Students fight for their rights. (WI photo)

For nearly four years, Jaheim Byars found peace in National Collegiate Preparatory Public Charter High School that the streets and other schools couldn’t provide. By his senior year, he had encouraged his younger cousins to apply to the Southeast-based institution.

However, such plans came to a screeching halt a couple of months ago when the D.C. Public Charter School Board rescinded National Collegiate’s charter, ceased its enrollment and ordered its closure at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.

Jaheim said the news deeply perturbed and confused him.

“No school has prepared me the right way and I never got the attention I was required until I got to National Collegiate,” said Jaheim, a 17-year-old track star and aspiring vocalist.
“National Collegiate provided me with father figures who taught me how to be a man. I’ve learned patience. I present myself differently and take things more seriously. Other young Black men experiencing the struggle deserve the same thing.”

On Friday, a crowd of 60 that included Jaheim’s peers and teachers, staff and supporters of National Collegiate, converged on the Northwest headquarters of PCSB as part of its SOS (Save Our Students, Save Our Schools, Save OurSelves) campaign, the latest stage in National Collegiate’s efforts to keep its doors open and challenge the closure of charter schools east of the Anacostia River.

The gathering followed a press conference on the grounds of National Collegiate two days prior. The Rev. Graylan Hagler counted among several speakers who expressed support for the beleaguered charter school. Ward 8 Councilman Trayon White (D) also joined the conversation, telling The Informer on Monday that he scheduled a meeting with PCSB officials about the matter.

On Jan. 22, moments before issuing the 5-1-1 decision that revoked National Collegiate’s charter, board members said changes that National Collegiate leadership implemented to address concerns about graduation and enrollment rates, and quality of instruction didn’t come to fruition within the desired timeline.

Since last year, when discussion about revocation started, leaders at National Collegiate challenged PCSB’s narrative, repeatedly stating that they met eight out of nine agreed-upon goals, an assertion confirmed by documentation obtained by The Informer. They also cite their standing as a school that performs better than its traditional east-of-the-river counterparts.

Since 2008, National Collegiate has prepared students, many of whom live within close proximity of its Bellevue campus, for college and career. Its unique offerings include the rigorous International Baccalaureate program and the Sankofa Ball, an annual formal event that culminates a semester-long rites-of-passage experience.

“Parents are heartbroken and concerned,” said National Collegiate Founder and CEO Jennifer Ross. “They’re scared of their children going to other schools. They feel disenfranchised and have lost faith in the charter school system because it’s not stable for their children. They don’t have enough educators on the charter board to understand that it takes at least 18 months for a change to happen.”

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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