On Wednesday of last week—a beautiful spring day, I stopped by the Crossway Montessori School in Kensington for a visit. The school is managed by Crossway Community, Inc., an organization that has operated successfully in the county for more than 20 years.
Crossway happens to be the organization that is applying to the Montgomery County Board of Education to open a public charter school. In a nutshell, the Crossway Montessori School would become an official Montgomery County public school. For those who do not follow these things, in 2010, Crossway applied to the board to open a public charter school in 2010. The board voted against granting a charter to Crossway.
Click here to learn more about Crossway. There also is a link that explains the charter school effort.
Well, Crossway is back, and in April submitted a second charter school application to the Board. On May 23—the Monday after next, Crossway will appear before a Montgomery County Public Schools review team to discuss its second application.
On my visit, I found the Crossway facility to be totally beautiful—a spotless, well-organized facility that would be the envy of public charter schools anywhere in Maryland or elsewhere in the nation. And I was more than impressed with the staff that I interacted with. Also, the Montessori school’s vegetable garden in the back of the facility that overlooks Einstein High School puts most gardens to shame. I wish my garden looked this good. What a wonderful resource to let little kids play and experiment in the dirt. (Note to self: I heard that MCPS discourages school gardens. But perhaps if they would just stop by and visit Crossways they might learn a few tricks on how to make such gardens work.)
But the really sad thing and the point to this blog is this reality: No one at MCPS reviewing the Crossway charter school application plans to actually visit the Crossway facility. And according to Kathleen Guinan, Crossway's chief executive officer, no one from the MCPS review team visited the facility back in 2010. So, I’m speechless. How can MCPS fairly evaluate the Crossway application and never step foot in the facility? (Note: The driving distance between the MCPS headquarters and Crossway is a mere seven miles.)
Regardless of how you feel about public charter schools in Montgomery County—I support them—I have always felt that applicants with a facility in hand stood a great chance of obtaining approval and eventually opening their school. However, even those charter applicants residing physically in a former MCPS school building cannot count on that reality as an advantage.
I wonder what it take for the board to require its “lazy” charter school reviewers to actually get in their cars and drive over to Crossway to witness for themselves that granting Crossway a charter school would be a pretty wise investment of public resources.