UPPER MARLBORO – The Prince George’s County Board of Education (BOE) passed operating agreements for four charter schools, reestablishing their sanctioning and allowing them to continue to operate during the upcoming school year on July 28.
Turning Point Academy in Lanham, which operated the 2017-2018 academic year without an agreement and was in jeopardy of closing, secured a one-year conditional renewal of their charter but with conditions that must be met, including an evaluation of the school’s executive director.
Three schools owned by the Imagine Schools organization were granted charter agreements for multiple years.
For Turning Point Academy, the county’s first charter school, BOE officials passed the resolution despite still having concerns. In the April 24 BOE meeting, PGCPS released a list of recommendations including making changes on the current school’s board, providing updates on grade progress and a layout on how to fix physical conditions at the school.
If this was not completed in time, PGCPS would be allowed to look for a new school operator to take over for the Turning Point Foundation. Speakers representing Turning Point were split on how to address the remaining problems with the administration, but all agreed that a charter agreement was needed to establish stability.
While requesting a more extended agreement, Turning Point Board Chair Vincent Queen requested that the BOE consider a “mulligan” to restart their relationship with the Foundation.
“We got to talk again,” Queen said. “Somewhere along the way, we lost the communication as a result of that; If we can come back together, I think we can do some good things. I think the school is doing great things regarding the students, teachers and what is going on there.”
Moving forward, the BOE requested more transparency with Turning Point leadership and for parents, staff and community leaders to provide feedback on the school’s conditions during the one-year evaluation.
Forrest Ingram-Johnson, a teacher at Turning Point, recommended that the Foundation should assign a staff member in the building to be a part of the foundation’s board of directors to address the problems at the school moving forward adequately.
“Our board is not active at our school, and it’s a problem,” Ingram-Johnson said. “We appreciate that one of the recommendations is to remove the majority of the board and put someone in place that fits Prince George's standards, however, a teacher of our staff should be a part of the board because we look for the best interest of the students and their families.”
Meanwhile, for the Imagine schools, the discussion was more civil as school board officials were only torn with how long the charter terms should be for the Morningside School as it failed to meet its education goals. Imagine operators assured that the hiring of new principal, Jessica Johnson, who has a history of turning over academically bad schools, would be a perfect fit.
Despite initially wanting a five-year agreement, Imagine officials were visibly gleeful that the BOE agreed to a three-year charter renewal for Morningside and Lincoln campuses. The Imagine Pubic School was quickly renewed without discussion.
The process for renewals was criticized heavily by both sides of the aisle as Imagine officials confirmed turning in the renewal process for one of their three schools in November. Board member Edward Burroughs III said he hopes that new standards can be put into place in the future that allows the BOE to receive evaluations sooner, freely communication with charter schools earlier and provide renewals faster.
“Turning Point (charter expiration) was a surprise to me and (Imagine’s renewals) was also a surprise to me,” Burroughs said. “We are at the end of the school year, and they do not know if they are going to have a charter. Imagine sent their request for renewal in November and it is almost July, and all of this is new to the board.”
District 1 Board member David Murray said he wished BOE officials took time to study the Washington, D.C. model on how to deal with charter schools in a more efficient way.
“I’m really troubled by the process that the school system has followed up to get us to this point,” Murray said. “Being a Washington, D.C. Public Charter School teacher myself, I think of how they have a very transparent, open, numerical and clear process that schools know and can expect to be followed.”
District officials created the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board in 1996 and transferred complete oversight of all those institutions to the organization in 2007. Currently, the BOE, in conjunction with PGCPS, handle all matters of both public and charter school education.