Gray talks of public-charter merger in athletics

By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 11, 2010; 3:31 PM

D.C. officials this week acknowledged for the first time that combining the athletic departments of D.C. Public Schools and D.C. Public Charter Schools under the same administrative body might be inevitable.

During a hearing before the D.C. Council's Committee of the Whole on Wednesday regarding Title IX compliance among scholastic athletic departments, discussion turned toward the role of charter schools in the city's scholastic athletic realm.

"I've thought, too, the possibility of combining the current DCIAA school and the charter schools," said Council Chairman and Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray (D). "The question for me is, is everyone following the same rules and regulations?

"At the end of the day, whether we like it or not, people are judged by wins and losses and that's why you need a common sanctioning body."

Gray acknowledged that "the decision to do something has to come from someone other than the athletic director of D.C. Public Schools [Marcus Ellis]," which indicated that the DCPS, the D.C. Public Charter School Board and perhaps also the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education, which oversees all public education in the city, may need to work together.

Charter schools enroll nearly 40 percent of all District students receiving public education, according to an unaudited report by the board. Unlike DCPS, each charter school is operated independent of one another and overseen solely by a seven-member board.

Also, there is no athletic department to oversee sports at all charter schools, which allows each school to develop its athletic program to suit its student body. Some schools offer few to no sports, while others, like Friendship Collegiate and Cesar Chavez, for example, use athletics as a key part of their school identity.

"If anyone is serious about athletics in this city, this needs to be discussed," said Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, Friendship's football coach and athletic director.

A lack of oversight allowed the basketball programs at Friendship and Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers (KIMA) to suit up players last season who were either playing their fifth season of high school ball, or who were non-residents of the District and were not paying tuition, as required for all non-District residents who attend charter schools.

KIMA subsequently had its charter revoked and was shut down just before the start of this school year.

Cesar Chavez Public Charter School Athletic Director Ernesto Natera said "it would take some creative thinking" to combine all the city's public schools in the same league, given the disparity in their respective enrollments.

Some high schools have as few as 200 students, while others like Friendship have more than 1,500. He suggested the possibility of creating divisions based upon enrollment, but added that it would also hinge upon which sports each school offers.

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