City Desk

Charter High School to Fold

An Eckington charter high school will close by February's end, parents were informed today.

City Lights Public Charter School, which was founded in 2005 to serve special-needs children of high school age, sent a letter today explaining that the decision to close comes after "notice from the DC government that the school's funding is being reduced and that this reduction raised significant issues regarding the school's budget and its ability to operate."

[UPDATE, 5:30 P.M.: LL is told that the school was unable to prove District residency for some students during an audit, leading to a serious reduction in its anticipated per-pupil funding.]

Executive Director Iris Lewis, who wrote the letter, was not immediately available for comment. Nona Richardson, a spokesperson for the Public Charter School Board, which oversees City Lights, says the school's financial difficulties are "related to enrollment." LL is told According to PCSB statistics [PDF], City Lights enrolled 62 kids in fall 2007; only one senior graduated the following spring.

A recent PCSB review of the school was critical in a number of areas. City Lights, the board found, had "no overarching curricular framework reflecting [its] academic and nonacademic goals." It also found problems with staff turnover and an "urgent need...for certified special education teachers. Currently, there are none on staff." In addition, the school was found not to have "sufficient systems to collect, record and analyze student academic data and gauge success in the academic and nonacademic goals" and that "very little in terms of academic and behavioral curriculum policies and procedures are written down."

The school was issued a notice of probation in March 2008 for "deficiencies in its services to special needs students." It was lifted by June.

Richardson says that the vast majority of students at City Lights are "high-level special-needs kids" and are likely to be placed though D.C. Public Schools. A community forum will be announced next week, she says, "which will lay out for parents what had happened and what the next steps are."

Letter is after the jump.

January 23, 2009

Dear City Lights PCS Parents and Guardians,

City Lights Public Charter School wanted to notify you that the school has received notice from the DC government that the school's funding is being reduced and that this reduction raised significant issues regarding the school's budget and its ability to operate. Regrettably, the City Lights PCS Board of Trustees in consultation with me as the school's Executive Director and Ron Holmes, our Chief Financial Officer, has determined that it is necessary for the school to cease operations and close. The school will remain open in order to transition our students. We anticipate that this transition will be completed no later than the end of February, with the goal of completing the transition over the next two weeks. City Lights PCS wants to assure you that our paramount concern is ensuring that the educational needs of our students continue to be met with minimal disruption.
The school has had various conversations with the DC government agencies that provide the school's funding and oversight and is continuing its discussions with these agencies. We recognize the serious repercussions for our students and are making every effort to minimize disruption. We are actively exploring with the DC government what options may be available, including placement options for our students. We will update the City Lights PCS community on this process as it moves forward and if you have questions in the meantime regarding your child's particular situation, you may contact the City Lights PCS administrative office at 202-832-4366. As I noted above, our students' educational needs remain our paramount concern as we work through this difficult juncture.

Iris Lewis, M.Ed.
Executive Director

cc: City Light PCS Board of Trustees

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • Simon Templar

    I applaud DCPS for closing City Lights Public Charter School. For several years, CLPCS operated a special education program without clear academic goals, serious discipline issues and gross mis-management. Only one senior graduated in 2007, exemplifies failure. The hire of current Executive Director-Iris Lewis reflects graft and an incompetent Board of Directors.

  • Dr. Kelly Brock

    Iris Lewis is an embarassment to the George Washington University Graduate Department of Education. Lewis is currently enrolled in a PHD program at the University. No credible K-12 agency or organization should hire Iris Lewis, she has failed everywhere employed.

  • Veronica Saunders

    Can someone please help me to understand how this school could have existed in our nation's capital?

    A school for "high-level special needs" students, without ONE certified special education teacher? How were these students needs being meet through the implementation of their I.E.P.s? Who did the academic testing that required a certified special educator? How were lessons planned for these students, if the school did not even have a curricular framework reflecting their academic and non academic goals? Who explained the procedural rights to the parents, if none of the "so called educators" were qualified in the area of special education? Who TAUGHT these children?? Only ONE child graduated in 2007!! Did anybody care at all?? Should we try to guess the race of these children?? Dominant gender?

    President Obama, I beg you to stop this injustice! There IS no transition plan for the students of City Lights. Where will they go? What happened to "No Child Left Behind?" Do we just continue building more prisons? Is that the answer? What a shame!!!!

