I detest hostage situations, especially when the hostages are children. Pencader Business and Finance Charter School is in financial trouble again. Shocking, I know. Seems they’ve run out of money and are threatening to close the school on April 30th.
In a letter addressed to parents, students and teachers last week, president Frank McIntosh said Pencader didn’t have enough money left to pay teachers’ salaries through the end of the year, putting it at risk of bankruptcy. He said the school needs $350,000 to pay its debts and enable its students graduate.
McIntosh said transferring students back to their feeders schools so late in the year would be a mess. Traditional public schools, especially those in the Christina and Colonial school districts, would have to accommodate hundreds of students on short notice with little additional resources, he said.
“How are these schools going to handle a couple of hundred students showing up at their doors this late in the? How are they going to handle teaching them?” he asked. “And even if they can somehow manage to handle it, think how disruptive that is for a student.”
Before I continue let me say that we need new charter school laws. All charter schools must have an exit plan and fund (bond?) in place the second they open. Right now, the plan is… if a charter closes the kids return to their feeder school. Hardly ideal, and it does put a burden on public schools, but I’ve grown weary of charter schools and charter school supporters/parents acting as if they are owed more from a system they opted out of. It is not the job of public schools to clean up charter schools’ messes. Although, that’s what we have now.
And why doesn’t Pencader have the money? It’s a flippin’ business and finance school. McIntosh is quick to place blame, just not on himself:
McIntosh blamed the State Department of Education for Pencader’s fiscal straits, saying state monitors had repeatedly approved the school’s budgets during financial reviews despite knowing they were too thin to cover expenses.
“DOE knew this budget wouldn’t get us through the school year and a closing, but they kept giving us check mark after check mark,” McIntosh said. “Now here we are with all these obligations and we just don’t have the money to pay for them.”
Did he know? I would hope so since he’s running a flippin’ business and finance school. And what “budget” is Mr. McIntosh referring to? There appears to be more than one version. Back to Kilroy. This time the post is called: Pencader’s Hocus-Pocus Financial Reports! One For You And One For DOE.
As you see in the attachment, the report is far more detailed that what Pencader provided the public on line. Go here as see what Pencader allows the public to see unless they file a FIOA click November 2012 Web Report. The web report is just a summary whereas what DE DOE get’s is more detailed.
Interesting. Why would Pencader provide the public with a less detailed report? Now Pencader needs more taxpayer money, and is calling on the state to bail them out. I have very mixed feelings on that.
A spokesperson for the state responds to McIntosh’s charges:
“Pencader received 100 percent of the funds to pay its staff salaries and all components of its accepted budget,” the statement said. “Despite warnings from the state and conversations about the careful management of its funds and prioritization of expenses during DDOE’s regular meetings with Pencader since the start of this year, the school has overspent its budget in some of its categories.”
So where did the money go? As usual, Kilroy supplies some insight in a post titled: OMG! Pencader Lawyers Hit A Gold Mine. In this post, Kilroy lists all the lawyers’ bills since last August. I haven’t added up the payments, but it appears to be just shy of 100,000.00. That’s a lot of lawyering – at really expensive law firms, to boot!
So here we are. Pencader received 100% of the their funds, but now they need more money. And if they don’t get that money then the kids and public schools will pay. And pay good.
I understand that Pencader parents are upset. I understand they are concerned for their children. I’m concerned, as well. But my concern extends to all children. I’m concerned for the public school children who may have to deal with the influx of Pencader students into their classrooms. I’m also concerned, if the state decides to pay the 350,000.00 ransom, where the money will come from. Will there be high poverty public schools that lose teachers? Public middle school science labs without necessary equipment? Public high schools that cut AP courses? There simply isn’t 350,000.00 laying around, so the money will have to come out of someone’s pocket. So when we talk about the impact on the kids, let’s talk about all the kids.
Basically, my feelings are mixed when it comes to the bail out. Perhaps other charter schools should have to absorb Pencader students? Yeah, right. Charter schools are one big, united family until there’s trouble, then it’s every school school for themselves.
But here’s the sad thing. Out of all the charter schools, I was rooting for Pencader. It’s potential success relied on a diverse population. Unlike the Charter School of Wilmington and Newark Charter School, Pencader didn’t control it’s population by only taking “smart” affluent kids and then patting themselves on the back and calling themselves an educational success.
Note: To be fair, public magnet schools are doing the same thing. Conrad’s “success” has much more to do with removing its high poverty population than with what’s going on inside the classroom. Sure, test scores appear to go up, but that isn’t really what’s happening. If a school, public or charter, removes the struggling kids, and their low test scores, from its building test scores will look better. They won’t be better, but on paper they’ll look better. That isn’t success – it’s a scam designed to make parents feel better.