Public Charter School Board Statement Regarding the Investigation of Former Charter Leader

Wednesday, May 5, 2010
For Immediate Release:  May 5, 2010
Contact: Audrey Williams  202-328-2748
Washington, D.C. — The D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB) is concerned about the suggestions made in a recent Washington Times article that there has been a history of lax accountability and/or poor oversight over D.C. public charter schools.  The D.C. Public Charter School Board would counter that it has a long history of comprehensive oversight of public charter schools, which is why the Council of the District of Columbia passed legislation in 2007 transferring oversight of all D.C. charter schools to the D.C. Public Charter School Board.
While all D.C. public charter schools are approved to operate independently, the PCSB has financial oversight processes in place that include, but are not limited to, requiring all schools to submit monthly and/or quarterly financial statements and annual independent financial audits. Additionally, PCSB conducts interim financial reviews as needed after reviewing submitted documents. It has been because of the PCSB’s oversight that several schools have been closed due to financial mismanagement. In at least two cases, schools have averted mid-year financial collapse, a disaster for students, because of vigilance on the part of PCSB staff. 
In the case of the former charter school leader accused of fiscal malfeasance, the article may mislead readers by inferring that the PCSB ignored whistleblowers and other warning signs.  The whole truth is that there was a long pattern of Board oversight, questions raised and actions taken by the Board on behalf of the school community and D.C. taxpayers.  Immediately after PCSB staff received allegations of fiscal irregularities at the school, staff notified the D.C Office of the Inspector General (OIG) asking for an investigation of the financial practices of the school’s founder.  Upon receiving additional financial information from PCSB staff, the OIG referred the case to the FBI.  PCSB members communicated to the school’s Board of Trustees that while academic reviews indicated that the school was serving its population well, the performance of the school’s leader was threatening the school’s continuation.  Shortly thereafter, the school’s board informed the PCSB that it had decided to change the school’s leadership and began to strengthen its internal financial controls, with guidance from PCSB staff.  While the FBI investigation continues, the PCSB is still actively monitoring the school’s financial management.
The School for Arts in Learning PCS (SAIL) serves a significant number of students with varying levels of special needs and its arts-infused program is a unique public school offering in which many D.C. students have thrived.  PCSB members and staff felt the school could continue to serve these students with the extraction of the one employee/board member and improvements in its financial controls.  The PCSB made a conscious decision not to punish the school’s students for the behavior of one adult.  Similarly, the PCSB would suggest that the history of the PCSB’s oversight and the performance of the city’s 57 unique charter schools not be painted with one broad brush.