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CCP currently operates out of the old Katherine Johnson building on Baker Street in Gilpin Court. Photo by Ash Daniel
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Richmond schools officials say they're prepared to take steps to preserve the Capital City Program alternative disciplinary school, should Community Education Partners, the private contracting firm that currently runs it, leave the business.
In a late September report on the PBS news program Frontline, the company's chief executive and founder, Randle Richardson, said, "We've decided to exit the market. We're closing out CEP." He cited financial reasons for the decision, which has led to the shuttering of programs in Tennessee, Philadelphia and Dallas.
"We are going to be talking to [Community Education Partners] in the next couple of weeks about it," confirms Richmond Public Schools spokeswoman Felicia Cosby.
The Richmond program, better known as CCP, operates out of the old Katherine Johnson building on Baker Street in Gilpin Court. Established in 2004, it takes the toughest disciplinary cases from Richmond schools, subjects them to a military-style educational environment for 180 days and then returns them to their home schools.
Students who go through Community Education Partners' programs in Richmond have shown significant improvement on state benchmark tests like the Virginia Standards of Learning tests. (The benchmarks for passing on those tests in Virginia are measured against a different set of state-approved pass rates unique to CCP.)
Richmond magazine left numerous messages with a secretary to Richardson, but calls were not returned by press time. A local representative for CCP who has previously spoken on the school's behalf, attorney Kirk Schroder, indicated that he was not currently authorized to do so.
The company has been both lauded and criticized by education officials and has been the subject of at least one ACLU lawsuit. But whatever criticisms it has faced, the school has proven its effectiveness with students, says Vickie Oakley, the district's chief academic officer. "They play a vital role for the children that they serve."
Community Education Partners' contract is year-to-year with Richmond, and neither Cosby nor Oakley could say when it was set to expire. In the meantime, Oakley says that if the company is exiting the alternative-school business, there is still time to find a replacement contractor between now and the beginning of the next school year. "There are some [other companies] out there," she says.