In D.C., charters that are standalone schools or are a part of local networks are considered local education agencies (LEAs). Federal law defines an LEA as “a public board of education or other public authority legally constituted within a State.” In other words, an LEA is a school district, a non-profit authorized to operate a school or a group of schools. Last school year, there were 67 LEAs in D.C. The largest of these is DCPS, the traditional public school district. One of the fundamental differences between charter LEAs and DCPS is one of governance.
An independent board governs each charter school in the city. These volunteers, whether they are called trustees, directors, governors or managers, provide the strategic vision for their respective schools, hire leaders (usually just the senior school administrator, such as the Head of School or Executive Director), hold those leaders accountable for academic success, and provide financial oversight.
D.C. charter schools are required to have an odd number of board members not to exceed 15. The majority must be city residents. Moreover, at least two must be parents of currently enrolled students. At present, we have 13 people who serve on our board. Two of them are parents. Nine of them live in the city. Of the four who currently live in Maryland or Virginia, two of them grew up in D.C.
The highest performing schools tend to have engaged, trained, and informed board members. We have such volunteers at Washington Latin. The board president, A.E. Lovett, was one of the school’s founding parents. Her husband was on the founding board. Her younger child graduated from Latin this past spring. The vice-president is Chris Wilkinson who mentored one of our upper school students before beginning his first term of service. Other board members include Hunter Rawlings, the former president of Cornell University and a one-time president of the Association of American Universities, Christina Culver, a former Education Department official and Alex Economou, a teacher at an Arlington high school who was a student at National Cathedral School when Martha Cutts (my predecessor) worked there as Assistant Head and Director of the Upper School. The two current parents are Rusty Greiff, who has a son in the tenth grade and Laurie Ballenger, who has three children in the upper school. Her eldest child graduated this past spring.
The board has regular meetings 8-10 times per year. In the intervening weeks, committees take on most of the work. There will be a few occasions, over the course of the year, for parents to meet and get to know the people who govern our school. I hope that you will avail yourself of at least one of these opportunities.