Delaware charter school troubles: Pencader parents, students dealt another blow

First Pencader Charter High School lost its charter; now, less than two months later, Pencader parents received more bad news.

In a letter sent home to parents this week, the president of the school’s board of directors warns parents the school might have to declare bankruptcy or end the school year early on April 30 because there’s not enough money to cover teachers’ salaries. 

According to the letter, dated April 9, Pencader teachers work 10 months out of the year, but have their salaries spread out over 12 months. Frank McIntosh writes the school is struggling to cover those last two deferred payments.

“Under normal circumstances, we would have received an allocation from the state on July 1 and could have used this money, in part, to pay the teachers’ salaries… Because our school was closed by the Dept. of Education, we will not be receiving this allocation and thus do not have the funds to pay the teachers.”

Because Delaware’s DOE signed off on the charter school’s budget, understanding there would be a discrepancy if the school was closed, McIntosh feels the expenses fall in DOE’s court.  

“They knew we did not have enough money to pay teachers’ salaries in the summer if we were closed down and so I was wondering how it was our responsibility,” McIntosh said.

Financial advisors are still hammering out an exact figure, but McIntosh says Pencader needs anywhere between $200,000 and $300,000 to cover salaries and school closing costs. However, the letter reads education leaders told Pencader’s board there was no money available. 

The letter goes on to say, “This answer was unacceptable and we pushed on… [DOE] told us that there were some people they could talk to and would do so,” but McIntosh does not know who those people are. 

“There’s a moral imperative here that the state step up and cover the costs of closing the school down,” McIntosh said.

Pencader has been under the microscope for four years. DOE revoked Pencader’s charter in February after it says the school failed to meet educational and administrative targets.

“It is obviously concerning that any of our students’ educational opportunities would be shortchanged in any of our schools, that gives me tremendous concern,” Education Secretary Mark Murphy said. “It is concerning that we have a situation where people are saying that teachers may not receive their full salaries.”

Murphy made no mention about next steps.

Without help from the state, McIntosh says Pencader’s students will suffer the most. If the school closes early, students would not be able to finish out the year at their own high school and underclassmen could lose credits transitioning to their new schools.

“Our primary interest is the students, and the teachers and the parents. That’s what we care about and we’re  doing everything that’s humanly possible to make this thing work somehow,” McIntosh said.

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