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Charter school can't pay teachers

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Global Achievers School has shut its doors, and teachers at the K-3 charter school may never be paid what they are owed for their service to the school and its students.

Two teachers at the charter school, whose charter was revoked in November by the State Board of Education, spoke out this week under conditions of anonymity, fearing the consequences of speaking to the press about the financial affairs of the publicly-funded school.

A first-grade teacher at the school said the teachers were heartbroken over the school’s closure and still believed in its mission. However, she said, teachers and staff members had been notified that they would not be paid for the month of December.

“The board has made it abundantly clear that there will be no paychecks for work performed in December,” the teacher said. “They have stated they are waiting for an allocation of money that’s due in January but are unsure whether the funds can be used to pay salaries.”

The first-grade teacher said she was fortunate because she was offered another job in the same day the charter school closed on Dec. 14.

“I was already looking for another job,” she said. “We were notified in November that our salaries would be cut 10 percent and then most of the paychecks to staff members bounced that month. So I felt it was a good idea to have a back-up plan. But as far as I know, I am the only one to have a job offer.”

Kory Kale, chairman of the school board, confirmed that the board had sent out an email concerning the inability to pay the principal and teachers the remainder of the salary owed to them. He also confirmed that there was an issue with the checks in November but said the situation was quickly corrected.

A third-grade teacher at the school said the email notification about the inability to pay teachers was sent by board members to staff on Christmas Eve.

“No one would tell us what was going on with the paychecks. It has placed me in really bad position because I was the sole provider for my family. I have a 2-year-old child and am 33 weeks pregnant, so things are really hard right now. I just feel that something should be done about the situation, but we don’t know where to turn. And I don’t want my desire to get paid for the work I have done to affect my reputation or my chances of being hired in the future,” she said. “To me, the way this will affect the students is my biggest concern.”

The situation is worse because the teachers are paid on a 12-month schedule, so they have only received about one-fourth of their annual expected salary and have little hope of receiving any more. The state of North Carolina has already notified the school board that the school owes the state nearly $6,000 of the $192,235 it has already received from the state this year.

Both teachers were quick to point out that they enjoyed their time teaching at the school and loved their students especially.

“When our salaries were cut in November, we were told it was a cash flow issue and we would likely get the remainder of our salary at the end of the school year,” the first-grade teacher said. “We really didn’t mind the pay cut because we thought, ‘We will do this for these kids.’ But the closure of the school has us all pretty upset.”

She said she misses her students already.

“I think this school had a lot of potential and the students were amazing. They really needed a school like this. The fact that the school is closing in the middle of the year will be devastating to some of these students,” she said.

The third-grade teacher said that some students cried for days when they heard the school might close.

“I will say this was the happiest teaching experience I have ever had, aside from the financial aspects,” she said. “The students really responded to the approach and were a close-knit family. The students in second and third grade were more aware of what it would mean to them if the school closed and were more upset because some of them did not want to return to their former schools.”

Kale said the school is doing the best it can for students in a difficult situation.

“The Global Achievers School board voted that the last day for students was Dec. 14. This was a tough decision and many factors played into this decision. The biggest factor was making sure files were properly transferred prior to the holidays. Parents were provided with documents that asked where they wanted their child’s records to be transferred. All student files were transferred properly to the location that parents requested,” he said in an email.

Parents made a variety of choices about where to send the students, Kale said.

“Several parents chose to home school, enroll in one of the two charter virtual schools or return them to the local school system in which they live. Our staff had several conversations with the local school system’s data managers in order to make the transition as smooth as possible. Many students were able to start school the following school day. Some have chosen to start school after the holidays,” he said.

The State Board of Education closed the school because it had only 63 students instead of the required 80 and because board members were concerned about the financial health of the school. Based on the salary issues, those concerns seem well-founded. However, the timing of the closure of the school, which just opened in August, is stressful for everyone.

“Closing in the middle of school year was not an ideal scenario for anyone involved,” Kale said.

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