PCSB conducted its investigation into Options in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), which today filed a complaint alleging that five individuals associated with Options PCS did not spend per-pupil funding the school received from the District for the benefit of the students but rather to enrich themselves and the businesses they were operating. (read OAG complaint here)
“At PCSB, we work to ensure that charter schools are well-run and that students receive an outstanding education,” said Scott Pearson, Executive Director of PCSB, the agency responsible for oversight of DC charter schools. “Taxpayer dollars must be appropriately spent by charter schools for the benefit of educating DC children.”
“Our first concern is for the welfare of the 401 children attending Option PCS,” said Pearson. For this reason we will seek to ensure that, regardless of the outcome of PCSB’s revocation decision, the school will remain open at least through the end of this school year.”
“PCSB moved quickly as soon as we noticed signs suggesting possible financial irregularities at Options PCS. Within a week, we hired an outside expert to conduct a forensic accounting analysis and notified the DC Attorney General. Today, six weeks later, we are taking the next step,” said Pearson. (See Video)
Board Chair John H. “Skip” McKoy said: “What is alleged to have happened at Options PCS is an anomaly. We have great charter schools that are performing well, with test scores well above the District average. According to our fiscal monitoring, the finances of charter schools continue to strengthen. Students from all eight Wards in the city attend charter schools and they continue to contribute to a renewed sense of educational progress in our city.” (See Video)
In Washington, DC, 106 charter schools are serving 35,000 students – or 43 percent of all public school children.
PCSB’s investigation began August 19 when it first learned of possible irregularities at Options PCS. A former senior official at the school disclosed that much of the school’s leadership had resigned to join the board of Exceptional Education Management Corporation (EEMC), a separate for-profit corporation formed to provide management services to Options PCS and other charter schools. The action raised questions regarding possible conflicts of interest and failure to timely disclose. As a result, PCSB staff began to more closely examine Options PCS and EEMC.
One day later, as a result of its investigation, PCSB received confidential information about allegations of financial mismanagement at Options PCS. That week PCSB notified the OAG and retained a nationally recognized independent accounting firm to conduct a forensic analysis of Options PCS. The PCSB staff recommendation to revoke Options PCS’ charter comes six weeks after notification of possible irregularities were received by PCSB.
PCSB notified the Options PCS Board Chair in an October 1 letter that it planned to recommend that the PCSB Board begin charter revocation proceedings due to a pattern of fiscal mismanagement at the school.
The PCSB Board, made up of seven voting members, will consider the proposal to revoke at its October 16 meeting. According to the School Reform Act, the process that follows from then is as follows – if the Board approves the staff recommendation, Options PCS’ Board of Trustees will receive a formal written communication detailing the reasons for the proposed revocation. The school may request a public hearing, and that request must be made within 15 calendar days of receiving the letter.
If the school elects to have a hearing, the school, parents and other members of the public will have an opportunity to respond to PCSB’s reasons for the proposed closure and make its case to the Board. After the hearing, the Board would take a final vote within 30 days on whether to revoke the charter. If the Board ultimately votes to revoke the charter, arrangements would be made to ensure the school remains open through the end of the school year.
Options PCS opened in 1996 as one of DC’s first five charter schools. The school was chartered by the former D.C. Board of Education, all of whose charter schools were transferred to PCSB oversight in 2007. Located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Ward 6, the school has grown from a dropout prevention program for 100 fifth through seventh graders to a middle and high school serving 401 students in two locations in Northeast Washington.
(To read key facts and background, please click here.)