Rocketship Faces Stiff Opposition

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By C.N. Staff Writer
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New projects that come into a ward have a process that they must adhere to before final approval. One of those processes is appearing before the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC), where the proposed project will be located. Another process is appearing before the Board of Zoning, if needed, to properly identify said project and make sure it properly zoned before construction.

The case of Rocetship School, which is proposed to build a school next to Woodland Terrace, has faced stiff opposition. The school, part of California based Rocketship Education non-profit, was approved by the District of Columbia Charter School Board to open as many as eight schools that would serve 5,200 District students by 2019. The board authorized Rocketship to open two schools with 650 students each, but the organization could expand to eight schools should existing campuses perform as well as promised.

Rocketship’s model has been to enter economically challenged neighborhoods and students from low-income backgrounds. However, according to several letters obtained by the Capital News, Rocketship did not seek the approval nor get an accurate understanding of the community’s feeling about moving into their proposed Ward 8 location, 2335 Raynolds Place, SE. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners from ANC 8B, at their September 16th public meeting drafted a resolution of disapproval for the school, “The Rocketship Education Facility Expansion Disapproval Resolution of 2014.”

According to the resolution, ANC 8B writes, “Rocketship Education has not done a comprehensive community outreach effort to advance their need to build a public charter school at 2335 Raynolds Place, SE…has not partnered with any of the community non-profits, churches, ANC’s, DC Public Housing Authority officials who will be impacted by the building of the said charter school.” Further in their resolution they go on to state “Rocketship’s Vice President of Policy (Katy Venskus) was convicted of felony embezzlement at a previous non-profit, where she pleaded guilty to a class C felony charge in 2002 for stealing money and in 2010 was charged with theft and identity theft from the lobbying firm she worked for.”

According to unnamed sources, representatives from Rocketship Education have been in talks with community members in attempt to set up a community roundtable about their proposed location for the school. Commissioner Watson, Chair of the 8B ANC, said, “I have grandkids and I would not put them in a school that is not suitable for educational learning. I don’t think the neighborhood is the best neighborhood Rocketship could have chosen.”

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