December 1, 2021

Valerie Jablow: “We Got A Lot Of Pressure To Approve This Charter School Project”

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A FOIA requests shows the pressure many agencies felt to make a certain charter school happen. Valerie Jablow has the story at the educationdc blog.

The title of this blog post was what a staff member of the DC department of energy and environment (DOEE) wrote to a fellow staff member in an email about a storm water management system at Eagle Academy’s property at 2345 R St. SE.

That email was part of a FOIA production I received around the storm water management system at the school, which has failed repeatedly. Read on for how that FOIA production (as well as FOIA productions from other agencies and those produced for others) appear to outline DC’s poor oversight of this charter school development and pressure on DOEE to move ahead with it–while raising questions around the inaction of elected and appointed officials in the wake of public damage.

To Protect The Environment—Or Not

When Eagle purchased the 1 acre property in 2016, it contained several houses that had been used for a private school. Behind those structures, the site sloped steeply down to the narrow street behind it, Ridge Place. Over the decades, trees along the back, south-facing slope had grown thick and tall. A neighbor described it looking like a forest.

In 2017, Eagle Academy had a design for a newly built school there. The main entrance was to be on the north side of the property, on R Street, while a large parking lot was to be located on the back of the property, on its southwestern end, accessed by a curb cut on Ridge Place.

Because the construction by Eagle Academy was considered a “major land-disturbing activity” by DOEE, Eagle was required to put in a storm water management system. The idea was to limit erosion, ponding, and flooding–while also ensuring environmental reviews to preserve large trees where possible and prevent damage to adjacent structures.

To understand better Eagle’s development of this property, I had requested via FOIA information from a variety of DC agencies. The DOEE FOIA production I received (which was mainly around the storm water management system and linked repeatedly below in two, very large, files) was unusual inasmuch as it contained hundreds of un-redacted emails, with all FOIA fees waived by DOEE. By contrast, FOIA productions I received from other DC agencies regarding Eagle’s development of this property had few, if any, emails–despite my request for them. In fact, DCRA told me that I would have to pay more than $2000 to have that agency’s responsive emails. (I didn’t pay—and received only a few responsive (mostly unenlightening) emails from DCRA, despite DCRA’s central role in the unpermitted construction of the building there.)

In any case, the DOEE FOIA production made clear that a variety of DC agencies (second FOIA, p. 576ff) sent approval letters to DCRA for Eagle’s plans for managing its environment, including the office of planning (6/13/17); DC water (6/5/17); Department of Public Works (5/23/17); and Department of Transportation (7/14/17).

Read the full story here.“We Got A Lot Of Pressure To Approve This Charter School Project” | educationdc

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