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State board concurs on nonrenewal of Kinston charter school

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(The Center Square) – One of North Carolina’s oldest charter schools is preparing to close at the end of this month after the state refused to renew its charter, citing poor academic performance and a host of other problems, including financial mismanagement.

Children’s Village Academy in Kinston was originally chartered in 1997, according to the state.

There have been 14 previous nonrenewal of charters, Ashley Baquero, executive director of the North Carolina Office of Charter Schools, told The Center Square.

“This highlights the importance of monitoring all schools receiving taxpayer monies to ensure the public trust in North Carolina educational funding,” Baquero said.

Last December, the state notified Children’s Village Academy of a number of concerns, including understating financial liabilities in its financial statements, a loan it received from a board member, “unallowable costs” charged to state and federal funds, and ineffective internal controls.

In February, the state instructed the school to repay the federal government $162,000 for funds it said had been misspent, according to state documents. The school appealed that amount and in March reached a settlement with the state that lowered the repayment amount by $10,547.

In a presentation in May, the academy outlined a long list of changes to correct the state’s concerns, including a schedule to repay the federal dollars.

“Underserved, low-income families and community have relied on CVA for a warm, welcoming, and supportive school environment for almost 30 years,” the presentation said. “CVA exists to serve and support the Kinston community.”

In a June presentation on its upcoming charter renewal, the school stated, “CVA has a long history of sound student academic outcomes and not surprisingly enjoys the support of its families and the community. CVA does, however, need to considerably improve its financial, operational, and board governance compliance.”

More than 80% of the school’s 150 students are economically disadvantaged and nearly 100% are African American, the school said.

The North Carolina Charter Review Commission recommended the charter not be renewed and on June, 3, a State Board of Education panel concurred.

“We have heard for the first time at this meeting, a comprehensive plan to fix problems,” state board member Jill Camnitz said at the meeting. “However, given the long history of issues that could have and should have been addressed, at a minimum over the past two years, this panel can not in good faith base a recommendation on assertion and promises of changes to come.”

The full State Board of Education upheld the panel’s recommendation for non-renewal on Thursday.

By state law, “any assets of the school would go to Lenoir County Public Schools,” said Baquero.

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