UPPER MARLBORO — As the Prince George’s County Board of Education considers school administration’s options for one of the oldest public charter schools in the country, they face a difficult question: if they remove the people who created Turning Point Academy from the school , is it still Turning Point Academy? On April 24, the […]
UPPER MARLBORO — As the Prince George’s County Board of Education considers school administration’s options for one of the oldest public charter schools in the country, they face a difficult question: if they remove the people who created Turning Point Academy from the school , is it still Turning Point Academy?
On April 24, the board of education continued its discussion on what options should be taken to address the fact that Turning Point Academy, a public charter school, is no longer running on a valid charter. In March, Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) administration proposed the nonrenewal of the school’s charter as the school system looks for options to address issues it sees with the academy.
“It is determined that Turning Point has failed to meet the conditions and standards to support the request for renewal of the charter agreement. The recommendation for non-renewal is due to overall ineffective governance, lack of an adequate facility and deficient academic achievement for students,” the former proposal reads.
That proposal also suggested the school not enroll kindergarteners for the upcoming school year while the school and PGCPS work through the details. At the March 29 meeting, the board requested the administration come forward with some additional ideas for options the board could consider that would save the school from closure.
During the time between the March 29 meeting and the meeting in April, the school administration compiled a plan of action to submit to the board that included keeping Turning Point open as a PGCPS-run facility while the school system surveys the academy’s parents, teachers and staff on their priorities for the new charter or contracted school. PGCPS would then put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for “an experienced school operator” to take over operations of the school for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year.
If all goes according to plan, Kevin Maxwell, chief executive officer of PGCPS, said, the school could continue enrolling new students for the upcoming academic year.
“Our recommendation at this point is to move from the direction of purely closing Turning Point Academy and reorganizing it under the operation and management of another operator,” said Loretta White, the director of the PGCPS office that oversees charter and contract schools. “At this point, we do not have a charter agreement with the current board. The school has been operating without a contract since 2017.”
Although added to the board’s agenda as an “emergency item,” meaning the board would vote and pass the motion that night, Boardmember Edward Burroughs, III moved to have motion become a first reader. Making the motion a regular agenda item would give the board two meetings worth of discussion to think over the proposal, he said.
“This is not to advance anything, but to use the process. This just got posted to BoardDocs this morning. I know I need to do my due diligence, I’m sure you all need to do the same as it related to this issue,” Burroughs said.
The board largely agreed, and the motion passed, but while the change will give the board more time to consider the options, it also decreases the window of time the school system has to solve the issues it sees with Turning Point – especially if it hopes to have some resolve before classes start in September.
“When we look at the number of board meetings we have left … this is the last board meeting in April. We only have one meeting in May,” Maxwell said. “We still have the issue of only two remaining board meetings, and we still have to get the RFP out for a new provider and hold parent community meetings and get all of that done in a rather curtailed time.”
The school has remained open the past year, despite not having a contract since 2017. White said that is largely due to the continued conversations PGCPS has held with Turning Point’s board of directors.
Those conversations began August 2016, and in July and August of 2017, the board was given a list of issues to address before a charter renewal would be administered. Those issues included a need to solidify a strategic plan with identified priorities and initiatives to restructure the governing board to address conflicts of interest and nepotism and training for the reconstructed board. White said the charter vendor has also not met the terms of their contract.
Members of Turning Point’s board, however, dispute those claims and have stated that their board was reconstructed and that the PGCPS charter office has been unclear and, at times, contradictory in it’s requests to the board.
In addition, Boardmember David Muarry said he sees little benefit to changing Turning Point Academy, given their students’ academic success and the high quality of teachers at the school.
“I don’t think that they would attract the great teachers and school culture and results that they’re getting by accident. It doesn’t just happen by accident, so clearly the governing board has set forth some kind of precedent that has drawn hard-working teachers and students into their school building,” he said.
Boardmember Raaheela Ahmed also questioned the need to replace those in charge of the school.
“I guess my concern is when I hear charter operator change or a change in the governing board – what remains to have this still be TPA,” she asked.
But already “a number” of charter operators have reached out to Maxwell about wanting to help keep Turning Point open, he said, and White said the school will stay intact, as-is, even if a new vendor takes over.
“Our intent is to keep that staff and those students together,” White said. “And they can help us find an operator.”
There is also nothing preventing the current Turning Point governing board from responding to any RFP the school system puts out regarding the school, though that does not mean they will meet any or all of the possible requirements, White said.
The motion will now go to the second reader, and it will likely be up for a vote during the board’s next meeting in June.