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Rivlin sides with charter school in Paul Jr. High fight

(Published March 13, 2000)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

The D.C. financial control board has shot down school Superintendent Arlene Ackermanís plans to open a math and technology magnet program at the same building in which the newly chartered Paul Junior High School is planning to open up a nearly identical program.

A decision released March 10 said the D.C. public school system could not open the competing program this fall because it would interfere with the new charter schoolís efforts. The legislation that established the charter school system specifically states that public schools that wish to convert to charter schools get first shot at the buildings they occupy.

A spokeswoman for Ackerman had no comment on the control boardís decision, saying the superintendent was out of town and the office had not yet received anything from the control board.

"We think that sets a bad precedent for D.C. schools that will allow under-performing schools to convert to charter schools to escape accountability," said Larry Gray, legislative director for the D.C. Congress of Parent and Teacher Associations, which opposes Paulís efforts to convert to a charter school.

Gray said Paul had failed in its original mission to be a science and technology magnet school and should not be rewarded by being allowed to convert to a charter school.

The charter conversion is also being opposed by the Washington Teachers Union, which contends the conversion would violate unionized teachersí rights.

Paul Junior High School received its provisional charter from the Public Charter School Board last September and the final charter hinges on securing the facilities necessary. Paul applied for its charter with a projected enrollment of 742 students, which is its current enrollment as a public school. Ackermanís plan to open a competing program in the same building would have possibly delayed the opening of the charter school by forcing it to look for another building to house its students.

Paul Junior High School will be the first entire public school to convert to a charter school. The new charter schoolís curriculum will be geared toward math, science, technology and the arts. Partners in the venture include Booz-Allen and Hamilton, the Kennedy Center and the National Institutes of Mental Health.

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator