DOE mulls financial separation from charter schools

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“You can’t legislate good management,” said Llewelyn Terlaje of the Office of Public Accountability.

Guam – In this academic year alone, PNC has covered the myriad of issues plaguing Guahan Academy Charter School and today, those issues were addressed at the Guam Legislature during a round table discussion with the Charter School Council.

“One of my main concerns is that the issues about the charter schools having problems with their finances and getting their funding,” expressed Education Oversight Chairman Joe San Agustin.

Earlier this year, PNC first broke the story that GACS’s Board of Trustees spent nearly $11K on a retreat. From there, the charter school’s financial practices snowballed until it was later revealed in a risk assessment by the Department of Education’s Internal Audit Office that GACS has a total of $428K worth of invalidated invoices.

In fact, GACS’s issues have been so tumultuous that the Guam Education Board adamantly proposed an immediate financial separation.

Yet, despite all the controversy, the Charter School Council has not yet reached a consensus as to whether they should severe financial ties permanently.

“We have just not made a position on whether we are going with the way of separating because we want to ensure that we do not setup any of the charter schools for failure,” shared Council Chairwoman Amanda Blas.

The superintendent echoed the same concern stating: “We have to go one of two ways: either [we do] what one of our board members requested, which is to give us the full divorce…or look at full integration with the charter schools…What we’re doing right now is kind of a hybrid and so I think that’s where were seeing a lot of these issues.”

The superintendent also addressed the precarious position DOE continually faces when they’re left rubber stamping expenses they have no control over.

“The question is who’s responsible for the accountability? And that’s where DOE has been put in this precarious position of being the middleman in this,” explained Superintendent Jon Fernandez. “We’re validating expenses, we’re hearing complaints, we’re hearing issues, and yet we don’t have any authority to audit, to put any corrective actions in place, to do anything beyond just reporting it to the council and saying hey, we’re finding some concerns.”

In light of those concerns, the Office of Public Accountability announced that they will begin meeting with the individual charter schools next week.

“You can’t legislate good management,” said Llewelyn Terlaje of the OPA. “And if you’re going to give them accountability, it’s for them to assess their risk areas and to let us know what to look into. With DOE, I see the accountability issue: if you have to validate [GACS’s expenses], how can the school audit what they approve? So, that’s a concern,” she said.