Metro articles on Oct. 12 and Oct. 13 incorrectly reported that the D.C. Council issued a $9 million revenue bond in 2002 for the Jos-Arz Therapeutic Public Charter School to buy and renovate a building at 220 Taylor St. NE. The funding was not a revenue bond but an allocation by the council for operating costs at the charter school. Some of the money was used to secure loans for renovations of the building, but none was used for purchase of the property. The articles also gave an incorrect name for the nonprofit organization that owns the building. It is Community Research Inc., not Community Research Institute. The Oct. 12 article incorrectly said that Rollie Kimbrough was the owner of the organization; he is a board member. (Published 10/27/2005)
The D.C. school board last night pulled from its agenda a proposed resolution calling for the closure of Jos-Arz Therapeutic Public Charter School after members were told that the resolution had not met the guidelines of the board's legal counsel.
The recommendation to close Jos-Arz, which serves severely emotionally disturbed children, was based on findings by the board's charter school office and Superintendent Clifford B. Janey's academic office that the school had failed to enroll 70 students or operate a residential program, as outlined in its charter.
The school received at least $9 million in revenue bonds from the city in 2002 to buy a three-story red-brick building on Taylor Street NE as its facility, a deal not offered to other space-starved charter schools. The organization that runs Jos-Arz has since vacated the building, which contains treatment rooms and more than 20 dormitory rooms, and is sharing space with a junior high school in Northeast.
Given the large public investment, some board members have expressed concern that the Taylor Street property could be sold and that the city would lose the asset.
Last night's discussion did not focus on Jos-Arz's alleged failings or the future of the building, but rather on questions about the board's own procedures for deciding when a charter school should be shut down.
When board Vice President Carolyn N. Graham announced that debate on the recommendation to revoke Jos-Arz's charter would be postponed, other board members erupted.
"I'm really disgusted," said board member Tommy Wells (District 3). "This does not feel to me this evening that this was done professionally."
As the discussion continued, however, board members agreed that problems existed with the process through which the Jos-Arz matter had been placed on their agenda and that a formal vote on closing the school -- which could have occurred Monday -- should be delayed.
Board member William Lockridge (District 4) questioned why much of the evaluation of Jos-Arz was done by Chief Academic Officer Hilda L. Ortiz rather than the board's executive director for charter schools, Brenda L. Belton.
"Who is going to be in charge?" he asked. "There's a lot of confusion here."
The owner of Jos-Arz, Community Research Institute, owns the Taylor Street building and is trying to sell it, said Paul Doucette, a spokesman for Cornell Companies Inc., which managed the school. Doucette said several sale offers have fallen through.
Charter schools, though run independently of the traditional public school system, receive public funds and can be shut down if they fail to meet the goals or standards set forth in their charters. The D.C. school board, one of two agencies responsible for monitoring charter schools in the city, has revoked the charters of seven schools.
Some board members said yesterday that the D.C. Council should pass legislation specifying that when a charter school is shuttered, its facility will revert to the city.
"This is our money -- the District of Columbia taxpayers'," board member JoAnne Ginsberg said in an interview. The property "should not be in private hands."
Jos-Arz Principal Michelle Pajardo, who was among about 20 administrators, teachers and students from the school who attended the meeting, said: "We're pleased with the outcome. We'd like the opportunity to save the program and not be held accountable for problems associated with previous management."