DC Public Charter School Board
Board Meeting Minutes
Board members in attendance:
Dr. Darren Woodruff, Mr. Don Soifer, Ms. Sara Mead, Mr. Will Marshall, Ms. Emily Bloomfield and Mrs. Josephine Baker.
Mr. Brian Jones, Board Chair, Mr. John “Skip” McKoy, Vice-Chair were not in attendance.
Mr. Will Marshall called the meeting to order at 7:45 p.m.
Acknowledgement of Public Officials
Mr. Marshall invited elected officials to stand and be acknowledged.
Approval of the Agenda
Mr. Marshall presented the proposed agenda for the September meeting. Ms. Sara Mead moved the motion and it was seconded. The agenda was approved by all Board members present.
Approval of the August Minutes
Mr. Marshall presented the August minutes for approval. Mr. Don Soifer moved the motion and it was seconded. The motion was approved by all Board members present.
The contracts for August 2010 for more than $25,000 were received by the PCSB and were read into the record. The contracts were accepted into the record. The Board does not actually approve them, but accepts oversight.
School Oversight Committee – Proposed Policy Approval Process
Dr. Darren Woodruff introduced the Board’s proposed policy approval process and reiterated that it was critical that the PCSB be transparent and consistent with policies and procedures that govern its authorizing practices and its interaction with each charter school. He said that it was equally important for charter school operators, charter school support groups, and the community to have the opportunity to address the implications of any proposed policy or revisions to any established policies prior to Board approval. He encouraged feedback from the public. He stated that there would be a six step process:
1) Any Board member, Executive Director, or the PCSB leadership team may recommend a policy or a revision to an existing policy.
2) With approval from the Board, a summary of the proposed policy or a revision to an existing policy will be made publicly available to school operators, charter school support organizations, governmental agencies and the community. Such proposed policies will be posted in the DC Register, newspapers of general circulation, and the PCSB’s website for public review.
3) Interested parties will have thirty days from the date that the proposed policy or a revision to an existing policy is made public to provide written comments to the PCSB or register to provide oral comments at the next scheduled Board meeting.
4) The PCSB will consider written and oral comments and vote on the proposed policy or a revision to an existing policy within 60 days of reviewing public comments.
5) Once a new policy or a revision to an existing policy is adopted, the policy will be placed on the PCSB website and a copy will be sent to every charter school campus.
6) An updated “PCSB Policy Book” or its contents will be made available annually to every charter school campus.
Mr. Don Soifer encouraged the community to provide their input into the policy approval process. Ms. Sara Mead was pleased that the Board was taking steps to improve transparency. Mr. Will Marshall asked for a motion to approve the policy. Dr. Darren Woodruff moved the motion and Mr. Don Soifer seconded. Mr. Brian Jones voted yes by proxy submitted to Mr. Marshall. The policy was approved by all Board members present.
School Oversight Committee – Proposed Policies
Dr. Darren Woodruff introduced two proposed policies – stricter documentation of graduation requirements and charter school accreditation deadline. Dr. Woodruff said the Board will consider these policies at its November Board meeting. The graduation requirements policy ensures that charter schools align their instruction programs and student course scheduling based on the minimum 24 Carnegie Unit graduation requirement to receive a high school diploma from a public school in D.C. He said that all secondary school transcripts and/or report cards must contain information that accurately reflects the student’s secondary academic Carnegie Unit credit history. School leaders will further verify all information entered on student transcripts through official documentation for each student enrolled. Dr. Woodruff said that while these requirements have been in effect since 2007, this policy establishes more stringent documentation requirements and, in addition to refusing to certify diplomas, PCSB will sanction schools that fail to comply.
Dr. Woodruff stated that with the Board’s proposed charter school accreditation deadline policy, all newly authorized charter schools must have a goal of seeking and obtaining accreditation by the end of the first five years of operation. Existing non-accredited charter schools must seek and obtain accreditation five years from the time this policy is approved. He said that schools cannot expand or replicate without accreditation unless it is in their charter contract or the school has a performance framework designation of Tier 1. Failure to comply will result in school sanctions. Dr. Woodruff said that the public will have 30 days to provide written comments to the PCSB or they may provide oral comments at a scheduled hearing before the Board. The PCSB will consider the written and oral comments and vote on the proposed policy or a revision to an existing policy within 60 days of reviewing public comments.
