Education panel: PACE Academy should lose charter status

Education panel: PACE Academy should lose charter status (Image 1)

A State Board of Education review panel recommended Wednesday that the charter of PACE Academy in Carrboro be revoked.

PACE, which serves students in grades 9-12, was granted a 10-year charter by the State Board of Education (SBE) in 2004.

In December 2013, PACE appeared before the Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) as part of the renewal process, according to documents. During that meeting, the CSAB recommended that the SBE not renew the charter for PACE Academy due to “persistent patterns of noncompliance, low academic performance, and potential financial issues.”

PACE was notified of the decision on Feb. 6, 2014 and filed an appeal, which resulted in PACE being granted a charter for three years. As part of the settlement agreement, certain conditions were placed on PACE, including dismissing its case against the SBE, expanding the board of directors to a minimum of seven members by Oct. 31, 2014 and holding a retreat in August 2014 to develop a strategic plan. PACE also was to comply with all federal and state laws in the charter agreement.

If PACE could not comply and failed to meet any of the conditions, the school agreed it would surrender its charter to the SBE.

PACE was placed on financial disciplinary status on Sept. 25, 2014 due to “the school’s depletion of more than 60 percent of the expected final, annual allotment.”

PACE was also issued a warning by the state Office of Charter Schools. The warning followed a year during which officials with the State Office of Charter Schools made numerous visits to PACE and found discrepancies with the school’s student enrollment records.

For example PACE was funded for 79 students during the 2014-15 fiscal year, however, the Dec. 1, 2014 headcount found only 60 students.

PACE appeared before the CSAB on March 9, 2015 to address issues discovered by Department of Public Instruction. CSAB heard from both parties and advised the state board that PACE did not comply with its settlement agreement.

On April 2, 2015, the State Board of Education agreed with CSAB’s recommendation.

According to documents, PACE said it complied with the seven stipulations of the settlement agreement and said that DPI “caused its financial distress” and claimed “DPI’s accounting of PACE students is not accurate.”

School officials say the students are the ones who will suffer the most if the school closes.

“Pace doesn’t look like any school that I’ve ever seen and that’s why we need to stay open because we are meeting the goals for which charter schools are established,” said English teacher, Charryse Fredrick. 

Assistant Principal and co-founder, Jane Miller said they will continue to fight to keep their doors open and that someone needs to question those who are calling the shots.

“I think all of the different violations that the Department of Public Instruction as a whole has engaged in in the past two years needs to be investigated and no one is asking questions of them,” she said.

When contacted for a comment, workers with the DPI told WNCN News the director, was out of town until Monday.

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Copyright 2015 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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