Thackston charter revocation hearing dates set
Helen Thackston Charter School began classes for its ninth year of existence Monday, Aug. 28, while the threat that a 10th year may never happen looms over the administration.
Eight public hearing dates have been set for the school to plead its case against the York City school board's decision to revoke its charter.
The public hearings will be held Oct. 13, 16, 17, 20, 24 and 30 and Nov. 15 and 16, though the start times and location of the hearings is still to be determined, according to a letter sent to both parties by the hearing officer.
The York City school board voted unanimously in June to initiate hearings to revoke Thackston's charter.
In a resolution written to begin the process, the district cited concerns at Thackston, including declining student performance, inadequate staffing certification and a failure to acquire child-abuse background checks from all employees.
Thackston officials have taken steps to address many of these concerns, including settling its debts, establishing new homeland security partnerships and restructuring its administrative staff to ensure timely completion of required federal, state and local reports.
One issue still left unresolved is the charter school's failure to file external audits for the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.
Thackston solicitor Brian Leinhauser said the three years' worth of overdue audits are nearing completion. He said he would be speaking with auditors during the week of Aug. 28 with an expectation that the audits will be ready for finalization.
The most recent external audit submitted to the district by Thackston was following the 2012-13 school year.
The audit report, acquired by The York Dispatch via a Right-to-Know request, wasn't completed until March 22, 2014.
The 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 audit reports were all completed by December of the same year the audit covered.
The York City school board approved Thackston's five-year charter renewal on Feb. 19, 2014, meaning the vote — 7-2 in favor of renewal — was cast without having a completed audit report from the previous school year.
York City school board President Margie Orr, who had voted in favor of the renewal, has insisted the conversation move toward the revocation process.
"Our vote to renew — that's over and done with," she said. "We can't keep looking back; you have to move forward."
Leinhauser said he doesn't know how long the hearings will last, but he's been told to expect "a full day's worth of testimony" during each hearing.
The district and charter school are each required to exchange their evidence electronically on or before Tuesday, Aug. 29, according to the letter.