An audit of financial records at Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School shows sloppy record-keeping and thousands of dollars in undocumented expenses.While the Hanover facility’s school activity fund is only a portion of its budget, the 16 issues auditors found within the records were alarming, county schools spokesman Bob Mosier said.The school board last year threatened to shut down the independently run charter school unless there were changes in its operations.“The findings, and especially the recurrent nature of the findings, causes us concern,” Mosier said. “We’ve worked for years and continue to work with Chesapeake Science Point on issues related to the operations and management of the school. These issues have been ongoing.”Spear Lancaster, governing board chairman for school operator Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation, hadn’t looked closely at the audit and had no comment Thursday...Among the auditors’ concerns was $7,684.41 worth of expenses for which they couldn’t find proper documentation...Among other concerns, auditors noted the school didn’t have an internal purchase order process, leading to employees making high-priced purchases without proper approval.Auditors said the school’s accounting software couldn’t provide basic requested reports, such as lists of checks and receipts issued by the school. There also were instances in which personnel held onto checks for as long as 12 days when they were supposed to be delivered the same day.The auditors also observed a lack of sales tax collections, along with other instances of poor record-keeping. There was a lack of detailed documentation in application records...
Subject: Cheaspeake Science Point Public Charter School Renewal
Recommended ActionSUPERINTENDENT’S RECOMMENDATION: See BelowSUBJECT: Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School Charter RenewalBACKGROUND:The Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation, Inc. (Foundation) was initially granted a charter by the Board of Education (Board) to operate the Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School (CSP) in 2005. The Board and Foundation entered into their first charter school agreement for a term of five years. The Board and Foundation renegotiated their charter school agreement in January 2008, for a period of four fiscal years, running through June 30, 2012. Pursuant to the current charter school agreement, the Foundation was vested with the right to seek an extension of its charter for an additional term of up to five years, which it did by application on February 1, 2012.DISCUSSION:On February 1, 2012, the Board held a lengthy public workshop with staff to discuss the review process and parameters for consideration of this renewal application. Subsequently, at the Board of Education’s meeting of May 16, 2012, the Board engaged in more than six hours of discussion and public testimony as to the delivery of educational services and management practices of CSP. The Board heard presentations by AACPS staff and CSP representatives, as well as public participation by dozens of parents, citizens, and elected officials. The Board also had the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers from AACPS and CSP officials. Some of the discussion centered on the many documents submitted by the Superintendent to the Board of Education in advance of the May 16 meeting related to this matter, as well as documents provided by the Foundation that evening.As a result of requests made by Board of Education members during the course of the lengthy discussion at the May 16, 2012, meeting, follow-up information and data pertinent to the decision before the Board were provided by the Superintendent to the Board (with copies to the Foundation). Having had the benefit of the lengthy discussion at the previous meeting and the information gleaned from the many documents submitted to the Board as part and parcel of its deliberations, the Superintendent submits the following recommendation for the Board’s consideration.Superintendent’s Recommendation:The Superintendent recommends that the Board renew the charter for CSP for three years, effective July 1, 2012, pursuant to the following:CSP may continue to conduct middle and high school programs, provided that its total building enrollment may not exceed 462 students;The high school program is on probationary status for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years. The Board will determine no later than its first meeting in February of 2014, upon recommendation of the Superintendent, whether to permit the high school program to continue, with or without modification, or to revert CSP to a middle school program only.As a condition to entering into a renewal of the charter for three years, the Foundation must agree to:
- the exclusive use of the Chancery Student Management System (or the current AACPS student data management system) as the only system for scheduling, grading, attendance, report cards, and online parent access.
- the use of the AACPS Magnet Tracking System, including an external contractor to conduct a lottery, as necessary, for its application and admission process.
- the hiring of Highly Qualified Teachers (HQT) in core academic subject areas when such personnel are identified by the Division of Human Resources as available for vacancies, providing the Director of Human Resources with the final right of refusal on hiring when a HQT is available.
- the hiring of fully-certified teachers when identified by the Division of Human Resources as being available for vacancies, providing the Director of Human Resources the final right of refusal to hire conditionally-certified teachers if fully-certified teachers are available.
- compliance with Board Policy GD and Administrative Regulation GD-RA (“Employment of Foreign Nationals”), recognizing that the failure to produce the required official documentation to prove one’s eligibility for employment within the United States will result in candidates not being hired. Moreover, CSP is to pay all applicable fees required for processing employment documentation for foreign national staff whom they choose to work at the school.
- compliance with all Board policies and AACPS regulations as to the competitive procurement and bidding of supplies, services, materials, goods and services, and agreement not to permit any of its contractors or subcontractors to knowingly employ any individual for whom a criminal background investigation has not been initiated, or who has been convicted of committing or attempting to commit a disqualifying offense as defined by AACPS.
- the reconstitution of the governing board of CSP so as to reflect the community it serves, requiring at a minimum that parents of enrolled students elect the majority of the members of the governing board.
