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The state charter school appeals board managed to fill 52 pages with its explanation of an Oct. 15 decision to shutter the New Hope Academy Charter School by Jan. 15.
Released to the public Tuesday, the board's decision is a castigation of charter violations and unethical financial practices at New Hope first alleged by the York City School District and now upheld by the state.
Perhaps most striking is the board's finding that, during the school's five years in operation, New Hope officials violated the Public Officials and Employees Ethics Law, Nonprofit Corporation Law and the school's own conflict-of-interest policy.
New Hope founder Isiah Anderson disputed those accusations in earlier testimony. But the state board "finds Anderson's self-serving statements not credible," according to the document released Tuesday.
Anderson's relationship to New Hope, a school he helped create in 2007, was the subject of lengthy scrutiny in March 2012, when he testified during charter-renewal hearings.
Financial specifics: The state board's decision provides further details about that relationship.
For example, in its decision, the board references New Hope's Form 990, a financial document nonprofits must complete each year. According to the state board, New Hope's highest-paid independent contractors in the three academic years between 2009 and 2012 are all companies owned by Anderson.
During that time period, New Hope paid those three companies - Three Cord, Inc., Three Cord Youth Services, LLC and I. Anderson Real Estate - a total of $5.24 million, according to the 990.For example, Three Cord Inc. - which manages New Hope - collects a management fee from the school that amounted to $1.55 million at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year, according to the board's decision.
Three Cord Inc. is the umbrella company for Three Cord Youth Services, I. Anderson Real Estate and several other companies Anderson owns. Anderson is the sole owner and stockholder of Three Cord Inc. He draws an annual salary, and all net income from the company, according to the state board.
"There is substantial evidence in the record that Anderson has personally benefited from the contracts his companies have with New Hope," the board's decision reads. "It is clear from the record that Anderson exercises significant, if not de facto, authority over the charter school. Yet, in this position, Anderson has failed to fulfill his fiduciary duties to New Hope."
New Hope's board of trustees also failed to fulfill its fiduciary duties, according to the state board, because "many" contracts with Anderson and his companies, "were not understood prior to approval."
Academics, enrollment: Academic failures are also highlighted in the decision as a reason to close New Hope.
New Hope has never achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), and - in most cases - its students are performing below York City District students, according to the board's findings.
The state board also concluded that New Hope violated laws governing enrollment by seeking student records - including academic, disciplinary and standardized-test records - from the school district before a student has been accepted at New Hope "and then basing enrollment decisions on a review of such records," according to the decision.
Charter schools are not allowed to discriminate in admissions practices, according to the board. Charter schools may only request a student's age, residence and immunization record before enrolling a student.
Approval, record requirements: The board found that New Hope failed to obtain Pennsylvania Department of Education approval to place students in the Challenge Academy, an alternative education program for "disruptive" students. Teachers at the Challenge Academy - which is also owned by Anderson - are "not certified in the appropriate subject matter in which they are teaching," according to the decision.
And, finally, the board found that New Hope "habitually failed to timely provide information to the school district regarding student absences so that the compulsory attendance laws could be enforced."
The state charter school appeals board voted unanimously Oct. 15 to deny New Hope's appeal of the district's decision not to renew New Hope's charter.
New Hope has 30 days to appeal the board's decision to Commonwealth Court.
School officials have said they plan to do so and will seek an immediate stay of the Jan. 15 closure.
- Reach Erin James at email@example.com.