SISTERS --Suzanne Moore spent almost two years teaching at Sisters AllPrep Web Academy, but what she described as the "best job in the whole world" became a precarious one in mid-March.That's when administrators told Moore that the Clackamas-based company that operated the school was struggling to pay her March salary. She was told to expect a paycheck in her bank account by April 5.The paycheck didn't appear, and on April 9, the school closed.She is one of hundreds of people affected when a network of at least 10 publicly funded charter schools ran into deep financial troubles this year. Three of them, based in Sisters and Marcola but serving students across the state, shut their doors in March and April.Teachers have gone unpaid or lost their jobs, students have had to find new schools, and some families have been asked to pay community college tuition after the charter schools failed to make those payments.Schools in the network mostly offered online instruction or college-credit courses in partnership with local community colleges. Most were called AllPrep academies and all were founded by educational entrepreneur Tim King, a former North Clackamas School District teacher. [NOTE: Read more about King’s Clackamas Charter Alliance HERE.]Nearly a decade ago, King founded three charter schools in that district: New Urban High, Clackamas Middle College and Clackamas Web Academy. In 2008, he left to start the AllPrep and other charter schools in a half-dozen small districts across the state, from Sheridan to Estacada to Sisters to Burns.After he left, serious financial problems were discovered at the Clackamas charters, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in questioned expenditures. The three schools were ordered to repay the district almost $400,000, a debt load that has crimped their operations.King's new network of schools was operated by a nonprofit known as EdChoices, which is now under investigation by Oregon's education and justice departments. The state, which paid King more than $2 million worth of federal startup funding to launch the schools, has since suspended additional grants it had planned to award him.After the investigations were launched, King stepped down from his role running EdChoices. He has defended his schools' practices and said stepping aside would help the schools move forward.Not only did some of the schools close, but also EdChoices was locked out of its Clackamas headquarters.The Oregon Department of Education sent a letter in January to the districts with EdChoices schools announcing the state was investigating the company for a variety of possible violations, including improperly commingling funds among charter schools and transferring students among the company's schools without parent or district permission…Among concerns the state is investigating: Schools may have exaggerated or falsified records to show that enough students were getting AllPrep-led education in the brick-and-mortar schools at Sheridan, Burns and elsewhere to qualify the online schools for state funding. Under state law, online charter schools can only be funded for as many out-of-district students as they serve in the district that sponsors them.The Sheridan School District, which sponsored an AllPrep Academy that opened last fall, had trouble getting timely information from EdChoices and canceled its arrangements with the firm last month. Sheridan is operating the online academy on its own for the rest of the school year, said Superintendent A.J. Grauer.Grauer said King tried to assure Sheridan officials in January that the school was in solid financial shape, despite the lack of records and the ongoing investigation."We got snowed," Grauer said.
ESTACADA – An investigation into charter school group AllPrep Academies & Early Colleges is continuing, two weeks after founder Tim King decided to step down from the organization.In late January, Oregon Department of Education assistant superintendent Colleen Mileham sent a letter to the superintendents of districts associated with AllPrep charter schools, including the Estacada School District. The Estacada AllPrep Academy and Estacada AllPrep Early College both operate within the district.Mileham wrote that state education officials thought some AllPrep schools may have "violated the law and have engaged in other improprieties resulting in a pattern of fiscal, student accounting and operational issues," including the comingling of charter school funds.Estacada School District superintendent Howard Fetz responded with a letter on Feb. 20, saying the district receives monthly budgetary statements from both AllPrep charters and that the school district has "carefully monitored and will continue to monitor compliance" with Oregon's student enrollment accounting practices.A Department of Justice investigation is ongoing, according to spokesperson Tony Green. He declined to comment further.Barbara Smythe, an attorney for the AllPrep schools, said King stepped down after a conversation with the board at Estacada AllPrep Academy. Smythe said she did not know the context of the conversation."I'm not aware of any evidence of any illegalities or anything like that," she said, adding that audits coming in for the schools "looked fine."Parents at Estacada AllPrep schools worried that operational funding could be affected, but state education department spokesman Morgan Allen said that wouldn't happen.King, a former Rex Putnam High School teacher, developed AllPrep in 2008 after leaving a three-school charter alliance he created for North Clackamas, which included both a web academy and middle college school. Shortly after he left, an audit determined the charter schools' financial oversight had been shoddy.A subsequent investigation determined the alliance owed the district about $385,000. Principals at the two remaining charters in the alliance, Clackamas Web Academy and Clackamas Middle College, agreed to a 10-year repayment plan that split the debt between the schools.
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