Founder of Failed DC Charter School Enters Board of Education Race

Republican Gwendolyn Love Kimbrough is one of five candidates to have filed for the at-large Montgomery County School Board seat held by incumbent Phil Kaufman, who is seeking reelection. According to the Washington Post, Kimbrough founded a special education charter closed by the DC School Board in 2006:

D.C. school board members said last night that they will immediately take over the Jos-Arz Therapeutic Public Charter School after school leaders failed to introduce required improvements — including obtaining accreditation and providing a proper curriculum — at the special education facility. . . .

Despite the school’s early support from the council, Jos-Arz founders Rollie and Gwendolyn Kimbrough became embroiled in a longstanding dispute with the school board.

School board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz became suspicious of what she considered unusually high rent payments from the school to the nonprofit organization that owned the building and on whose board Rollie Kimbrough served. She also complained about contracts the school awarded to Gwendolyn Kimbrough’s company, American Therapeutic Services.

The Kimbroughs asserted that Cafritz and the school board sabotaged Jos-Arz by failing to refer the required number of special needs students that the school needed to survive. After losing thousands of dollars, Gwendolyn Kimbrough left her position as the school’s executive director in 2003.

As the operator of a charter school, Kimbrough has an unusual background for someone who wants to oversee MCPS. The failure of the charter school she founded does not bode well if she wants to be an effective advocate for new charters in Montgomery.