Probation, funding shortfalls, questioned expenses loom over charter school

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“The challenge I think is that responses weren’t received in a timely manner,” explained Superintendent Jon Fernandez in an interview with PNC. “And the tool the council has is its authority over the charters themselves.”

Guam – It’s well into she school year, and Guahan Academy Charter School remains in limbo with several critical issues that have yet to be addressed. One such matter yet resolved: whether the Charter School Council will place GACS on probation.

At the council’s last work session, Superintendent Jon Fernandez recommended the group begin reviewing the process for placing a charter school on probation.

“The challenge I think is that responses weren’t received in a timely manner,” explained Fernandez in an interview with PNC. “And the tool the council has is its authority over the charters themselves.”

But Fe Ovalles, the Board of Trustee Chairwoman for GACS, took exception to the possibility of probation. At this last work session, Ovalles provided a formal letter asking for more time to respond to risk assessments researched and released by the Guam Department of Education.

The report was completed over a month ago by the GDOE’s Internal Audit Office. The revealing document estimates that $428K in expenditures have yet to be validated, including purchases such as a nearly $11K GACS board retreat.

But according to its risk assessment, that’s the least of the charter school’s worries. GACS recently enrolled 1,015 students in order to pay for their new facility; however, local funding is capped at only 740 students. This also opens up the possibility that GACS might not be able to afford their new property—if alternative sources of funding is not made available.

Despite these issues, the superintendent explains that probation is merely an option at this point.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to [vote on probation] today since we know that there may be legislation in the next couple of weeks that will open the door to allow more charter school to apply and be approved,” Fernandez said.

The measure the superintendent is referring to is Bill 191, which if enacted, would financially divorce the Guam Department of Education from the Charter School.

If this occurs, GDOE would no longer be liable to any risks that the charter school may have incurred.

“I just spoke to a representative from GACS and she indicated that they’re going to work very hard to answer all the outstanding questions that have been raised through DOE’s review,” Fernandez said.

A special meeting of the council has been called for December 7 at 9:30am.