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Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis has announced that the Board of Trustees of Philadelphia-based Frontier Virtual Charter High School has voted to voluntarily surrender its charter.
An extensive investigation by the Department of Education revealed that the school failed to adhere to the conditions of its charter by not delivering core educational programs to students.
“Today’s action is in the best interest of students and provides families sufficient time to make other arrangements for the upcoming school year,” Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis said today.
“Over the past year, Frontier fell short in providing its students with the core academic programs parents and students expect of our public schools,” Tomalis said. “These issues were not just the normal difficulties typically experienced by a first-year organization, but they go to the heart of Frontier’s ability to provide quality educational opportunities to students within the confines of its charter, as well as the Charter School Law.
“Charter schools serve as quality alternatives to traditional public schools and meet the academic needs of more than 105,000 students across Pennsylvania,” Tomalis added. “For the past 15 years, charter schools have not only become a valuable fixture of Pennsylvania’s public education system, but they have made a tremendous difference in the lives of thousands of students.
“The department is ultimately responsible to students, parents and taxpayers for ensuring that Pennsylvania’s students have access to quality cyber charter programs,” Tomalis said. “It is of the utmost importance that all charter schools – brick-and-mortar and cyber – adhere to the conditions of their charter and the requirements of the Charter School Law to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used to provide students with high-quality academic programs.”
Pursuant to the Charter School Law – Article 17-A of the Public School Code – the department is responsible for granting a charter to a cyber charter school and revoking a cyber school’s charter if, after a thorough investigation, it is determined that further operation of the school would be detrimental to students.
In January 2012, the department notified Frontier’s administration that it would conduct a routine site visit in March to determine whether the school was meeting the goals of its charter and if it was in compliance with applicable laws.
During the March visit, department staff was unable to complete their onsite review due to not being provided access to the school’s records and not being permitted to interview school personnel. Following that visit, the department made repeated requests to Frontier for access to its records and instructional materials, as well as student and staff records.
During this process and without prior notice to the department, Frontier abruptly terminated its principal and teaching staff, further inhibiting the department from completing its assessment of the school.
Through its investigation, the department discovered that student records, which Frontier is required by law to maintain, were not in Frontier’s possession.
After a thorough review of the materials and information obtained during the review process, the department decided to seek termination of Frontier’s charter for the following reasons:
Failure to provide or reimburse students for all equipment, technology and services necessary for the online delivery of curriculum and instruction;
Failure to properly monitor student attendance, work progress, truancy and grades;
Failure to maintain the financial ability to provide services required by the Charter School Law;
One or more material violations of the conditions, standards or procedures contained in its written charter;
Failure to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management or audit requirements; and
Blatant violation of the Charter School Law.
This action by Frontier’s Board of Trustees puts an end to the department’s plan to seek revocation of the school’s charter.
On its website, the Department of Education maintains lists of all brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools authorized to operate in Pennsylvania. These lists can be accessed by visiting www.education.state.pa.us, clicking on “Programs” and then selecting “Charter Schools” in the drop-down menu.