- specific measurable milestones and benchmarks to which CSP will be accountable by way of an Accountability Plan, monitored by an electronic oversight and accountability system. The failure to meet such milestones and benchmarks shall result in AACPs withholding from payments otherwise due CSP the cost incurred by AACPS to directly provide such services to remedy the failure of CSP to do so.The Superintendent further recommends that the Administration by directed to negotiate a revised Charter Agreement with the Foundation, to be submitted by early July to the Board for its approval, at the July 11, 2012, meeting reflective of the above conditions. Such agreement will be retroactive to July 1, 2012.In the event that Foundation does not agree to these conditions or that agreement cannot be reached upon the terms of a new charter agreement by that date, this Charter shall expire June 30, 2012, with CSP being entitled to continue operating in accordance with the current charter agreement for a period of twelve (12) months from July 1, 2012 forward. Under such circumstances, CSP will develop and submit a closure and dissolution plan to AACPS’ Charter School Liaison, no less than 120 day prior to the end of the 2012-2013 school year, in a format to be determined by the Charter School Liaison. The Charter School Liaison, in turn, shall be responsible for developing a plan for the orderly transition of students currently enrolled at CSP.The Superintendent further recommends that the Board, in approving the foregoing recommendation and the renewal of CSP’s charter upon the above-prescribed conditions, adopt and incorporate as its own finding, and the rationale for its action, those included in the exhibits submitted to the Board on May 16, 2012, specifically in regard to the high school program.
Although Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School has a reputation for high student achievement, county school officials are questioning its business practices.At a county school board meeting Wednesday, a review of the school’s contract spurred such heated debate that one person was asked to leave.“Given the chronic and persistent violations … (the school system) cannot abdicate its responsibility to engage in responsible oversight of a public charter school board, which has consistently demonstrated a lack of capacity to operate the school with the degree of autonomy which they desire, while meeting the public accountability standards for which they are responsible,” the review stated.The Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation was granted a charter by the Board of Education in 2005. The school renegotiated its agreement in 2008, signing a four-year accord that expires on June 30. Chesapeake Science Point in Hanover serves students in grades six through 10.Concerns raised in the review included:
- Lack of transparency in the high school programs to ensure student are meeting state requirements.
- Lack of transparency in the lottery system used to select students.
- A pattern of violations of special education students’ rights.
- Persistently ineffective financial controls and business practices.
- Disproportionately low percentages of highly qualified and certified teachers and lack of consistently applied human resources records management.
- A dearth of proper equipment in science labs and the media center, among other deficiencies in the facilities.Officials from the charter school and its supporters defended the institution, saying the report was inaccurate...
Before Chesapeake Science Point opened its doors, the school struggled with the county Board of Education over academic record keeping. The problem became so severe that school board officials placed the school on probation and even threatened to close it…Chesapeake Science Point wants to raise $1.5 million to build a 10,000-square-foot gymnasium. Plans are being reviewed by the county Office of Inspections and Permits, Principal Fatih Kandil said.Even as the project moves ahead, disagreements over record keeping and finances continue."The school's honors are numerous and well documented ..." county schools Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell told state lawmakers in February. "But to be honest, the school's management is another story."Maxwell also said the school was in "chronic" and "egregious" noncompliance with federal record-keeping requirements on special education students. Auditors found school records on special education to be incomplete and disorganized, with data missing.After a May audit, school officials said the problems could make Chesapeake Science Point and the county school system legally vulnerable…
The Board of Education Wednesday voted to remove Chesapeake Science Point from probation, but county school officials surprised parents and leaders of the charter school in Hanover by throwing a wrench in their plans to expand.Parents and staff planning to add a high school to Chesapeake Science Point next year discovered at this week's school board meeting that officials had no intention of allowing growth beyond the eighth grade at this time.Rather, officials said they thought the charter school had promised not to expand for another two years…Over the past two years, Chesapeake Science Point has gradually moved away from what at times looked like the brink of losing its charter. But after months of working closely with school system officials, the charter school's leaders solved many of its problems by hiring two special-education teachers and submitting a lease and budget.For those accomplishments and others, the board voted unanimously Wednesday to let Chesapeake Science Point off probation at the end of the school year.But that victory was quickly followed by discovery of a miscommunication over expanding…
The charter school principal and teacher who were removed last month by county school officials will return to work Monday.The school system removed Chesapeake Science Point Principal Fatih Kandil and Ali Tuna, a physics and math teacher from the Hanover school in January and reassigned them to other departments because they were being investigated by the county Department of Social Services…
Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell plans to recommend today another year of probation for a Hanover charter school that has wrestled with two years of foundering financial audits, weak student recordkeeping and inadequate services for special needs children.Maxwell's recommendation, which will be presented to the school board at its 10 a.m. meeting, hinges on whether administrators at the school can submit evidence to the district by May 11 showing that it has been approved for loans with banks to make up potential shortfalls.The district has been critical of the school's reliance on private donations -- more than $440,000 worth -- to pay its debts. The district also wants to see a "corrective action plan" detailing how the school plans to keep its finances, recordkeeping and other services in compliance with county school system standards and state law…Though school officials acknowledge Chesapeake Science Point charter school has made strides in improving its faults, including successfully addressing eight areas of concern highlighted in a financial audit last year, Maxwell seeks another progress report around December of next year…The school system has been particularly concerned about the services the charter school provides for students with disabilities. The school has kept incomplete records and failed to regularly notify parents of students' progress…The struggle between the charter school and the school system is evidence of vagueness in a "cockamamie" state law, said school board Vice President Eugene Peterson, where the system is unclear about how involved it should be. Chesapeake Science Point has been haunted by critical audits since it opened five days late in August 2005…
A charter school in Hanover has effectively ceased to exist as an independent entity following the removal of its director earlier this month by police at the request of the Anne Arundel school board.Public school officials closed the Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School on Monday. The campus reopened Tuesday with a new bell schedule, three new teachers and a changed lesson plan. Two administrators imported by the school system are running the school, and its founders say they have been shut out.An investigative report on the ouster of Jon Omural, the school's director, is due to be made public at week's end and may help settle the issue of whether the school board's actions were justified.In a news briefing Tuesday, Superintendent Nancy Mann and School Board President Konrad Wayson said intervention was necessary to correct mounting problems at the privately run public school. Their investigation began with a union grievance and uncovered evidence, they said, of teacher harassment, seesawing class sizes, spotty attendance by students and teachers, and unkempt facilities."We had some teachers who didn't understand that they had to be there the entire day," said Ken Nichols, acting deputy superintendent of schools. "The part-time teacher was teaching more hours than some of the full-time teachers."…Founders of the Hanover school contend the school system has been against them from the beginning. They say that the complaints against Omural are petty, and that the remaining concerns were trumped up to justify a hostile takeover."We don't have anyone in the school as of today," said Al Aksakalli, a member of the charter school's board. "If they want to make this work, they have to let us in."At the root of the dispute, sources said, is a clash of cultures and genders among the school staff.Chesapeake was founded by a group that included several Turkish-American scholars, some of them professors at local universities. The director and four teachers were Turkish-American men, while the instructional leader and three remaining teachers were native-born American women.The three female teachers filed a grievance two months ago with the county teachers union, alleging mistreatment by Omural. They said Omural allegedly retaliated against them. Among other things, the teachers accused Omural of denying them access to the Internet and of treating them as if they were of an inferior sex. Kisha Webster, the dean of students, said Omural narrowed her duties after she spoke out at a meeting of the charter school's board. School leaders deny that.Webster abruptly resigned in February, telling students in hand-delivered letters that she had "no trust and definitely no respect" for Omural and describing him as "inept." On March 3, representatives of the teachers union met with school system officials and described deep "relationship problems" between the director and the female teachers. "The picture that was painted was fairly vivid," Nichols said.On March 6, three police cars arrived at the Hanover campus to relieve Omural of command. The school board imported a retired educator as acting principal. A subsequent investigation found teachers being assigned too many students, working erratic hours or assigned administrative duties, Nichols said. The rented classroom space allegedly required three days of cleaning because it was so dirty, he said."The only thing they did was buff the floors," Aksakalli said.The three teachers who filed the grievance were replaced. They were "insistent that they no longer be at the school," Nichols said.Founders of the charter school say the case against them doesn't amount to much. They consider the allegations against the Turkish-American leadership by the non-Turkish teachers trivial at best, prejudiced at worst. They point out that most of the parents remain loyal, even after the disruptions of recent weeks. Eleven students have withdrawn since Omural's removal, leaving enrollment at 108 at the middle school. Aksakalli says the school still has a waiting list. A handful of parents have complained to the school board; board members concur that most seem satisfied with the academic program.School founders say the school system used the union grievance as a pretext to dismantle the school, essentially locking out its independent board, canceling after-school activities and clubs and installing a new class schedule that more closely resembles that of a standard middle school."We've asked for a meeting at least 15 times in the last two weeks. They're not giving us an appointment," Aksakalli said. "They're not telling us what the charges against Jon [Omural] are. We don't have a list; we don't have anything."
County school officials abruptly removed the director of a Hanover charter school yesterday, pending the outcome of an investigation they refuse to talk about.Jon Omural, the director of the Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School, was reassigned by school officials at the opening of school yesterday, said Al Aksakalli, a spokesman for the charter school's board of directors. He said he didn't know why, and hoped to find out more at a meeting this afternoon with interim Superintendent Nancy M. Mann…The reassignment comes about a month after Kisha Webster, the school's dean of students, suddenly left the school after passing out a letter to students that was highly critical of the math- and science-focused academy. County school officials at the time declined to release the letter, saying it wasn't an official document.It also comes after a January report to the school board highlighted deficiencies at both Chesapeake Science Point and the county's other charter school, the Knowledge is Power Program Harbor Academy in Edgewater. That report found both schools didn't have enough special education teachers, were missing reporting deadlines and other administrative deficiencies…Robin Haller, a member of the PTO, said despite those problems, "it's still the best placement for my son.""He's actually finally got a group of intellectual peers, which I'm very pleased about," she said…