Helen Thackston Charter makes progress

Alyssa Pressler
  • Administrators gave updates on the school's progress with York City School District.
  • The principal said several documents have already been handed in to the district.
  • The resolution outlines dates when the charter school needs to have issues fixed by in coming months.

Helen Thackston Charter School is on its way to completing requests from York City School District to address various issues by certain dates or have an explanation of why the problems could not be addressed.

Helen Thackston Charter School Principal Denise Butts, left, confers with the school's attorney, Brian Leinhauser, as the York City School District holds a special meeting regarding the future of Helen Thackston Charter School at the Administration Building in York City, Feb. 13, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Earlier in February, York City School District held a special board meeting to publicly discuss issues it has had with Helen Thackston. Among the problems were low test scores, a lack of information related to the charter's finances and little programming related to homeland security, a focus of the charter school. The district presented a resolution to the school board outlining each of these problems in detail. The resolution also includes recommendations and due dates for the school.

A majority of these requests related to documentation. For example, the district requested documents such as curriculum maps and course catalogs to prove homeland security had been a focus in the school's education. Documents related to audits and finances also were requested.

Helen Thackston school at risk of losing charter

At the Thursday Helen Thackston School Board meeting, Principal and CEO Denise Butts gave an update to the board, letting them know several document requests had been filled in the last few weeks. She said there still are a few outstanding items the charter needs to send, such as attendance protocols for the school.

According to Butts, York City School District requested documents that outlined how the charter school took attendance as well as daily attendance logs for the last year so the district can be sure the attendance protocol is being observed. Butts said the school is working on compiling all the data in a manner that will be easy for the city school district to look at it. She estimates the documents will be given to them by March 3.

This is after the district's Feb. 24 deadline. Butts said the school would let the district know why they were late.

Butts also said charter school administrators are still compiling documentation that proves the district has been implementing homeland security programming. The deadline for this from the district is May 1, but Butts believes this also will be sent by March 3.

"We still have a school we're trying to manage, so we're trying to put this behind us," she said.

York City gives Thackston Charter School deadlines

Additionally, the charter school is still gathering financial information in order to complete annual reports and financial audits from the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years, but Butts assured the board that several teams were working to gather information quickly. Over the last several years there has been turnover in administrators as well as management positions, making it difficult to find proper documents and receipts, she explained,.

Butts also clarified the charter school's graduation rate, which the city school district had reported was at 59 percent. She said that was misleading. Each year a ninth-grade student is enrolled in a district, they get something called a cohort year, which is the year it's estimated that student will graduate.

Butts said the cohort graduate rate is 59 percent, because students coming into the school may have been held back at other schools or may not be graduating on time for another reason. The charter school is looking to improve this, but she said each year the school's graduation rate has been 90 percent or better.

"Our goal, as our kids matriculate from one grade to the next, is to keep them," she said. This will, in turn, help the cohort graduation rate.

Overall, administrators at the charter school seem happy with their progress. Brian Leinhauser, the school's attorney, said after the meeting that the administrators were working hard to remedy the situation with York City School District.

"I think the board and administration is dedicated to getting all the information to the district as quickly as possible," Leinhauser said.