State bailout for Delaware’s Pencader

Pencader Charter High School will finish out the school year as scheduled, with $350,000 worth of help from Delaware’s Dept. of Education.

State education leaders presented a plan to Pencader’s leadership Thursday. In a letter sent to parents late last night, Pencader stated its board of trustees unanimously voted to accept DOE’s offer.

“This proposal will allow teachers to be paid in full for the time they have worked and students to not face the uncertainty of having to move around to new environments during the last few weeks of school,” Pencader leader Steven Quimby said.

Earlier this month, the charter school asked for $350,000 from the state to pay for teachers’ salaries and other expenses incurred as a result of closure. Pencader claimed the burden fell squarely on DOE’s shoulders since it revoked Pencader’s charter two months ago. Without help, Pencader warned it might be forced to close early.

“The state chose to work with Pencader’s leadership because we both recognize that the educators who could have lost salary that they had earned are innocent parties in this,” Dept. of Education Chief of Staff Mary Kate McLaughlin said. “Make no mistake, this is a burden to the state… While we may not have a legal obligation to cover their salaries for Pencader, we value their work and want to ensure these educators are not the ones hurt by the school’s financial mistakes.”

“The state did the right thing,” said Pencader board president Frank McIntosh. “I never claimed the state had any kind of legal responsibility to do this… they didn’t. My claim was it was a moral and ethical imperative.”

The state says a review of Pencader’s finances found a $463,000 shortfall, including $350,000 to cover final paychecks for staff. “The state expects the school to negotiate its outstanding $113,000 expenses with its creditors,” education officials said in a statement.

McIntosh tells WHYY he’s confident the school can make up the difference.

“When all is said and done, no one is going to feel that they were cheated,” McIntosh said.

The state emphasizes the bailout will only cover outstanding payroll expenses as the school prepares to close in June.

With 18 other charter schools in Delaware, DOE says there will be more oversight on the state’s part to prevent a repeat of this situation.

“In no way should charters see this as a precedent. The state will be working with charters in the future to safeguard against this,” McLaughlin said.

Quimby says the schedule for seniors remains unchanged and all school activities, including next month’s prom and graduation in June, will go on as planned.

Pencader’s last day of classes is May 29 and the last teacher work day is May 31.

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