Charter school receives good news
Prosser Creek Charter School received some long-awaited good news last week in the form of a letter from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin.
Not only does the letter question the validity of the findings in the controversial FCMAT (Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team) report on school’s financial practices, but it directs Placer County Superintendent Alfred “Bud” Nobili to release a majority of the $350,000 in apportionment funds he’s been withholding from the school.
“We have reviewed the Prosser Creek Charter School Review prepared by FCMAT and do not agree with all of the legal conclusions and recommendations included in the report,” Eastin writes.
“As to the recommended disallowances of attendance based on teachers with no credentials, we believe there are still substantial disputes of fact that must be resolved. We will resolve those disputes after further discussion with the charter school and the chartering district, and adjust subsequent apportionments, as necessary. However, we do not believe that it is appropriate to continue to withhold the charter school funding at this point.”
Nobili decided to withhold those state funds and commission the FCMAT review early last Spring after questions regarding the fiscal solvency and practices of Prosser Creek came across his desk.
The extensive report, which was finally released in October, stated that Prosser Creek could stand to owe the state close to $900,000 in overstated ADA, or average daily attendance – the amount the school receives per student per day that students attends school. It also raised questions about the school’s teacher credentialing and enrollment of students over 19.
In the letter, Eastin praises Nobili for being “conscientious in protecting the integrity of public education,” and expressed an understanding of his actions.
However, she directed that only $58,786 be disallowed from the school at this time.
“At this point, these are the only ADA adjustments that we believe can legally be made for the charter school,” she wrote. “Nothing in this letter should be construed as relieving charter schools from acting responsibly and prudently at all times…”
Eastin also added that the state and the FCMAT need to work on developing clear interpretations in the laws surrounding charter schools, so that local educational agencies do not get caught in the middle.
Prosser Creek Executive Director Jayna Gaskell said she is relieved that the determination by the Department of Education supports the school’s implementation of the laws and that the funds will be released.
“The school has used these challenging times to improve its programs and recently made positive changes in its governance structure and financial services which focus on supporting the students and teachers while “crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s of public education,” she said. “Prosser Creek has been working with a team of financial experts since March of last year and is confident that the school budget is strong and sustainable.”
With that hurdle cleared, Prosser Creek now has to focus on the future of its charter with the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, which is up for renewal at the end of the school year.
Relations between the two parties have become increasingly strained over the last year.
Several attempts to contact the TTUSD Superintendent for comment on these latest developments were unsuccessful.
“Prosser Creek is concerned that the inflammatory content of the FCMAT report and the publicity which accompanied the review has impeded the school’s ability to gain charter renewal this year,” Gaskell said. “The school hopes that the renewal process is reasonable and that it is conducted with stronger legal and factual premise than the FCMAT review.”
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