Young Technocrats Math and Science Public Charter Laboratory School

DEEPLY IN DEBT, D.C. CHARTER SCHOOL CLOSES; July 7, 1999; The Washington Post (DC)
More than 400 D.C. students are scrambling to find a place to attend classes this fall after their year-old public charter school closed for good Friday, with the co-principals fired by the school's Board of Trustees for alleged financial mismanagement.

The chairman of the governing body of the Young Technocrats Math and Science Public Charter Laboratory School said the principals' actions left the school deeply in debt and unable to fight an attempt by the elected D.C. Board of Education to revoke its charter.

"We're not even sure" how much the school owes, Board of Trustees Chairman George R. Carruthers said. "We're still in the process of trying to figure it out." The co-principals, Wali Williams and Maisha Washington, who have defended their school and their own performance in past interviews, could not be reached for comment yesterday… Envisioned as a comprehensive science-and-technology curriculum for prekindergarten through grade 12, Young Technocrats struggled even before its opening in September. It was even unclear how many students attended, with estimates ranging from 400 to 460. The school leased the former Langley School just a month before opening day and found the building completed looted, without electricity, running water, a good roof or working restrooms. Money intended to pay salaries went for emergency repairs, and contractors were hired without going through the appropriate bidding process. Parents complained of lax security and poor academics. Teachers and staff members left because they hadn't been paid. In April, the school board placed Young Technocrats on probation and last month proposed revoking the school's charter.
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Eighteen-year-old Resa Wynn has already overcome many obstacles. One of 15 children, she moved from her mother's home in Northwest Washington to her own apartment as a high school senior and worked in the principal's office after class to help pay the bills for herself and her toddler son.

Last month, Wynn was one of two students to graduate from the troubled Young Technocrats Math and Science Public Charter Laboratory School at First and T streets NE. But now the school has closed its doors, sunk by financial and administrative mismanagement the Board of Trustees said is so severe that it fired the school co-principals and decided not to try to reorganize it.

The closure has meant new troubles for Wynn. She, like many other employees of the school, is owed several paychecks. Also, Wynn says the school cannot find her diploma or transcript, which has hampered her efforts to apply to college…

Wynn said the other student she graduated with also hasn't been able to get his transcript. Some of the other 10 seniors, who were a few credits short of graduating, now fear they will have to repeat a full year or more because they have not received grades for the classes they took, she said.

George R. Carruthers, chairman of the Board of Trustees at Young Technocrats, said the skeletal staff left at the school is working to give Wynn and other former students what they need. He said the pay problems stem from a dispute between the board and the ousted principals about who controls school funds. "We're doing the best we can with the manpower that we have available," Carruthers said.

The 400-student school for pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students was founded last fall by co-principals Wali Williams and Maisha Washington, who previously operated a much smaller private school.

Carruthers said he and other board members did not realize how badly the school was being run until the D.C. Board of Education, which awarded the school its operating charter, proposed revoking the charter last month because of financial and classroom problems. The school board plans to formally revoke the charter at a meeting tomorrow afternoon…

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