Montgomery County board of education to consider charter school applications

On Tuesday, the Board of Education in Montgomery County, Maryland, will get a closer look at proposals to establish charter schools.

One applicant hopes to create two K-5 schools — one for boys, one for girls. A second applicant is proposing a middle and high school with an emphasis on business.

According to memos from Acting Superintendent of Schools Dr. Monifa McKnight, the application from MECCA Business Learning Institute (MBLI) merits conditional approval.

According to documents on the board’s website, “MBLI is designed as a college preparatory and vocational school for middle and high school students with a business learning education theme.”

During the first year of operation, the school would open with 240 students in grades 6 and 7. It would eventually enroll 640 students in grades 6 through 12.

According to McKnight’s memo, the strengths of the application include a clear outline of the school’s educational philosophy, the fact that the school’s founders secured a million dollar start-up grant, and that the founders identified “research-based textbooks that address Maryland Standards in Reading/English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.”

The gradual rollout plan from MBLI would reduce startup costs so that founders “can achieve financial stability to have a successful and stable school,” the memo says.

Concerns include the fact that, while the school has secured a million-dollar grant, the business plan requires more than $7.9 million in startup costs. There are also concerns about where the high school would be located. McKnight said in the memo that MBLI identified a middle school site, but that efforts to identify a site for the high school are “underway.”

The analysis recommended “conditional approval” for MBLI, based in part on the belief that “the program is innovative and incorporates a research-based curriculum that will augment the Maryland College and Career Ready Standards” and is aligned with common core standards.

One of the founders of MBLI, Lachaundra Graham, said, “We’re excited to formally present our ideas to the board” on Tuesday.

A second applicant is hoping to operate a K-5 school for boys and another for girls, with same-sex classrooms.

Dr. Paula Washington has applied to create the Washington-McLaughlin Charter School for Boys and the Washington-McLaughlin Charter School for Girls. The charter description says, “The vision for two separate schools is because boys and girls learn differently.”

In the memo on Washington’s application, McKnight said the panel that analyzed the application noted the applicant supplied research to support same-sex learning, but “did not articulate differentiated learning strategies for male and female students that justified the need for the proposed single-sex structure.”

Other concerns focused on the proposed Takoma Park location for the schools. “The applicant has no clear plan for preparation of the school site, does not know the extent of repairs needed for the proposed facility, and has not identified any resources for making needed repairs.” The panel recommended against granting the charter.

Dr. Washington told WTOP she’ll reserve comment until she appears before the board on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the MCPS Board of Education will hear from applicants and get more information on the proposals. A final decision is expected July 15.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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