Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

REAL Prep not so real after all

Problems plague music-oriented charter school's opening, district redirects students

With just 48 students on the books, the REAL Prep charter school - once billed as Portland's 'hip hop charter school' - doesn't appear to be opening this year after all.

Portland Public Schools said Friday that the district has suspended the school's opening due to financial concerns, unstable leadership, building safety concerns and an absence of a comprehensive curriculum taught by trained staff.

The board had approved the school's charter application in 2009, and organizers have worked since then to recruit and promote the school, with grants and community outreach. The school's acronym stands for Recording, Entertainment, Arts and Literacy, and the idea was to instill students with real-life applications of their learning through the arts.

The school was scheduled to open Monday, Sept. 12 at 1440 N.W. Overton, but renovations were still being completed.

School district leaders will begin contacting the 48 enrolled students and families, and start planning for their transition into other schools.

Founder Erica Jayasuriya sends a heartfelt apology letter to school district leaders, for being "unable to lead this project to its full potential in the given time constraints."

Here is her letter:

My name is Erica Jayasuriya and I am the Founder and Creative Director of the R.E.A.L. Prep Charter Academy. Today is a very unfortunate day for the children and families who were inspired by the program that the R.E.A.L. Prep team has been developing and who anticipated being enrolled in our school. I am deeply sorry that this did not come to pass and the role that I played in not leading effectively to insure that we were fully ready to serve families on time. On behalf of R.E.A.L. Prep, I want to express my profound apologies to the students and families that enrolled in our school for the lack of good and clear communication about the roadblocks we were hitting. I take full accountability for my shortcomings that contributed to today being a day of disappointment and confusion instead of celebration.

As a mother of a teenage son who needs this style of program, I continue to believe that the vision and mission of R.E.A.L. Prep remains a very solid and needed addition to the offerings in our city and in the movement for transformational education. I am truly grateful and applaud the State Department of Education and the Portland Public School District for seeing the strengths of our vision and permitting us to move it forward. I also have deep gratitude for the countless educators, artists, activists, and community members both locally and nationally who have been supportive of our development and excited to participate once we were open. Everyone who has engaged with this work has done so with a deep commitment to finding new and better ways to educate and guide our targeted population of creative and independent minded youth who are uninspired to remain in a traditional school system.

Designing a school is a bold undertaking and we were attempting to include a great number of educational best practices, each of which had numerous elements that needed deeper understanding in order to be implemented correctly. The combined wisdom and passions of the educational, artistic and entrepreneurial community allowed us to begin developing a program that harnessed the power of the arts to unite community and transcend racial and economic barriers. There are many stories we could share about this process of innovation, but ultimately we were developing a public school and the accountability for the school not opening rests with our organization.

It is with deep regret and sorrow that I have been unable to lead this project to its full potential in the given time constraints. It is my hope that through the many positive relationships that have been built over the past years our work may yet come to fruition. By taking the time to reflect and learn from our mistakes there is still the potential to eventually come forward as a stronger and more effective organization capable of serving the many youth in our city who have amazing talent, wisdom and unlimited potential. It is to these youth that I offer my humblest apology for not fulfilling the promises I made and ensuring that we were ready to begin on this day. We built this school because we have seen you, we have listened to you, and more than anything we want to work alongside you in the creation of something new and meaningful. You have always been, and continue to be, our inspiration.