Delaware Charter School lays out strategy to stay in business

In what could be described as part pep rally and part reality check the Pencader Business Charter High School outlined what it views as the most critical month in its history.

Parents, teachers, students, and alumni turned out to listen to the new head of the school board and its new school leader outline what needs to be done before a July 13th public hearing before the state board of education.

The 5 year old school was put on notice that a state board of education committee questioned the way the school was financed.  It recommended the school’s charter be revoked.

But Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan and School Leader Ann Lewis told a group of more than 100 people that the school’s fiscal difficulties have been on-going since the school opened. They believe they have the school on a better fiscal footing.

Minnehan says the school has a deficit of $667,000.  She says the school never set up a plan to pay back a $220,000 loan and that spending spiraled out of control from there.

Those who attended gave testimonials about why the school should stay open.  They received support from State Representative John Kowalko (D-Newark South) who said that the legislature couldn’t do anything directly to help the school.  He did encourage the group to lobby state legislators in the hope they could influence a State Board of Education public hearing on the Pencader situation on July 13th.

He also told the group to stay positive and not get pulled into comparing their situation to other schools which have experienced troubles in the past.  He said he had recently spoken with Deputy Superintendent Dan Cruce who oversees the committee reviewing charter schools.  Kowalko quoted Cruce as saying Pencader has a tough road, but the odds are not insurmountable.

Many parents questioned why Pencader couldn’t receive a state loan like the Christina School District did.  Minnehan said she didn’t understand that either because they were technically a public school.  A spokesperson for the state department of education released a statement on the difference: 

“DDOE and other state agencies involved in the Christina situation were acting in response to legislative directions. We’re still in the administrative process with Pencader that ultimately will lead to the Secretary of Education making a recommendation to the State Board of Education for its decision regarding Pencader’s charter. The next step in that process is the public hearing on July 13.”

Lewis said what makes Pencader’s situation better now is all departments are on a budget.  She expects severe austerity spending in the coming year, but she blamed the previous administration for not placing restraints on spending.

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