More than two dozen National Collegiate Preparatory Charter High School students spent much of Tuesday in the Wilson Building in Northwest appealing to their elected officials to reverse the Public Charter School Board (PCSB)’s decision to shut down National Collegiate in 2020.
The Legislative Day, as students called it, counted as part of the SOS (Save Our Students, Save Our School, Save OurSelves) campaign, the latest stage in an effort to keep National Collegiate open.
“I would like everyone to put themselves in our shoes,” said Shamara Sutherland, a National Collegiate senior and Legislative Day participant. “If your high school shut down, you wouldn’t have connections and opportunities.”
Shamara, a hairstylist and budding entrepreneur with plans of attending Cedar Crest College ext year, credited her teachers with helping her explore her passions. She recounted someone connecting her with STEM enrichment resources via 100 Black Men of Greater Washington, one of National Collegiate’s partners.
As she prepares for her move to Allentown, Pennsylvania, Shamara lamented the possibility of not being able to visit her alma mater during holiday breaks.
“If I needed help while in college, I couldn’t ask my teacher or go back to my school,” she said. “[The charter board] is too busy trying to find the wrongs. We met eight out of nine of our requirements. This is our safe place. They have to try to understand.”
On Tuesday, Shamara and her peers, many of whom not yet of voting age, had been scheduled to visit their representative, Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8), and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), At-large Council member and Education Committee Chair David Grosso (I-At-large) and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), sponsor of legislation that would subject charter schools to transparency rules similar to those for D.C. Public Schools.
White said he scheduled a meeting with the charter board about this matter. Grosso’s and Allen’s offices didn’t respond to an inquiry about how they planned to address National Collegiate’s closure and growing concerns about shuttering charter schools in the eastern part of the District.
Since PCSB’s Jan 22 decision, National Collegiate leadership has challenged data points that supported charter revocation.
Founder and Executive Director Jennifer Ross said that in their assessment of the graduation rate, the charter board miscalculated the number of students who didn’t enroll into another school upon leaving National Collegiate. She also asserted that eight students with ties to another charter school had been bequeathed to National Collegiate in the charter board’s count.
National Collegiate counts among a host of local charter schools, including Democracy Prep Congress Heights Public Charter School, also in Southeast, and City Arts + Prep Public Charter School in Northeast, that have been scheduled to close within the past few years.
That’s why some parents, such as Kamiliah Wheeler, a Southeast resident whose daughter transferred to National Collegiate from the now-shuttered Washington Mathematics Science Technology Public Charter School, said the dilemma represents a larger issue of inequality and educational experience among charter board members.
“The charter board attacked the academics, and after seeing the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, I knew it was far-fetched,” said Wheeler, the mother of a National Collegiate senior.
Wheeler beamed with pride as she spoke about her daughter’s advanced-level IB coursework and the growth she’s experienced within a year of transferring schools.
“They based everything off of data and I had to ask [the charter board members] if they had ever been in the school,” she continued. “The charter board’s track record is not too good due to them closing schools without improving them. Students lose more academics by the continually changing schools, due to [closures].”