Disbarred attorney still owes $650,000; avoids contempt ruling

District might revoke charter

Jennifer Gish and Ted Czech
The York Dispatch

(Editor's note: This story was originally published April 25, 2002)

The York City School Board may vote as early as next month on revoking the Lincoln-Edison School's charter.

After demanding the charter school turn over its records, a school review committee received several documents, but not enough to keep it from continuing to discuss the charter revocation at a closed-door session last night.

"As far as we're concerned, we're still trying to pursue the revocation procedure," said board Vice President Gregory Williams. "The documents the school gave us -- one was really a summary or an outline of a budget, which wasn't acceptable.

"We want the audit of the budget. There's no excuse for us not to have that," he said.

In addition, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is withholding $5,000 until Lincoln-Edison turns over financial records.

Not enough info: Last night, the district's committee was given two booklets -- one on health benefits and the other on life insurance benefits from Lincoln-Edison, Williams said. He said there are 25 to 30 additional documents that have not been handed over.

Williams said the documents, requested in November, are connected with the school's first year in operation -- the 2000-2001 school year.

Lincoln-Edison opened that fall in the city's former Lincoln Elementary School, the second charter school to open in York City. Since then, it has been locked in a dispute with the district about whether it should pay rent for the site.

Daniel Fennick, the attorney for Lincoln-Edison, said he doesn't believe the board voted to move on with the revocation process in part because Lincoln-Edison has not been notified that the board plans to terminate its charter.

Williams said that while no official vote has been taken, committee members reached a consensus last week and also last month in executive session to pursue revoking the charter.

A vote will probably come next month, Williams said.

If the city school board wants to revoke Lincoln-Edison's charter, Fennick said he would be notified and given the reasons for the revocation. Then, Lincoln-Edison officials could present their case and provide evidence they have lived up to the charter agreement.

If the city school board still disagrees, the matter would go before the state charter school appeals board, and Lincoln-Edison would stay open until the appeals board rules, he said.

Fennick said the threat of revocation was not what prompted Lincoln-Edison to provide the latest group of documents. He said Lincoln-Edison officials had been waiting until the information the board was seeking became available.

The department of education is withholding $5,000 in reimbursements for the school's retirement contributions, said department spokeswoman Beth Gaydos.

Lincoln-Edison has not submitted its social security contribution forms, which were due July 31 or its annual financial report, due last October.

Reasons to revoke: Under the state's charter school law, a district can revoke a school's charter for several reasons. Those reasons include not living up to what was promised in the charter agreement, not meeting state academic requirements, mismanaging money and violating state and federal law.

If the school district believes the charter school is not living up to the charter agreement, the board can shut the school.

The school board originally requested several documents, such as financial records and a copy of the internal audit of the school's management procedure.

Charter responds: Lincoln-Edison officials told the board it had no legal right to oversee the school. Instead,Lincoln-Edison argued monitoring was the state's responsibility.

The school board subsequently sent a letter to the state Department of Education asking that it clarify who should be monitoring the school. One of the city school district's administrators received a call from state officials saying the school board had the right to review Lincoln-Edison's operations, Williams said.

The dispute over records is not the first Lincoln-Edison has had with the city district. The city fought against the opening of the school in 2000, and because the school is the first in the state to take over an existing school building, it has questioned whether the state's charter-school law requires Lincoln-Edison to pay rent.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has refused to clarify the issue.

A lawsuit over the rent issue is pending before Common Pleas Judge Sheryl Ann Dorney.