Sc hool Oversight Committee – Performance Management Framework
Dr. Darren Woodruff introduced recommended changes to the weighting of the high school component of the performance management framework. He stated that the Board would be changing the weighting for high school with grades 9th through 12, except for those serving students with severe special needs. Dr. Woodruff stated that the growth measure, which measures student progress, will not be available for the 2009-2010 school year because the AP results are not available from the College Board to include in the framework results. The Board proposes an alternative option for weighing the high school indicators. The weights are: student progress – 0%; student achievement level – 25%; gateway/post secondary – 30% and leading indicators – 25%.
Mr. Will Marshall said that the most innovative feature is student achievement. However, next year the Board will include growth measure in the high school framework. Dr. Darren Woodruff moved the motion and Mr. Don Soifer seconded. Mr. Brian Jones voted yes by proxy. The motion was approved by the Board members present.
School Oversight Committee – Proposed Amendment to Notice of Probation – Late Annual Report Submission
Representatives for Nia Community Public Charter School present were Rev. Willie Wilson, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Martina James, executive director; Reem Labib, academic director; Natasha Wilkins, secretary for the Board of Trustees.
Dr. Darren Woodruff reported that Nia Community PCS missed the due date of September 1st for submitting the school’s Annual report and that the report had not been turned in. Ms. James said that the annual report was a challenge to create. Data was not in a format in the data management system to be able to extract it for the annual report. Ms. James said the administration has been going through binders to enter the data and have compiled all the data for four years. She said the school expects to complete the process by the end of September. She also said that the reason for the lateness was because there was no assessment data in a usable format.
Ms. James said that Nia’s accountability plan was never approved for the 2007-2008 school year, so there is nothing to respond to. PCSB School Performance Officer Taishya Adams clarified that the school did not have an approved accountability plan until 2008-2009 school year. However, it was the expectation of the school to provide some data. Ms. Adams said that she was told that for the first year of operation the school didn’t have any data and for the second year they couldn’t find the data.
Ms. James stated that there has never been any communication to the school leadership that the plan was approved. She said that if there is a 2008-2009 accountability plan, it was never received at Nia. She said that they were operating in the dark and would like to have a copy of the plan. Ms. Adams said that formal correspondence along with the plan was sent to the Board chair Rev. Willie Wilson, and to the school leader in October 2008. She said that the plan was conditionally approved by the PCSB. Ms. Adams also stated that Rev. Wilson was at the Board meeting when the accountability plan was conditionally approved. She also said that she even did a summary of the plan.
Ms. James said that due to a transition in school leadership there was no documentation of an approved accountability plan. Dr. Woodruff asked Ms. James what she needed from PCSB to allow her to move forward. Ms. James stated that she needed a copy of the plan that was approved. Ms. Adams also said that she verified data during school visits and that the school was moving toward updating the mission accomplishment plan. She said that the school was also working on the PMF plan. Mr. Will Marshall asked what was needed from the school (Nia). Ms. Adams said that PCSB needed the accountability plan accomplishments and the different components that the school has, fiscal data and academic updates that were requested. Ms. Adams said that these items would be monitored throughout the fall. The school representatives said they were clear as to what the PCSB needed.
Mr. Will Marshall proposed that the Board not escalate the sanctions that are already in place – the notice of probation for failure to meet the deadline for the annual report, but suggested that the sanction would be lifted once the annual report was submitted.
Rev. Willie Wilson stated that the school has gone through some staff changes and some of those made their financial situation worse. But now the school has a new team in place that can get the job done.
Mr. Don Soifer clarified that this was not an escalation of the probation, but an amendment of the current probation. Ms. Emily Bloomfield moved a motion to amend the current probation status and it was seconded. A written proxy was accepted from Brian Jones. The amendment was approved.
Mr. Will Marshall addressed other academic performance issues: Nia’s AYP scores were not good 23% math 28% in reading. What is the plan to turnaround the school. Ms. James provided a reference document that outlined the plan for improving the school. Ms. James asked the academic director to review the plan with the Board. Ms. Labib said that the staff has put in place internal and external assessments for all students K-6, looking deeper to see where we need to provide addition all supports. Teachers now have common planning time. Doing classroom observation, supporting new teachers, spending 30 min/day to coach the new teachers. Goal is to get school up and running.
Ms. James stated that curriculum mapping was being done by teachers and there is a designated teacher to work on curriculum. There is an online management system to aggregate data. The primary goal is to create a data driven climate.
Dr. Darren Woodruff expressed concern about the state the school found itself in. He asked the school where they thought they would be at the end of the year. He asked if the Board would see enough growth in the school’s PMF to be judged next year.
