A charter school for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities has one month to show improvements after state officials cited problems with the school’s budget, curriculum and discipline policies.
Dynamic Community Charter School opened this fall off Glenwood Avenue in northwest Raleigh, amid concerns about whether school officials would have enough money to make it through the academic year.
On Monday, state officials told the state Charter School Advisory Board that Dynamic’s problems include a $500,000 budget deficit, as of several weeks ago, and deficits in teacher licensure, professional development and the classroom environment.
“There are very serious, systemic issues that are there at Dynamic that are troubling, very troubling, for us,” said Bill Hussey, director of the exceptional children program at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
The school’s lead administrator and lead exceptional child teacher, who provided many of the responses that informed the state’s report on Dynamic, both have left the school.
Their positions have been filled by teachers at the school, which has about 64 students in sixth through 10th grades.
Laura Kay Berry, head of the school’s board, said the state’s findings drastically overstate the school’s budget deficit. In the wake of the principal’s departure, the board is working to put together a more complete picture of the budget.
Berry said expected federal and state funding, along with grant money, should narrow the deficit by hundreds of thousands of dollars, but she couldn’t say yet by exactly how much.
Diane Morris, the school’s founder and a member of its board, said the school made a bad pick in its initial choice for lead administrator. She thinks some of the problems cited by the state stem from poorly kept paperwork that can be remedied quickly.
“We recognize that we got off to a rough start. We think we can fix it, we think we can make it work,” Morris said. “We just need a little more time.”
Michael Watkins, the former lead administrator, could not be reached for comment.
The advisory board strongly considered sending a recommendation to the state Board of Education to begin the process of revoking the school’s charter.
However, a split vote of 4-4 forced the board to reconsider. Instead, it asked Dynamic officials to present a response to the state’s report next month.
School officials received the report Friday.
Some advisory board members were sympathetic to the school’s problems and inability to respond to questions, especially since the school received the report only days before the meeting.
But they did question how the situation had gotten so far out of hand and whether Dynamic will be able to turn things around.
“I’m not saying what they’re trying to do is impossible, but I don’t see how one month is going to make a difference,” said board member Helen Nance.
If the board recommended revoking the charter, it would not happen immediately. The school could request hearings, and state officials could decide to keep the school open.
The state also has an informal policy of not closing schools during the academic year, officials said.