WASHINGTON — When it comes to education in D.C., the stakes are high because children are counting on us. In too many cases, they are children who have suffered trauma, in and out of the foster care system and some who are homeless. So, when we discovered some D.C. charter schools were sending suspended special education students to an unlicensed tutoring facility - it was a big deal.
WUSA9’s Delia Gonçalves sat down with Monument Academy Public Charter School’s CEO Emily Bloomfield and asked her if sending kids to that facility was a mistake.
“Yes,” Bloomfield replied, “in retrospect had we known it didn’t have a business license it wouldn’t have been an option for kids.”
The boarding school sent children deemed to be dangerous to a row house on Minnesota Avenue in Southeast. The bogus business masquerading as the Future Family Enrichment Center is now under investigation. City leaders want to know if the woman who ran the center followed federal disability laws, so children weren’t just housed there but actually educated. Loretta Jones blew the whistle on the facility after Monument referred her 10-year-old son there. “Behaviorally she (center’s owner) did help,” she said, “academically not so much.”
“We try to do the right thing we check with our special education attorney about everything,” said Bloomfield.
It was their attorney who never vetted nor visited the facility; for the children in their care, stakeholders just took someone else’s word the business was legit. Some parents and advocates say the scandal highlights why they feel there is no accountability in the charter school system. “I think this isn’t ‘about charters or not charters,” Bloomfield responded, “I think it’s about integrity and doing the right thing by kids.”
“I’m concerned,” said special education attorney Donovan Anderson, “if I’m one attorney with five cases at this one school and this situation in these cases are appalling that tells me there’s a larger issue that needs to be addressed.”
Anderson said every time he attends a meeting at Monument, the staff always changes; and those who do stick around are ill prepared.
“I don’t believe they have competent staff, in my opinion, to deal with the kids and the behavior that comes in,” he said.
“I categorically disagree with that I don’t think he’s encountered different staff each time and I don’t think our staff is incompetent,” Bloomfield countered.
Monument Academy’s mission is to educate and protect vulnerable children who have been traumatized, and in many cases, don’t have stable homes. So, while mistakes happen, getting it right for the children who are counting on the adults in the education system should be everyone’s top priority.
“If we make a mistake looking at that and saying what happened and how to we make sure that doesn’t happen again,” said Bloomfield, “if we’re going to make progress to sit down and talk about what are some of our shared challenges and what are we trying to accomplish and how can we learn from each other.”