Ms. James outlined the process that has been shared with parents. Parents have been sent an assessment calendar which is easy to follow. On a quarterly basis the school will provide growth results for certain assessments. The hope is to have this done electronically so the school can provide charts to the PCSB about students’ progress. Ms. James said that she has committed staff on board who have agreed to turn around the school. So she expects the Board will see a transformation.
Ms. James also stated that the school was hoping to expand but would be looking for another facility next year to accommodate the growth. Rev. Wilson stated that he has made contact with the Archdiocese on Washington as they may have a facility available. Mr. Don Soifer asked about the progress of the curriculum development process. Ms. James said that all teachers were required to work out pacing, and they would be using the curriculum development as a professional development opportunity. She said that the school does not have the resources to engage outside consultants for curriculum. The curriculum would be aligned with the DC common core standards. She stated that the curriculum will have common core standards integrated for next year.
Ms. James also said one of the challenges facing Nia was how to integrate its mission. She expects to go live by December with the curriculum for pre-K thru 6. Mr. Don Soifer asked about the schools internal controls and the role Ms. James now plays. Ms. James said that it was never her intent to be executive director. When it was disclosed that the old executive director did not have the educational skills required to run the school; Ms. James’ role transitioned from consultant to fulltime employee. She said that she still has connections with other companies. It was never the intent to be ED. I filled the gap she said. The school needed someone to step in. Ms. James said there is no consulting relationship with CED. Dr. Darren Woodruff asked if her position was interim. Ms. James said it was up to the Board of Trustees to monitor her progress. Her deliverables to the Board of Trustees include: being compliant with special ed, developing curriculum and ELL. Dr. Woodruff was concerned that that if and when the problems are fixed that the school would go back to its old ways. Ms. James said that the school received a quality grant to help the board transition its leadership.
Ms. James stated that the school has a transformation model – improve leadership and teacher quality – and we have done that she said. She said that the school was building the internal systems to help drive the change.
Ms. Josephine Baker asked about the capacity on of the school’s Board of Trustees. Rev. Wilson stated that there are eight board members, three are professors. He said he was looking to identify others to join the board. He stated that he would look to the PCSB for resources and support to help with governance. Mr. Don Soifer stated that he hoped to see a fully constituted Board of Trustees by December.
Mr. Don Soifer asked about student access to technology. Ms. James stated that the school has a partnership with IDEAL PCS to build a lab to house computers. She said the school would be opening a cyber café in November for students and parents. She would maximize resources through her relationships with other schools. For example, Booker T. Washington will build a raised floor as a service learning project.
Ms. Emily Bloomfield asked Ms. James if she was still doing consulting work. Ms. James said that she was.
Mr. Will Marshall said that it was important to take the time to discuss these issues. He said the Board is pulling for Nia to succeed and the PCSB would be looking for results. He said the Board has to be hands on and make sure there is progress. Mr. Marshall said that PCSB will look to Nia’s Board to make sure the school is turned around in the next year.
Mr. Will Marshall opened the floor for public comments. Parents: Leslie Garner, Cheryl McCrae and Shadonna Jenkins asked to speak. Parent Leslie Godard’s children attended Thea Bowman Preparatory Academy last year. She has removed her kids because the school is having problems. She said that her children didn’t learn anything from 4th to 5th grade. There were lots of behavioral issues; kids were out of control; noisy and disobedient. She formed the PTA to work with the principal. Now her children attend Two Rivers. She suggested that there was an overall issue with charters.
Cheryl McCrae, PTA president spoke and said she didn’t see any educational instruction and there was mismanagement of the school. The school has not met AYP; no assessments were done for certain kids, there has been turnover of staff; teachers can’t manage classes. She said that she doesn’t want to keep running from school to school. She said that she liked Thea Bowman for the small class sizes. She said that there were no after-school programs implemented. The school promised to have three languages and there are none. Kids with no uniforms are sent to the recovery room. She said that the school was using the kids for numbers. The school leader got mad at the PTA for not recruiting more students. She felt that the leadership was putting money in areas that was not necessary. She has contacted the school’s Board of Trustees and even sat as a parent representative. She wants new leadership in place.
Mr. Will Marshall said that it was the school’s Board of Trustees’ responsibility to change leadership. He said that the school’s Board is accountability to the principal Mark Cosenza, founder and principal. Mr. Marshall suggested that the parents write to the school’s board chair and request a meeting and copy the PCSB. He stated that the PCSB is not an investigatory body. He asked that the parents call the PCSB staff and the Board will follow-up.
Mr. Marshall adjourned the meeting at 9:30pm.