City district orders Thackston to surrender charter, close in June

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch

Less than two weeks after the Helen Thackston Charter School submitted unverifiable financial audits, the York City School District has said enough.

“It is the school district’s position that Helen Thackston Charter School has failed to comply with its obligation under the Settlement Agreement” reached last October, said York City School District Superintendent Eric Holmes in the final few minutes of a committee meeting Monday night, Feb. 12.

In this file photo, York City School District Superintendent Dr. Eric Holmes gives an update on his district during a press conference regarding the Campaign for Fair Education Funding at the School District for the City of York Administrative Building in York City, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

“Therefore, Helen Thackston Charter School must...surrender its charter, close and cease all operations by no later than June 30, 2018,” Holmes stated.

The York City School District has sent a letter to Thackston requesting the school set “its position as to its compliance regarding audit completion and approval and its intention to close at the end of this school year,” Holmes added.

If Thackston fails to acknowledge noncompliance or fails to notify the district on its position, the district will find Thackston in breach of its dissolution agreement and will request an authorization from the school board to file a lawsuit against Thackston for breach of contract.

If the district were to resort to litigation, Holmes said, the York City School District would seek for Thackston to compensate the district for its expenses — including legal fees — in enforcing the closure agreement.

Helen Thackston Charter School, 625 E. Philadelphia St., York. Amanda J. Cain photo

The development comes four months after the York City and Thackston school boards agreed to forgo lengthy revocation hearings and close the struggling charter school at the end of the 2018-19 school year, so long as Thackston's board could complete and approve audits for the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years by Jan. 31.

Confusion has centered on Thackston’s compliance on the agreement audit clause after it approved and submitted three years of audits Jan. 30 and submitted them to district officials the next day.

In all three audits, auditors included the following disclaimer:

“... (W)e were unable to verify and test the account balances for receivables, accounts payable, fixed assets, Local Educational Agency Assistance, and expenditures because the School was unable to produce adequate records for the year under audit."

On Feb. 2, York City school board President Margie Orr said that based on the disclaimer, it sounded like the audits were incomplete.

York City School District board members, from left, Vice President Michael Miller, President Margie Orr and Jeffrey Gettle are shown during 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

Orr and the rest of the York City School Board either declined to comment or were unable to be reached for comment immediately following the meeting.

Holmes stated his remarks at the end of the Monday’s school board committee meeting were the extent to which the district would speak publicly on the matter.

Helen Thackston Consulting CEO Carlos Lopez said Thackston's board won't comment until it receives the formal notification from the city school district.

Helen Thackston Charter School Board President Danyiell Newman did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Monday night.