Pencader Business and Finance School’s charter revoked

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After years of problems, the State Board of Education voted to revoke Pencader Business and Finance School’s charter at the end of this academic year. The board had placed the New Castle high school, which still was on probation from 2011 problems, on formal review in September 2012. This was the fourth time the school was placed on formal review since it opened in 2006.

Charter schools received per pupil funding from state and local sources, but have to come up with capital funds for buildings and start up costs. Pencader suffered from financial and administrative problems throughout its existence despite  much optimism about its curriculum at the outset.

The Charter School Accountability Committee’s final report, available here, outlines the governance, administrative, academic, financial and other problems cited by the committee in its recommendation to revoke the charter. The most successful charter schools have had strong support from the corporate sector, parents or patrons.

Secretary of Education Mark Murphy considered the committee’s findings as well as transcripts from two public hearings and other submitted comments and documents before recommending to the board that it revoke the charter. In his recommendation, Murphy noted that Pencader has no detailed plan to attract strong leaders to the school and failed to establish student performance goals, expectations and educational outcomes.

The board voted 6-0 to revoke the charter.

“Charter schools are granted autonomy in exchange for accountability, and we will continue to hold all charter schools accountable for results to ensure they offer all students a high-quality education and an equal opportunity to succeed,” said State Board Vice President Jorge Melendez, who chaired the meeting in State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray’s absence.

Murphy acknowledged the concerns of Pencader families and other supporters who will be losing a school they regard. Many spoke at two public hearings earlier this month.

“Our priority in the coming weeks will be to work with families and accepting districts and charter schools as Pencader students and their parents determine their best educational options for next year,” Murphy said. “We know this is a tough time, and we will work to facilitate the transition as much as possible.”

In addition to their district feeder pattern schools, the students also may apply for schools through the state’s Choice program. While the Choice application deadline was in January, the closure of their school is considered “good cause” under the law to allow the students to participate.

State officials will set up a meeting with Pencader families for within a week to explain next steps in choosing and enrolling in another school. Representatives from district high schools will be invited to attend as well. The state expects full support from the accepting districts and will work together with their leadership to do what is best for these students. The state also will be setting up a designated email address and hotline for help. The state will announce the details as soon as they are finalized.

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