Thackston hires former York City superintendent in staff shake-up

Alyssa Pressler
  • The charter school has fired its business manager and hired a part-time CEO.
  • This decision comes as the charter school is under scrutiny by the York City School District.
  • Carlos Lopez, a former school superintendent and now part-time CEO, has been working with Helen Thackston.

Recently notified that it was at risk of losing its charter, Helen Thackston Charter School fired its business manager in the past week and hired a former York City School District superintendent to assist the principal.

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

According to school solicitor Brian Leinhauser, Thackston's business manager and human resources director Kimberly Kirby recently was relieved of her duties, although he said he was not at liberty to discuss the details of the decision.

Additionally, Leinhauser said the charter school board has decided to hire Carlos Lopez as the school's part-time CEO. Lopez was superintendent of the York City School District from 2001 to 2005, when he left to become principal of a charter school in Allentown.

Leinhauser said Principal/CEO Denise Butts is still on the payroll at the school, but Lopez and other staff have been answering calls and emails on her behalf since Feb. 24.

The solicitor said he could not discuss why she is not returning calls. Neither Kirby nor Butts could be reached for comment.

Helen Thackston school at risk of losing charter

Lopez previously consulted with Thackston "to evaluate school needs and assess where the school needs help," Leinhauser said.

Lopez said he could not comment about his new position, and Leinhauser said he could not comment further.

Wary of Lopez: Thackston's personnel moves come as the school is under public scrutiny for allegedly not following its charter with the York City School District and not being transparent with its financial information.

The York City School District held a public meeting in February, when administrators outlined several issues they've had with Thackston over the past year or two. The problems included troubling test scores, a lack of transparency regarding finances and little programming related to homeland security, a focus of the charter school.

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

At the meeting, the district presented a resolution to the York City School Board that outlined each problem in detail and assigned recommendations and due dates for corrective action. If Thackston does not cooperate with the resolution, which the York City School Board approved, it is at risk of losing its charter next year.

York City gives Thackston Charter School deadlines

Lopez's consultations were brought up at the February meeting, and some York City School Board members took issue with the arrangement.

York City School Board President Margie Orr said she was unhappy, given that school superintendents typically report to the school board.

"It'd be like Dr. (Eric) Holmes (York City Schools superintendent) telling us how to do our jobs," she said at the time.

When asked to comment further, she said she was aware Lopez had been hired but did not want to say more.

"I'm not going to talk about Helen Thackston at all," she said. "Our attorneys are working with Helen Thackston."

Helen Thackston Charter makes progress

At a Thackston board meeting on Feb. 23, Butts presented an update, explaining which documents had been sent to the district and which information the charter school is still trying to acquire.

For example, the school has not undergone a financial audit since the 2013-14 school year because, administrators said, they do not have all the documents necessary to complete such audits.

This has resulted in the school losing its 501(c)(3) status, which all nonprofits are required to complete each year. The 501(c)(3) status allows the school to take charitable donations that are tax-exempt.

While the school can still operate without 501(c)(3) status, it cannot take donations or file 990 forms, and thus cannot undergo audits. Butts said at the meeting that the school hopes to have these documents in the coming weeks.