Vitalistic Therapeutic Charter School

The Bethlehem Area School Board tonight accepted the voluntary surrender of the charter of a city-based charter school that the board spent months trying to shut down.

Vitalistic Therapeutic Charter School of the Lehigh Valley spent months fighting charter revocation proceedings initiated by the Bethlehem Area and Allentown school districts. 

But then in October the charter school announced  "with profound sorrow" that it plans to shut its doors Jan. 25, which marks the end of the first marking period for the sending districts. A revocation hearing scheduled for Nov. 29 was canceled in light of the voluntary surrender of the charter...
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Already under two investigations, Vitalistic Therapeutic Charter School of the Lehigh Valley is facing mounting financial pressure that has led trustees to raise the specter of closing the school, which serves mostly poor children with learning, emotional and physical disabilities.

Records obtained by The Morning Call show money issues led the Bethlehem school to stop offering legally mandated speech therapy while nearly $9,500 in food vendor bills have gone unpaid and part of a federal education grant was used to pay a utility bill.

More pressing, the school can no longer afford to pay more than $17,000 in monthly rent and maintenance costs at its building on Fourth Avenue in Bethlehem and is looking for cheaper quarters in Allentown, records and interviews show. The Bethlehem building is for sale.

In a March 24 email on moving, board President Joyce Thompson wrote that she and another trustee "were talking about the possibility of having to close the school."...
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The top administrator of a troubled Bethlehem charter school resigned Wednesday, alleging that school officials continue to mismanage tax dollars even as two local school districts investigate its finances and loss of a state license to provide students with mental health care.

In her resignation letter, Nancy Egan, chief executive officer of Vitalistic Therapeutic Charter School of the Lehigh Valley since 2010, said the board of trustees and other administrators have undermined her attempts to correct years of fiscal mismanagement...
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State officials have offered to help the Allentown and Bethlehem Area school districts with their joint investigation of Vitalistic Therapeutic Charter School of the Lehigh Valley.

Bethlehem Superintendent Joseph Roy said Friday his staff "received a very supportive call" from the Pennsylvania Department of Education concerning Vitalistic. He said the state has offered to help the districts analyze the charter's financial and special education records...

The districts' investigation stems from a story in The Morning Call on Nov. 27 that examined Vitalistic's finances and its loss of a state license that served as the cornerstone of its chartered mission to provide poor students with intensive mental health therapy.

Using public records and interviews with state and Vitalistic sources, the newspaper found Vitalistic had improperly lent taxpayer money to its nonprofit sister school, had problems documenting students' special education services, and had repeat violations of its licensed mental health program. Vitalistic billed the state for more than $200,000 in services from the preschool and charter school that auditors could not determine if children and their families had received...

The newspaper's investigation found Vitalistic's board of trustees offered little to no oversight of those funds or management decisions. The story showed Vitalistic had problems administering and documenting whether students received services under a welfare department license to provide outpatient partial hospitalization care, according to audits conducted by Magellan Behavioral Health Inc., a Connecticut-based private managed care company that monitors treatment for people on Medicaid with mental health issues...

The state auditor general's office is also investigating Vitalistic.

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