“I don’t see how it could be a worse idea, and it’s not going anyplace,” said Robert Cane, who is executive director of the pro-charter Friends of Choice in Urban Schools.
The freedom to employ nonunionized teachers is part of what sets the charter movement apart from traditional schools, Cane said.
Cane and other charter-school advocates criticized Henderson for indicating that she plans to keep control over the buildings left vacant after schools are closed.
Suitable and affordable school buildings are a rare and coveted commodity among charter schools. City law gives charters “right of first offer” on buildings given up by the school system, and some advocates had hoped that Henderson’s closure plan would yield more facilities.
Henderson said she might rent some of her buildings to charters on short-term leases, but that was little comfort, said Ramona Edelin, executive director of the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools. Charter schools have trouble getting financing for temporary quarters, she said.
“It’s very disappointing,” Edelin said. “To have 20 closures and offer none of the buildings is shocking.”
Scott Pearson, executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which approves new charter schools, was more measured. He said it was too soon to offer an opinion on a plan that hasn’t been finalized and that the chancellor has pledged to tweak in response to public input.
“I’m not convinced that DCPS has a firm plan for all those buildings,” Pearson said. “I think she genuinely wants to hear from the community.”
As advocates and activists staked out positions on Henderson’s closure proposal, students and teachers at targeted schools showed up for class Wednesday and began coming to grips with the prospect of change.
Librarian Ellen Dodsworth, who amassed 7,000 books and 400 DVDs at Spingarn High over the past seven years, wondered where she’ll find a new home for her collection now that Spingarn is slated to close.
She built the collection volume by volume with the help of donations and her personal bank account. It includes contemporary fiction and nonfiction, books suitable for college-bound kids and students who read far below grade level.
“I have one of the best African American studies collections in the city,” Dodsworth said. “I’m not leaving it.”