  • Giavon LaTreal

    Just out of curiosity how many of us that are posting ever visited the school? Did any of you volunteer? The DCPCSB findings are public record and have been published in several papers including the Post, after reading those articles were any of us prompted to attempt to do anything about the situation?

  • Ian Foster

    For the record the DCPS didn't close the school. If you read the article the school's Board of Directors voted to close the school. As Ms. Saunders pointed out there had to be some special educators on staff in order for IEP meetings to be held and to ensure the accommodations mandated by those IEPs were made.

    Dr. Brock and Mr. Templar I'd love to see a list of your outstanding accomplishments and the organizations that you have successfully run. It's very easy for us sitting on the outside to comment on what others may have or have not done, but we must bear in mind the information we are receiving is second hand. We none of us were at the school so we honestly don't know what went on. I for one would like to hear what someone that worked there can say about the situation.

  • Concerned Citizen

    City Lights and programs like it should be closed, due to failure. These programs have fleeced DCPS for years without oversight. There will be more special education school closings and lawsuits, if, parents and attorneys give critical examination to transition planing and lack there of for all schools and programs contracted by DCPS. Finally, DCPS should sanction the likes of Iris Lewis, to, guard against incompetent administrators from working with DC school children. Iris Lewis is a paid lackey, her career is an example of back stabbing, blacklisting and incompetence. No matter the support she has from George Washington University, Howard University and Marian Wright Edelman Iris Lewis should not be employed by another education organization in DC again.

  • Concerned Citizen

    DCPS should auditors should examine the financial records of City Lights PCS, they will enough fraud to file criminal charges against Iris Lewis and the Chief Financial Officer of City Lights PCS.

  • Shawn

    City Lights isn't the only charter and/or private school in the District that has issues! Come on folks, if you’re going to criticize one institution let’s look at the bigger picture here! First of all, do any of you understand and/or know the process for how students are assigned to and/or enroll in these specialized K12 schools? Probably not, so let’s first start with some basics – every student enrolled has an advocate and/or lawyer who sue DCPS for placement, because DCPS isn’t providing “specialized services” for students X, Y, and Z. Now, once the advocate and/or lawyer have provided sufficient evidence that the student is diagnosed with any multitude of learning and/or emotional disabilities (LD/ED) they then place them in one of the many public and/or private schools – which by the way are FOR PROFIT schools! These are not “NON-PROFIT” institutions and a vast majority of them are there for one purpose and one purpose only - THE ALMIGHTY DOLLAR. These schools are NOT run by educators, they are created and run by investors who have NO other goal in mind but making a dollar based on the fact that the District's Public School System is in such disarray that it is unable to create programs and hire specialized personal to “meet the needs of ALL the special Ed students” within the District. I’ve been both on the inside and outside of these programs, and it breaks my heart to see these schools in operation! I’ve witnessed on countless occasions students graduating from these programs who are no better prepared to face the real world (higher education or the working world) from the day they entered into the program. Take for example High Road Academy – this school creates standards that look good on paper, and they even graduate students every year, but go inside and observe a classroom or two and you will be shocked to see 11th and 12th graders using 2nd and 3rd grade learning materials. I dare anyone to go and interview the past 30 students whom have graduated from their program and you will find that 99% of them cannot read past a 4th or 5th grade level and are barely able to perform basic addition and subtraction! So, why were they graduated? Why do you think – NUMBERS! Rock Creek Academy – another school with exactly the same issues, and an even worse student attendance issue then City Lights – but what one school doesn’t do another will (and that’s creating documentation to make appearance of attendance look better then what it is). Really folks, if all of you are so concerned about one school, look at them ALL and create a better checks & balances system for these schools and start holding them accountable! [PS – at least City Lights was one of the ONLY Charter and/or Private Schools in the District that required Drug Testing for ALL its employees – I dare anyone to enforce a drug test on employees at other schools – you shouldn’t be shocked to find 50% or more of the staff testing Positive for Marijuana – heck students sell to most the staff at these schools] not speaking from personal transactions, but rather witnessing such transactions – and who do you report such conduct to when your job is in jeopardy if you do? One must pick their battles…

  • another concerned citizen

    When you see the youth who end up in jail or on the streets who come through these schools ,I agree that ther should be accountablity.It seems that Shawn witnessed some things that were atrocious yet he chose not to take any action at the expense of those youth who he was supposed to serve.You can make excuses for CL all day long but it seems that he may have been part of the problem.The ED and CFO have stolen opportunities from these youth and they contnue to pay the price.