Penn. Virtual School Agrees to Give Up Charter

by guest blogger Mike Bock

Looks like the craziness surrounding Philadelphia’s Frontier Virtual Charter High School is reaching a stopping point: the 85-student charter school complied with Pennsylvania’s Department of Education and surrendered its charter Thursday.

State Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis sent a letter in June requesting that Frontier give up its charter, but the school did not initially comply. The board continued to meet, and even discussed plans for hiring more teachers and expanding their student base in the upcoming school year, the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

But on Thursday, Frontier agreed to shut down after the Department of Education filed court documents to revoke the charter. A statement posted to the school’s website Friday said some of the state board’s allegations were made “in error” and that the board rejected an offer from Frontier to “compromise,” by suspending its charter until it could improve its operations.

The statement said Frontier ultimately decided that a continued fight to have its charter reinstated would be too costly and that the “deck was stacked against the school.”

According to a press release from Tomalis and Pennsylvania’s education department, the decision to revoke Frontier’s charter came after a routine site visit in March revealed a number of serious issues regarding the quality of the school:

“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.”

Here are some of the more lurid details, as cited by the Reading Eagle:
“Some of the most egregious violations cited in the (court) documents included failing to provide all students with computers and Internet access… not monitoring student attendance or progress… and not living up to the school’s charter, which stated that students would learn two languages (the school fired its only foreign language teacher in November.)”

Staff Writer Jason Tomassini contributed to this report.

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