LANHAM — The Prince George’s County Board of Education (BOE) decided to not to renew the charter for Turning Point Academy Public Charter School, but, the school will remain open for the 2019-2020 school year.
Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) will instead manage the school during the upcoming school year until the Board of Education can find a new governing board to manage the school with input from the parents and staff from the school.
“We wanted to make sure that any governing board adheres to the promises made when the charter was initially granted, and that’s fiduciary accountability, making sure that the board is functioning efficiently, making sure that the board is led properly,” said Board of Education Chair Alvin Thornton.
The county’s first charter school opened in 2006 and although their charter agreement originally expired in June 2017, the board of education extended the agreement in June 2018 for one year under the requirement that the school fulfills a list of conditions during that time frame. The school would remain open if the conditions were met.
These conditions were that the school appoint a PGCPS-approved member to their board of directors by Aug. 1, 2018, submit a professional development plan that is focused on effective governance for the Board and its executive director. Then appoint a liaison to work with the school and its leadership to conduct a climate survey for staff and parents to assess the effectiveness of school operations, school climate, facility concerns and academic progress.
After reviewing the progress of Turning Point, the BOE found that “there is no substantial evidence indicating that the Turning Point Academy Governing Board or the executive director are fulfilling the requirements that the Board of Education of Prince George’s County has set as conditions for renewal, nor the mission of record for the Turning Point Academy,” they said in their Board Action Summary on April 23.
Despite the issues with the school and the decision to not renew the charter, Thornton said that the concept of the school itself is a positive one.
“I think the board felt that the school itself, the concept, shows great promise but not deciding to keep the school in operation was not about confidence in the instructional component, it was at the level of the Board of Education felt there needed to be a change there and that’s why the Board decided what it did.”
The Turning Point Academy Governing Board of Directors sent a letter home to parents on April 24 along with a petition against the board of education’s decision saying that they “wholeheartedly disagree with this assessment” as they have taken great pains to address all of the issues raised by the charter office.
“While we are still in the process of implementing all the planned improvements to our operating procedures, dissolving the charter is both unwarranted and does not provide a positive path forward for our students,” they said. “There is not a teacher, parent or student in the school who is unaware that our culture is to encourage all community members to strive toward their unique potential.”
However, the board of education held onto its conviction that there needed to be a change in the school.
Another ongoing issue with the school has been its location. Turning Point Academy currently shares a building with Trinity Assembly of God Church in Lanham and the Board of Directors had been discussing a move to Middleton Valley in Camp Springs, Maryland.
Board of Education Vice Chair Edward Burroughs called the current building “unsafe” and “unacceptable” in the past.
The Board of Directors were supposed to vote on the decision on April 11, but the vote was postponed due to not having enough members in attendance. The proposal to move was met with mixed feelings from parents during that meeting as they were unsure about moving the school so far away.
In their April 24 letter to parents, the board of directors said they were continuing to search for a suitable facility in a place that is desirable for parents as well as pursuing a grant for expansion, but would “need a long-term renewal to obtain such funding as well as a lease for such a facility.”
“The Board is obviously obligated to make sure that wherever our children are located, that they are located in the maximum facility that will as best as possible serve their educational needs, and we certainly offered them the opportunity to move their position to Middleton Valley, and that’s probably what will happen because now it is our responsibility to guide them until the new governing board is established,” Thornton said.
Following the decision to change the school’s leadership, Board of Directors Vice Chair Lisa Cash sent a letter to parents informing them of the decision and apologizing on behalf of the Board of Directors for not being able to follow through with the implementation of the Board of Education’s conditions.
“Each of our board members was a volunteer committing countless hours to the cause of Turning Point Academy because we believed in the mission,” Cash said. “I still do.”