Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The WEDJ Facility Story 

What can you say when something happens that you thought was only possible in a dream?

Michele and I spent the weekend visiting the WEDJ School. Each time I walked into this beautiful building I thought about the long list of coincidences that fell into place to make this place a reality. Here's the list:

1. During 1997 I interrupt my career in healthcare to work for a political think tank, The Competitive Enterprise Institute.
2. After interviewing four real estate brokers, I hire the Fred Ezra Company to help find us a new location.
3. CEI does not move but I develop a close working relationship with Eugene Martin from Ezra.
4. In 1999, After 6 months of trying to get in to see him, Colbert King of the Washington Post agrees to a one hour meeting to discuss my idea of implementing school vouchers in Washington, D.C.
5. During the meeting he asks about charter schools, which I know nothing about.
6. The following month an article appears in Washingtonian Magazine from a reporter following the first year of operation of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy.
7. Because of my conversation with Colbert King I want to learn about charter schools in Washington, D.C. That Fall I volunteer tutor at the school. I continue to tutor throughout my association with Chavez.
8. The following Summer I am elected to the Board of Directors.
9. I call Eugene Martin to ask for assistance in finding a permanent location for the school. He refers me to his co-worker Anthony King.
10. We search for three years for a permanent location without success.
11. I recruit Anthony King to join Chavez's Board of Directors.
12. In late 2001 or early 2002 I introduce myself to Kaleem Caire because of his work with the Black Alliance with Educational Options. His organization has moved from Milwaukee to D.C. and I bring him for a tour to Chavez.
13. In 2003 my boss meets Kaleem on Joe Robert's private jet. Kaleem now works for Joe Robert. My boss, Dr. David Kushner, is there in his role as head of Children's Hospital's telemedicine program. Joe has become interested in using this program to bring healthcare to underserved children across the world and has enlisted the help of his friend, Quincy Jones.
14. Kaleem and Dr. Kushner discuss bringing telemedicine to D.C.'s charter schools. Kaleem now serves on the board of a charter school and is interested in spearheading an alliance of charter schools.
15. A meeting is arranged at Children's Hospital with charter school leaders to discuss telemedicine.
16. At the meeting is Julie Doar. I meet her and am impressed with her knowledge of the charter school movement.
17. During this year I get hints from Irasema Salcido, the founding principal of Chavez, that she would like to develop a trophy Board of Directors.
18. At a Chavez Fundraiser in March 2003 I ask Julie Doar if I can join her board.
19. In April I am elected to the WEDJ Board.
20. In July 2003 Irasema dismisses her board, which includes amongst its members Anthony King and me.
21. I am placed on the WEDJ facilities committee and we begin searching for a permanent facility. The school had already signed a contract to use an exclusive broker from the Studley Company.
22. In January 2004 Congress approves the use of private school vouchers in Washington, D.C.
23. In February 2004 WEDJ receives its charter.
24. In the Spring of 2004, after coming close to renting three different facilities, I call Anthony King for help.
25. At the same time, Anthony has recently referred a reporter from the Washington Business Journal to me to discuss facilities as it applies to charter schools. The reporter gets Anthony thinking about how his company can resolve the facility issue. He asks Ezra to purchase space and lease it back to charter schools. His company has identified a potential building on Edgewood Street N.E.
26. Julie and I meet with Anthony and Fred Ezra to discuss renting space from him.
27. WEDJ negotiates a lease with Ezra which includes both an option to buy any space we have rented and the ability to take on additional square feet in the building.
28. Jennifer Snowden of D.C.'s education office provides us with a 2 million dollar loan to renovate the 20,000 square feet we have rented.
29. WEDJ secures temporary space a couple of blocks from the permanent facility and opens on time this past September with 160 students.
30. Both the Ezra Company and Jennifer Snowden are trying to figure out a way we can secure the remaining 50,000 square feet in our building and grow incrementally into the area as the school expands.
31. In November I am elected Chairman of the WEDJ Board of Directors.
32. We open the WEDJ School on Edgewood Street today!

PermaLink | 6:03 AM | |

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?