State panel recommends yanking Raleigh school's charter
Posted February 10, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — A state advisory panel has called for revoking the charter of a Raleigh school that caters to children with developmental disabilities, saying the school has major financial problems that will only get worse.
The Charter School Advisory Board's 10-1 vote to begin the revocation process caught administrators at Dynamic Community Charter School off guard, and they vowed to continue serving their students as best they can for as long as they can.
"What’s important is keeping the kids where they are, being educated by people who care for them," Principal Terri Zobel said.
Dynamic opened last year to serve middle- and high-school students and is the only public charter school in North Carolina exclusively for students with autism and other disabilities.
State officials have been monitoring the school for months, expressing concerns about its financial viability. The Department of Public Instruction gave the school a list of issues needing attention in December.
Joel Medley, director of the state Officer of Charter Schools, said advisory board members don't see Dynamic's financial concerns going away.
"When you have a financial situation with a small school that is serving a special population of children, the costs continue to escalate," Medley said Tuesday.
Dynamic already has a $250,000 deficit, and it could be twice that by the end of the school year because of extra services they need to provide to their students and teacher licensure issues, he said.
"You have to be able to be viable as an entity. If you’re running a large deficit at the end of your first year, it’s going to impact the services provided to the children," he said. "We’ve seen some instances where some charter schools have been able to rebound, but the issue with this hole is it’s a really deep one."
Zobel called the advisory board's vote an "underhanded blow," noting that the board recently promised school administrators they would have until June to straighten out their finances. Dynamic has already cut its deficit to $170,000, she said.
"Have we stepped in over our heads? Maybe, maybe not. But when you have kids who are finally succeeding at this level, you have to think to yourself, does it really matter?" she said.
The advisory board will present its recommendation to the State Board of Education next month, and a vote on revoking Dynamic's charter could come in April.
"For these (students') parents, it was a huge blow to finally find a place where their kids were really being served and educated and thriving and then to have the same system that failed them all these years threaten to take that away," said Diane Morris, who co-founded the school and now sits on its board of directors.
If the state board supports the advisory board's recommendation, the school can appeal and ask the board to reconsider. Still, the state usually allows a school that has lost its charter to remain open until the end of the school year.
"We will do everything we can to stay open – everything we can – because we know how much it means to these kids," Morris said.