UNION TWP.—Northwest Area school officials said Wednesday night they received a swift answer from the state Department of Education about paying cyber charter invoices.
The answer: Pay or it’ll be deducted from your state subsidy.
That’s what the state agency did this month. It was stated at the school board meeting Wednesday that $118,763 for Argo Cyber Charter School and $4,916.38 for Bear Creek Charter School were deducted from Northwest’s subsidy after the board voted in February to table payment of bills to these schools.
Superintendent Ronald Grevera said that soon after the February meeting, the district received a letter from the Department of Education stating a deduction would be executed. But Grevera said the matter hasn’t changed his view on cyber schools.
“I’m opposed to cyber schools because they lack accountability and their record of achievement is low,” he said.
“I maintain the money we have to remit would go a long way in solving the deficit we have in our preliminary budget … but we have no flexibility to challenge these invoices,” he said.
John Audi, school solicitor, said his research determined that payment to cyber schools is written into state law and the only recourse open to a district is to file an appeal for a hearing at which it must be demonstrated how cyber schools are not functioning legally.
Otherwise, Audi said, it was his finding that if payment isn’t made “you face garnishment.”
School directors Randy Tomasacci, Mark Lehnowsky and Michael Kreidler spoke out against the process.
“The language of the law is flawed and Harrisburg is weak in recognizing the need for change,” Kriedler said. He also charged that state legislators lack the fortitude to “enact changes.”
On the heels of this debate, the board also approved payment of $9,832.75 to Commonwealth Connections cyber school and $3,258.75 to Pa. Leadership cyber school.
Grevera clarified that unlike his attitude toward cyber charter schools, he regards the Bear Creek Charter School as an effective and highly credible institution.
Like Kreidler, Lehnowsky said he believes public pressure is needed to amend state law.
In other business, the board reacted favorably to an effort by Jennifer Oiler, director of special education, to raise an estimated $30,000 for a proposed trip to Disney World by life-skill students in 2015. Oiler said a series of fundraisers would be conducted throughout the Northwest Area community.
Oiler said the project will also serve as a learning experience for students with special needs.
In conjunction with fundraising, the board adopted a policy requiring booster clubs to function under the control of the school board. Grevera said these clubs will have to be recognized by the board and programs conducted under the Northwest Area name be submitted for approval.
Kreidler, who chairs the policy committee, said, “We see a need for a uniform policy.”
Another aspect was broached by Tomasacci who said that a roster of club officers must be submitted in advance to the board for approval.
In other matters, the board approved the appointment of Alvah Hoover as an educational consultant at $25 per student; selected Yost Excavation, $4,750, for demolition work at 215 Thorne Hill Road; accepted the bid of Ecological Associates, $1,150, for wetland evaluation work; and acted to delete Jared Moss (who sold his buses) as a transportation vendor.
Grevera also commented that bridge reconstruction on rural roads in the district this spring will result in re-routing of buses and possible delays.