Thackston Charter board hires new auditor as more deadlines loom

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch

The Helen Thackston Charter School Board approved a new auditing firm Thursday, Oct. 26, to complete three years of financial audits needed to keep the school open until June 2019.

Charter revocation hearings scheduled to begin this month were canceled when the board agreed to close the school at the end of next school year.

However, that closure could happen sooner if Thackston officials do not meet the conditions of the agreement hammered out with the York City school board.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Students return to Helen Thackston Charter School Wednesday with all construction completed. Bill Kalina photo

The resolution to hire Conshohocken, Pennsylvania-based St. Clair CPA Solutions as the auditing firm to “complete all of Helen Thackston Charter School’s audits” is effective as of Oct. 23, according to Thackston board president Danyiell Newman.

The measure was passed unanimously by the board. Board member Nacole Gaines was absent.

Thackston CEO Carlos Lopez said the auditing firm was recommended by charter school solicitor Brian Leinhauser.

Helen Thackson Charter School CEO Carlos Lopez and Principal Melissa Achuff speak to the board during a meeting. Bill Kalina photo

Lopez added the auditing firm was selected to “accomplish what needs to be accomplished” regarding audit approval deadlines.

In an agreement approved Oct. 19 by  the Thackston school board and the York City school board, Thackston is required to approve independent audits for the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years by no later than Jan. 31, 2018.

In addition, the school has until April 1, 2018, to approve its audit for the 2016-17 school year.

If the school fails to meet the dates, it risks closing at the end of the current school year.

More:York City, Thackston boards agree to close charter school after 2018-19

More:With Thackston closing, its CEO already planning new charter school

In September, Leinhauser said the school’s now-former auditing firm, Citrin and Cooperman, asked for additional documentation from the school related to the three years of audits, but the school was unable to supply some of the documents requested.

More:Thackston Charter School headed to revocation hearings without 3 years of audits

Lopez said he is confident the new auditors will obtain the proper documentation for each audit’s completion.

“If we need to have people camp out of the building to obtain documents needed to complete the audit, that’s exactly what we’ll do,” Lopez said.

“You gotta do what you gotta do.”

Thackston must provide the district with the following by Wednesday, Nov. 1:

  • Criminal background checks, FBI background checks and Act 168 documentation for all 2017-18 employees.
  • Evidence that all special-education staff members are certified.
  • A Statement of Financial Interest form for Thackston board member Kayla Sanchez.
  • Documentation that a tax claim for property at 620 Wallace St. is fully paid and resolved.
  • Documents proving payment of employee and employer contributions to 403(b) retirement plan for school years 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Leinhauer said he and the administrators are sorting out 403(b) issues and are in touch with the tax-claim bureau to settle tax claims.

Otherwise, he said all reports signal the required items due by Wednesday, Nov. 1 will be “ready to go.” 

Lease dispute ongoing: The school’s issues with landlord Charter School Property Solutions are ongoing and led to a delay in approving the school’s latest financial report.

The board tabled a measure in its agenda to approve September financial results at Leinhauser’s recommendation “for correction” regarding a matter in litigation, though Leinhauser said the board could approve invoice payments.

The board took a 20-minute executive session to discuss the matter before continuing the meeting and approving its new auditing firm and earlier payroll processing to accommodate the Thanksgiving holiday.

Lopez confirmed the executive session was related to its ongoing payment dispute with Charter School Property Solutions but had no further comment.

Closure reaction: Students are “resilient” after hearing of the school’s closure, according to Thackston Principal Melissa Achuff.

She and nearly 60  students were on an overnight leadership retreat in Mount Gretna, Lebanon County, the day the news came of Thackston’s agreement to close by June 30, 2019.

Dance program coordinator Casey "Kat" Rossum, right, has a laugh with student dancers, from left, junior Danaja Kelly, senior Yinelis Rodriguez and junior Andalia Goodin during an advanced dance class after school at Helen Thackston Charter School Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. More than 50 hours of testimony is expected to be taken over eight days of hearings that will determine the fate of the York City charter school. Bill Kalina photo

Several students spoke about the retreat during Thursday’s board meeting, describing the bonding they have as students of the school.

Achuff said she and other administrators visited each classroom to answer student questions and concerns about the closure on Monday, Oct. 23.

“This has become their home and their family,” Achuff said. Some students are taking the closure of their school particularly hard.

“It’s almost in a way that you would grieve (the death of) a family member,” she said.

Reach education reporter Junior Gonzalez via email at or on Twitter @EducationYD.