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End nears for closing charter school

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Friday was likely the last day of school for Global Achievers School, which owes nearly $6,000 to the state of North Carolina, state officials said.

Earlier this month, the State Board of Education rejected a final appeal from the school to let it keep its charter. The school was notified in November that its charter had been revoked by the state largely because it did not have the requisite number of students. As of October, the school had 63 students. The minimum required is 80.

School officials would not give an official end date for the school. Lisa Swinson, head of school at Global Achievers, refused multiple requests for interviews about the school’s demise and plans for winding up affairs. However, Holly Whistler a board member and parent at the school, said that Christmas break was set to begin last Friday.

“Global Achievers students and staff will begin their holiday break on Friday, ” Whistler said. “This early break will allow the board to collect more information to plan its next steps.”

However, Dave Machado, director of the state Office of Charter Schools, said the end date is near.

“We are working with the school on a date now,” Machado said, “hopefully, it will close by the end December.”

Whistler said she was surprised by the state board’s decision to close the school.

“As a parent, educator and board member, I am shocked that the state would not let us finish out the year,” Whistler said.  “Many other charter schools, like Douglass Academy in Wilmington and Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy in Windsor, were permitted to finish out the year when the Charter School Advisory Board and the State Board of Education wanted to revoke their charters. It is a burden on the taxpayers, local school systems and monetary investors when a charter school is not permitted to flourish.

“Everyone should be concerned about the way our money and our children are expendable in the eyes of politicians and state leadership — particularly in a state which prides itself on school choice.”

However, it appears that Global Achievers School had issues other than attendance. The school was not able to secure leasing for mobile units as planned because of financing issues. State board members mentioned the school’s financial situation as part of the reason for the closure.

Alexis Schauss, director of school business for the state Department of Public Instruction, said the school had been receiving its allotment in monthly installments rather than as lump funds because of concerns over its financial state.

“For this school, they were placed on disciplinary financial non-compliance status in the fall, and schools that are on this status receive the state funding in monthly installments,” Schauss said. 

In a letter sent to the board of Global Achievers School, Schauss explained the school’s financial situation with the state more fully.

“This memorandum is to notify Global Achievers School that, per the State Board of Education’s action at its December meeting, the revision 22 allocation of $32,396 was the final state allocation and no additional state funds will be provided. As detailed in the October 15, 2018, Notification of Financial Noncompliance Disciplinary status, the school’s initial allotment of $297,408 was based on the school’s projection of 150 students. The Division of School Business recalculated the annual funding based on the month 1 Average Daily Membership of 60 and provided the monthly allocation,” the letter said.

The letter went on to say that the school owes nearly $6,000 to the state.

“The year to date state allocations, including the final allocation of state funds, is $186,281, but as of Dec. 11, 2018, the school has drawn down $192,235, exceeding the school’s authority to draw by $5,954. The school is required to refund the amount of overdrawn funds,” Schauss said in the letter.

Whistler did not comment on the financial aspects of the school but said the school is working with families to help them find placement for students for the remainder of the year. She also said she is hopeful that school employees will find a new home as well.

“The school is communicating with parents about the choices they have as a result of the state's decision,” Whistler said. “We currently have eight employees, which includes instructional and administrative staff. We know that if we were to close, our highly qualified and committed staff would be a wonderful asset for another school.”

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