Lincoln Charter School audit includes disclaimer by firm

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch

Lincoln Charter School’s recently approved overdue audits for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years each include findings — and one of them includes a disclaimer.

Lincoln Charter School students, faculty and families prepare to ride bikes and walk from the school to York City Hall in celebration of Bike to School Day in York City, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Charter school officials initially refused to release the audits to The York Dispatch after their approval on Thursday, April 5, but the public documents were provided the next day by board treasurer and York City business administrator Michael Doweary.

Disclaimer: While both audits have similar findings regarding missing employee files and financial interest statements, the 2014-15 financial report includes a disclaimer from auditing firm Citrin Cooperman:

“Detailed accounting records have not been maintained and supporting audit evidence was not available for balances as of and for the year ended June 30, 2014,” the auditor’s report stated, which led to insufficient evidence for an audit opinion for the school year ending June 30, 2015. 

The 2015-16 audit did not have a disclaimer.

In this file photo, York City Business Administrator and Bracey campaign surrogate Michael Doweary debates York City mayoral candidate Michael Helfrich in Weinstock Lecture Hall at York College of Pennsylvania in Spring Garden Township, Thursday, April 20, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Approval of the outstanding audits, which under state law are supposed to be done annually, is both a cleared hurdle and a move to a murky area.

The Thackston case: After the Helen Thackston Charter School approved three disclaimer audits in late January, York City School District officials said the reports were incomplete and put the school out of compliance with a closure agreement reached between the boards for both entities in October.

The agreement appeared to settle a charter revocation process the York City school board started in June 2017, when it cited concerns at Thackston such as declining student performance, inadequate staffing certification and a failure to acquire background checks from all employees.

However, chief among the concerns was the charter board's failure to file independent audits for the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

The disagreement over Thackston's disclaimer audits led to a lawsuit filed in February that is ongoing in York County Court. The school district wants Thackston to close at the end of the current school year, and charter officials want to keep the school open through the 2018-19 school year.

Oversight of Thackston a case study as state considers charter reform

The outcome of the court fight could have implications for Lincoln’s charter renewal prospects next year.

In response to the Thackston lawsuit, which claims the district has accepted disclaimer reports in the past, school district lawyers stated they found no evidence the district accepted disclaimer audits from other institutions in the past.

Lincoln’s current charter agreement with the York City School District lasts through June 30, 2020.

York City School District Board President Margie Orr speaks 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

York City school board President Margie Orr said she was unfamiliar with Lincoln's recently passed audits and was unable to comment. Superintendent Eric Holmes declined to comment.

Schools' ties: Lincoln and Thackston charter schools have been linked since Thackston's creation in 2009.

Oscar Rossum was president of the Lincoln Charter School board when he submitted the charter school application for Thackston. He's now an administrative assistant with Thackston.

Until recently, Thackston board president Danyiell Newman also served on Lincoln's board, along with Paulette Hawkins, the wife of Thackston's vice president, Frank Hawkins. Paulette Hawkins resigned from the Lincoln board on Dec. 7, 2017, and Newman resigned on Jan. 8.

Helen Thackson Charter School board President Danyiell Newman reviews documents during a rescheduled board meeting Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. Bill Kalina photo

Both of their resignations were accepted by the remaining Lincoln board members on Feb. 1.

Findings: Lincoln's 2014-15 audit included five findings, while the 2015-16 audit includes two findings.

A finding in the earlier audit found weaknesses in the school’s preparation and review of its revenue and expenses, citing that they “were not performed timely and consistently.”

In another finding, auditors discovered the school’s management — at the time handled by EdisonLearning — failed to adopt and submit a formal budget for the 2014-15 school year to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education confirmed no submission was made to the department for the 2014-15 school year.

More:Lincoln Charter School approves overdue audits, refuses to release them

More:Lincoln nearing completion of overdue audits, behind on 2016-17

More:Two Lincoln Charter School board members resign

The third and fourth findings in the 2014-15 audit reported missing federal background clearance forms and a statement of financial interest form, respectively.

The last finding for the 2014-15 school year concerned the federal National School Lunch Program. Auditors cited a lack of documentation to prove the school’s eligibility for the Community Eligibility Provision, which reimburses schools with high-poverty student populations.

Similar issues regarding employee background checks and financial interest forms resulted in the two findings reported in the 2015-16 audit of the school. All other findings found in the prior year were resolved, according to the report.

Lincoln Charter School board members did not respond to requests for comment.