Accounting error challenges charter school |

Accounting error challenges charter school

Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily TribuneProsser Creek Charter School student, Joe Walker, foreground, works on an assignment Friday with classmates, from left, Robert Auldridge, Robbie Terrell, Brandon Terrell and Tommy Forjone.

A financial glitch at Prosser Creek Charter School at South Lake Tahoe cost more than money.

A week before the school opened on Aug. 26, a majority of teachers left Prosser for the other South Lake Tahoe charter school because of budget concerns, officials said.

The exodus left Prosser to call upon teachers on the North Shore to temporarily teach classes until permanent replacements could be found. Jayna Gaskell, executive director for Prosser’s seven school sites, said the charter organization experienced a $300,000 revenue projection accounting error last school year.

“We did go through some financial challenges that we fixed,” Gaskell said.

About 10 teachers reportedly left Prosser for Visions in Education Charter School.

Gaskell said only one administrator, Carey Brown, contacted her before leaving.

“I never received a phone call from any of them besides Carey,” Gaskell said. “That’s the problem I have. I can’t fix what I don’t know about. I find they made this decision that ultimately affected children.”

Susan Unruh enrolled her two young children at Prosser this year on the recommendation of an acquaintance. She said she was contacted by former Prosser educators soliciting her to move her children to Visions.

When the teachers left, Gaskell said enrollment fell from about 120 students to 50.

Unruh believed the alleged solicitations were “immoral and unethical.”

“I felt that I had originally signed up with Prosser Creek because they’re a good charter school and wanted to teach kids,” Unruh said. “I certainly didn’t want to go to Visions after what they did.

“I was really unhappy with the whole staff moving out.”

No teachers could be reached for comment.

Jan Gonzales was a Prosser parent who moved her children to Visions. She was worried about the stability of Prosser and had a different educational outlook than Prosser offered.

“We made the move because our staff chose to hear what our concerns and needs were,” Gonzales said. “(Prosser) couldn’t provide us with what we wanted.”

Visions serves about 4,300 students in nine Northern California counties compared to about 900 that Prosser helps instruct in four counties. Charter schools are site-based facilities that offer independent studies that facilitate home schooling as an alternative to public education.

Carey Brown, the former site administrator at Prosser who took a position at Visions, said she didn’t contact any parents to recommend switching schools, as some accusations alleged.

“When I left, most of the parents had gone somewhere else and most of the teachers were leaving,” Brown said. “When I left, it was kind of at the end.”

Brown said she approached Gaskell, asking the executive director if she could guarantee Brown’s job security for a year. Brown said Gaskell couldn’t provide that guarantee.

“I thought, ‘Why go down with a sinking ship?’ ” Brown said.

Brown was with Prosser last year when the charter school opened. She resigned on Aug. 19, one week before the start of school.

Dianne Lederer, spokeswoman for Visions, stressed that Visions didn’t recruit the Prosser teachers.

Gaskell said the concerns for Prosser have been eased with a $300,000 loan and teacher restaffing. The school is still searching for a special education teacher and a site administrator.

A report by a state auditor is expected to arrive soon.

“Like I said, we’re going to be dealing with the same budget constraints as everyone else,” she said. “I’m comfortable saying this audit report will alleviate the concerns that everybody has.”

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