Monday, April 11, 2005

Great Day At WEDJ 

You will never guess who toured the William E. Doar, Jr. Public Charter School for the Performing Arts today. Colbert King, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and Deputy Editorial Page Director of the Washington Post, agreed a couple of weeks ago to come by. Last Thursday I confirmed our appointment and in an email he told me he was bringing a friend - Pulitzer Prize winning author for her book Gulag and Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum. It was a fantastic visit.

Before we even got inside the building the questions started. How long has the school been in existence? (we have only been open since September) What are the grade levels? (Pre-K through 5 but we are adding a grade a year until we go through high school) How did you afford to renovate the building. (We received a 2 million dollar low interest loan with Congressionally authorized money) They showed up promptly at the scheduled time of 9:30 a.m. and they didn't leave until 11:00. Julie Doar-Sinkfield, the school's Executive Director, and I showed them around. They had the opportunity to see 160 Pre-K through 5th graders in their classrooms perfectly behaved and learning.

After the tour we went to the conference room and talked. Nadia Casseus, WEDJ's Principal, joined us for this part of the discussion. The questions never stopped coming. How has the year been financially? (challenging) Don't you worry about the charter schools that close (yes, but there is a lot of information out there now about the quality of schools) How did you get your building? (our landlord is Core Ventures, which is associated with the Fred Ezra Company with which I have a long relationship and who bought two buildings on Edgewood Street N.E. so charter schools could have a home). Mr. King even asked how I became involved with the school. I reminded him that it was his influence.

For those of you who don't know, six years ago I met with Colbert King to try and get him to endorse school vouchers in Washington D.C. At that meeting at the Washington Post he asked me if charter schools could be used to obtain the same competition for students I was trying to generate through vouchers. I don't remember what I said, but I admitted to Mr. King today that at the time I didn't know what a charter school was. I then started volunteer tutoring at the Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy so that I could learn first hand what this movement was all about.

What a ride this has been. From someone who wanted to influence education in the nation's capital to Chairman of the Board of the Directors of the William E. Doar, Jr., Public Charter School for the Performing Arts. And today, visited by two award winning journalists. It cannot get much better than this.

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