By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
Jaheim Byars, 17, and Day’Jai Glover, 17, sat poised and collected in the conference room of National Collegiate Preparatory High School. They spoke with certainty and conviction, making their case for keeping their high school, of which they are both seniors, open.
“Closing down NCP could leave children without the activities, or father figures that everyone needs,” Byars said. “It provided a father figure for me.”
Students, teachers and parents are rallying to keep National Collegiate Preparatory High School open, after the D.C. Public Charter School Board decided to revoke the school’s charter in January 2019. (Photo by George Kevin Jordan)
“If you shut the school down, kids from 14-18 which is usually the age group when they join gangs, commit crimes and do drugs- they like to belong to something- so if you shut this school down they won’t have anything to belong to.”
Glover agreed saying, “shutting the school down would leave me out in the cold, the school gave me so much support and I rely on it a lot.”
“When I come here I see family,” Byars said. “I really love this school. The staff taught me so much about being a man.”
Glover spoke about the opportunities of taking STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) classes and attending a STEM event in Las Vegas, and about a trip the school took to Panama, as examples of the educational and life experiences the school brought to her life.
“I want to be a mathematician just because of the school,” Glover said. Now she is going through her college options, some which have offered funded scholarships. Byars is also looking at college options.
Glover and Byars are two of several students, parents, community leaders and administrators at National Collegiate Preparatory High School that are sending out an S.O.S. signal to the city, a Hail Mary attempt to save the school from closing officially in June 2020.
National Collegiate Prep, (NCP), located at 4600 Livingston Road, S.E., has been at the center of an emotional battle to keep the only International Baccalaureate (IB) public charter school in Ward 8 open. Late in January the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board (DCPCSB) voted for revocation with a one-year wind down period during a special hearing.
In response, students and supporters created the S.O.S. Campaign which means: Save Our School, Save our Students, Save OurSelves. On March 12, as a means of protest, a press conference and rally were held in support of the school.
“We (NCP) have consistently met 8 out of 9 of our charter goals as well as being one of the highest performing high schools in Ward 8. Yes we have challenges, but we are working hard to change lives and demanding excellence from our students,” said Jennifer Ross, Founder of NCP. “I opened this school 10 years ago to provide an educational option for the students and families of this community who are often forgotten and overlooked. We offer the only International Baccalaureate Program (IB) in Ward 8 and our graduation rate far outpaces traditional high schools in Ward 8.”
“This campaign is about us showing the Public Charter School Board that the students and families of Ward 8 are willing to fight for their education. NCP has become an important part of this community and together we are going to Save Our School and Save Our Students. We also want the public to know that the Public Charter School Board does not effectively support minority-owned charter schools. This campaign is about bringing awareness to this problem because NCP is not the only school receiving unfair treatment.”
In December the DCPCSB reviewed charter of four schools. In accordance with the School Reform Act, D.C. Code 38-1802 et seq., “the D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB) is required to review each District charter school’s performance at least once every five years, and if a school wants to continue operating beyond its original 15-year charter it must apply to D.C. PCSB in its fifteenth year of operation to renew its charter for another 15-year term.”
During the process the school board can make three decisions:
- To continue the school’s charter without conditions
- Conditionally continue the school’s charter by imposing annual or interim targets it must meet
- Commence charter revocation proceedings according to information provided by the School Board.
The Board moved forward with the revocation process despite vigorous objections from some parents, students and staff. Even some Board members were saddened by the outcome.
Rev. O. Jermaine Bego of CenterPoint Baptist Church in Southeast showed his support for NCP and hoped the school would remain open.
“It would be a disservice to the community, residents and students for this school to close,” Bego said, adding that many students of the school have “been accepted to and been attending some of the most prestigious schools in the country, and so as a pastor of a congregation in Ward 8, it would be the least of my service to support this school and the community as well.”
Bego said he is hoping the S.O.S. campaign could accomplish a couple of things, “one being that we garner enough community support that will cause the Charter School Board to override its decision.”
“The second thing is that there become some emergency legislation to provide some oversight in terms of the autonomous nature of the Charter School Board,” Bego added.
“Every charter school in D.C. has accountability. It has to report to the Charter School Board, but there is an issue when the School Board lacks the same degree of accountability, and has no one to report to.”
Ross told the AFRO with the swelling of community support she is hoping to take the battle to the city.
“It’s our hope that we gain an opportunity to talk with the City Council,” Ross said. “We have support from our Ward 8 Council member and he’s asking and calling upon other Council members to support him to keep national collegiate prep open. So I’m hoping for a hearing so we can talk about our data.”
“There are a lot of voters who do not want their options to be closed.”
Live streams and meeting transcripts of all DCPSB hearings are available online by going to www.dcpsb.org.