Charter Schools, Council Election, and More: Education Town Hall 3/21/13

March 21
T. Byrd, Patrick Mara, V. Spatz, John “Skip” McKoy
The March 21 edition of
The Education Town Hall:

Challenges for the Public Charter School Board: Skip McKoy, Chair

Hearing and Representing the People:
Patrick Mara, At-Large Council Candidate

Feature Report [new page]: “Using the IFF Study to Promote Opening New Schools”

Does every school need a library?
Do charter students disappear after the October enrollment audit? after the freshman year?

Listen for these discussions and more: Full recording, March 21, 2013

Listen to The Education Town Hall live Thursday mornings at 11:00 a.m. on We Act Radio

Challenges for the Public Charter School Board

The Public Charter School Board’s relatively new chair, John “Skip” McKoy, spoke on the March 21 edition of The Education Today Hall about his hopes for more and deeper engagement with the public. He said the charter movement allows schools great flexibility, but that accountability must be part of the equation, too. And one step toward greater accountability is transparency.

In the near future, PCSB meetings will be televised, McKoy said, “and we’ll be bringing the board to the average citizen by taking it out to the community.” Less formal, non-decision-making forums in locations around town will help citizens connect with the board and share their concerns. In addition, McKoy noted, however, there are 57 LEAs [local education agencies] that decide on curriculum and other elements of the school day.

In response to questions from Thomas Byrd, host of The Education town Hall, McKoy discussed the four charters in Ward 8 that are closing or consolidating. Combining those losses with DCPS closures “mean that some families no longer have schools in walking distance,” he said. This emphasizes the “quality desert” in the area. The goal across all LEAs, he added, has to be that “every household have access to high quality education.”

At the staff level, McKoy added, discussions are underway between the District’s disparate education agencies. “But we’re still a ways away from a coordinated plan.”

The board chair encouraged citizens to participate in the April 8 hearing on new applicants for charters and/or to submit comments.

Hearing and Representing the People

Patrick Mara currently serves as Ward 1 representative to DC’s State Board of Eduction. He is a candidate for At-Large DC Council Member. Mara spoke about his work on the State Board, bringing graduation requirements out the citizens of Ward 1 — “before they were controversial” — and listening, then returning those views to the Board. “I argued what I’d heard.”

“Open engagement is part of oversight,” Mara said. He noted that he had visited 70+ schools, charters and DCPS, “spoke to principals, teachers, parents… tried to go to PTAs that didn’t exist…” Disparities, within LEAs and across them were obvious.

As a Council Member, Mara said, the key is to walk the “fine line between oversight and micromanaging.” In addition, though, he is happy to see the Education Committee, which he’d been supporting for years. In contrast to when education was a Committee of the Whole issue, Mara explained, “Council Members are spending some time and resources on education.”

Does every school need a library?
Do charter students disappear after the October audit?
What happens to half the freshman classes in some high schools?

Full recording

Listen live Thursday mornings at 11:00 a.m. on We Act Radio

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