Five weeks ago, the D.C. Public Charter School Board was this close to naming a new executive director, according to Chairman Brian Jones. He said the panel would be making its selection from a “first-rate slate of applicants” by early September, in time for the rollout of a new school management performance system for the city’s 53 charters.

Two sources familiar with the search — who asked for anonymity to speak candidly — said the names on the short list were Thurgood Marshall Academy co-founder Joshua Kern, DCPS transformation management chief Abigail Smith and DCPS innovation director Josh Edelman.

Jones confirmed late Thursday that the job was offered to Kern, but that he declined after “a pretty lengthy negotiation.” Jones would not elaborate and Kern’s cellphone mailbox has been full for the past few days. Speculation in the charter community is that the sticking points involved how much authority Kern would have.

While Kern and the board were negotiating, Smith and Edelman withdrew, Jones said. Smith has since announced that she is leaving DCPS to become a consultant on school reform issues.

So, four months after the retirement of founding executive director Josephine Baker, the board still has a big hole in its operation — and at a particularly inopportune moment. The Illinois Facilities Fund study of District school capacity is expected to make recommendations about the future placement of schools. A major District study of school financing issues will also soon be underway.

“We’re going to return to the search process,” Jones said.