Delaware one step closer to shutting down second charter school

Pencader Charter Business High School is now the second charter school this week faced with a possible elimination of its charter.

The Delaware Dept. of Education Charter School Accountability Committee said it has concerns over the financial stability of the school.  “This school continues to operate at a significant financial shortfall requiring loans and major cuts, which affect the school’s ability to provide a quality education,” said Deputy Secretary Dan Cruce.

At issue is what the committee called a pattern of financial mismanagement at the board and school leader levels of the school.  They questioned a $200,000 loan taken out last year to cover another deficit.  School leader Brad Catts resigned earlier this year.  Cruce did point out that changes in the board had taken place.  “While the committee credits the school for making leadership changes on its board and in the building administration, the budgetary problems that remain are overwhelming,” Cruce said.

The state has an online chronology on the problems at Pencader.  The school presented its side of the issue to the state on May 6th.  After that meeting Harrie Minnehan, Board President, sent a letter to parents explaining the situation.  “Charter schools almost always have to use a portion of their operating funds to cover capital costs, because the state does not grant capital monies for these schools.  This can lead to slippery financial footing for several charters, Pencader included. Once problems arise and stringent action is not taken, the predicament balloons.  This is what happened in our case, but we believe that we have stopped the hemorrhaging of money.  With exceptionally careful planning and extremely vigilant attention to a strict budget, we can ease ourselves out of the hole in which we find ourselves,” the statement read.

This is the second time this week that committee has voted to revoke a charter license based on financial concerns.  Monday, Reach Academy for Girls was told in a 4-0 vote that it was recommended for closing at the end of this academic year.  An education department spokesperson says more schools are being held accountable.  Cruce said at the hearing that the state owes it to parents to act. 

The next step for both schools are public hearings.  Pencader’s hearing will be July 13th in Dover.  The Reach Academy hearing will also be in Dover on July 11th.  Education Secretary will make a recommendation to the board for a vote on July 21st.

Pencader opened in 2006.  It’s third graduating class received diplomas last week.  There are pictures at delawareonline.com.

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