Trying to Save Potomac Public Charter School

By Nelson Hernandez and Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 21, 2007

The leaders of the Potomac Public Charter School in Fort Washington are hoping their school will stay open even though the Prince George's County Board of Education voted to revoke the school's charter for accounting problems.

A county Circuit Court judge granted the school a 10-day restraining order last week after the Board of Education voted June 7 to revoke the school's charter. A new court hearing is scheduled for Tuesday to discuss the situation at the school, which opened during the 2006-2007 school year and has about 130 students from kindergarten through fifth grade.

If the court grants the school an injunction at the hearing, the school will be allowed to appeal the county school board's decision to the State Board of Education, according to John White, a spokesman for the county school system.

Potomac had been on probation since March, according to Tiffany Alston, the attorney representing the school in the case. Alston said that the school had problems with accounting and governance, the possible lack of a nurse, and its special education programs. She said the school had submitted a plan to deal with the problems in May and is completing a final portion of that plan now.

But on June 4, the school system completed an internal audit that said the school had other problems, such as having no school activity fund, a conflict of interest with its before- and after-school care program, and irregularities paying its bills.

"Board policies and procedures have been violated," the audit said. "Purchases must be made through the Oracle Purchase Order system and bills must be paid timely. In several instances, late fees were assessed."

R. Owen Johnson Jr. (District 5), the chairman of the school board, said the board's vote to revoke the charter was based on the audit's findings. But Alston said she and the school's supporters want the school to remain open.

"I am going to be sending over a plan to the school board in an effort to try and negotiate some kind of settlement with them," she said. "The parents want the school to remain open. The children are all doing well."

Johnson said an agreement was possible. "We're going to do what we can to resolve those issues, and we'll see what happens," he said.

Activist on M-NCPPC

An appointee to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission attracted the most attention Tuesday as the County Council confirmed appointees to various county agencies.

By a 9 to 0 vote, the council added longtime civic activist Sarah A. Cavitt to the commission, which reviews development projects, makes recommendations to the County Council and is considered the gateway to development in the county.

Cavitt is a familiar face to anyone involved with development issues in the county. As president of the Indian Head Highway Action Council, she has been a longtime historic preservationist and environmentalist and at times found herself on opposite sides of the man who appointed her.

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