Helen Thackston Charter School to close following agreement

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – Boards of the School District of the City of York and Helen Thackston Charter School have reached an agreement that guarantees the charter school’s closure on or before June 30, 2019.

Following a vote Thursday, an agreement is in place that a Jan. 31, 2018 deadline was established for the charter school to complete and approve at a public meeting independent financial audits for the years ending in June 30 of each 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The agreement also stipulates an April 1, 2018 deadline for the completion and approval of an independent financial audit for the year ending June 30, 2017, according to a press release from the School District of the City of York.

If Helen Thackston Charter School does not meet any audit deadlines the school will cease operations no later than June 30, 2018.

“We have a duty to hold charter schools accountable to the public. We also have a responsibility to the public to spend their tax dollars wisely,” School District of the City of York Superintendent Dr. Eric Holmes said. “This agreement allows us to meet both of those objectives.”

If the charter school remains open for the 2018-19 school year, the school has agreed not to enroll 6th grade class and cap its total enrollment for grades 7-12 for students who live within the school district’s boundaries.

In 2015, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a 63-page report on the charter school, saying the audit found instances of double-billing and incorrect rates for tuition reimbursements from local school districts and a lack of oversight and accountability that raises a potential ethics violation.

He said the school did not have a certified nurse on staff and reported 100 percent of its teaching staff was certified when the number was between 63 and 71 percent. The Charter School Law requires 75 percent certified staff.

DePasquale added that, according to the Department of Education’s School Performance Profile, Helen Thackston’s score dropped from 57.5 percent in 2012-13 to 45.8 percent in 2013-14, ranking it lower than six of the seven public schools in the city of York.

The audit reviewed school operations from 2010 to 2013.

Also in 2015, Republican state Senator Scott Wagner, now a gubernatorial candidate, took out a $400,000 loan and gave it to the charter school.

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