Education

Board chair: 'No indication of improprieties' at now defunct NC New Schools

Posted May 13

North Carolina New Schools
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— The chairman of the board for the now defunct nonprofit North Carolina New Schools says "there’s no indication from what the board looked at that there was any illegality or impropriety" leading up to the organization's recent closure and bankruptcy filing.

In an interview Friday, Chairman Jeff Corbett said NC New Schools "was run very well and effective for over a decade" and that the group was forced to shut down after struggling to manage its rapid growth.

"There was no indication of improprieties or anything like that. None that we can see," he said. "As the bankruptcy trustee does his work, there will be a full review of the records."

Citing employee confidentiality, Corbett declined to talk in depth about two high-profile staff members who left the organization this year, President Tony Habit and Vice President for Finance and Operations Wendi Knapke.

Habit announced his resignation two days before NC New Schools closed. He did not respond to requests for comment. Knapke left in February and declined to comment. Corbett said Knapke served the organization well for a long time.

NC New Schools employed more than 70 people and received millions of dollars in federal funding, which is now in limbo. A bankruptcy trustee is reviewing the group's financial records and will determine what happens to any remaining money.

The employees have been paid for their work, according to Corbett, and the group has agreed to continue their health insurance through May.

"That was the extent of what we were able to do," he said. "We also paid labor and expenses for a small transition team to wind down operations."

NC New Schools launched in 2003 and helped coach teachers and principals at nearly 100 high schools in North Carolina and aided schools across the country in the creation and support of early college high schools, a hybrid model that blends high school and the first two years of college.

The group received millions of dollars in donations and federal grants, including nearly $26 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and $35 million from the U.S. Department of Education. Capitol Broadcasting, WRAL's parent company, also donated money to the group.

Corbett said he hopes the money can be transferred to another education group.

"It’s important for all the folks that support education in North Carolina to pick up this work and continue it," he said.

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