York City board votes to start Thackston charter revocation

Junior Gonzalez
  • The York City school board voted 8-0 to start revocation proceedings to remove Helen Thackston's charter.
  • Board members said they were ready for the process to begin.

The York City school board voted unanimously Wednesday night to initiate proceedings to revoke the charter for Helen Thackston Charter School.

York City school board President Margie Orr speaks during a voting meeting Wednesday, June 21, 2017. The board voted unanimously to revoke the charter of Helen Thackston Charter School.

After solicitor Jeffrey Gettle mentioned that two reasons listed from the resolution brought earlier this month had been removed (bringing down the listed reasons to 22), the board moved to vote.

Board President Margie Orr read out the consent item verbatim as listed on the agenda and asked board secretary Mindy Wantz to collect an individual roll call vote. The vote was 8-0. Board member Diane Brown was absent for the vote.

“OK folks, the revocation process goes forward,” Orr said.

Helen Thackston board President Danyiell Newman, Helen Thackston Interim Principal Melissa Achuff and solicitor Brian Leinhauser were present for the meeting but left immediately after the vote.

“The board is disappointed that the York City decided to go forward with hearings,” Leinhauser said Thursday. “We think that charter revocation proceedings are expensive and time consuming, and the taxpayer’s dollars could be better spent with district and the (charter) school working together, just like the Department of Education and the York City School District worked to correct the district’s multitude of issues over recent years.”

Leinhauser was authorized to begin gathering evidence in the charter school’s defense for the upcoming revocation hearings during Helen Thackston’s board meeting Thursday night.

Parents of Thackston students will be notified in the coming weeks of the revocation hearings, Leinhauser added.

State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, who represents York City and the surrounding suburbs, was present at Wednesday's York City meeting.

“I’m not surprised,” she said of the vote.

Hill-Evans said the nearly two dozen infractions listed by the district was “kind of a lot” and said the charter school failed to sufficiently improve matters after the board’s initial resolution in February.

The freshman lawmaker has sponsored legislation to reform charter school laws in the state but said she didn’t want to make an example out of Thackston.

“I don’t want to point a finger at a specific charter school,” she said, but she said she believes charter schools and public schools are not on the same playing field.

In April, Hill-Evans authored her first House bill as a state representative regarding charter school enrollment. When asked what reforms were needed in charter schools, Hill-Evans mentioned teacher certification requirements.

“Teachers are required to be certified 100 percent (in public schools). So should charter schools,” she said.

Reaction: Board member James Sawor said he thinks the vote to initiate proceedings is a positive move forward for education in the district.

“They’ve been having plenty of issues,” he said of the struggling charter school. “Maybe there’s a mandate for this from the public."

Fellow member Michael Breeland said he wasn’t surprised Thackston board members didn’t speak to the board before the vote. “They already knew what it was going to be,” he said.

Orr said the move was necessary.

“I’m not pleased that we have to take these steps, but it had to be done,” she said. “If we don’t do it, who will?”

District Superintendent Eric Holmes declined to comment, according to a district spokeswoman.

According to the resolution, revocation hearings will begin on or around Aug. 1.