A deal apparently has been struck to end contract termination proceedings that have been underway for six months against Epic Charter Schools by the sponsor of its statewide virtual charter school.
Epic’s governing board met for three hours behind closed doors Wednesday evening before returning to open session and voting to agree to proposed final consent agreement terms put forth by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board one day earlier.
The proposal will now go back to the statewide virtual school board for final approval.
Epic’s governing board vote, 4-0, with board member J.P. Franklin absent from the meeting, was made without comment by any member.
Proceedings to consider terminating the sponsorship of Epic One-on-One over alleged contract violations began in October, shortly after Oklahoma’s state auditor and inspector’s forensic audit findings were released, indicating that Epic’s operators might have violated various state laws and the terms of the operating contracts.
Immediately after Wednesday night’s vote, a written press statement was released with remarks from Epic’s governing board President Doug Scott of Tulsa.
“While we have objected to the politicization of the audit and some of its findings, we have implemented many changes it recommended to strengthen our school and make our operations more transparent,” Scott said. “We’re in a different, stronger and better place than we were six months ago and I’m proud of the hard work of this board and our school leaders. I want to thank the SVCSB and Executive Director Dr. Rebecca Wilkinson for her leadership during this period of time. Everyone involved has a servant’s heart and wants to serve children and families to the best of our ability.”
Only a few weeks ago, the attorney for Epic’s board stood before the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board trying to make a case for dismissing altogether the termination proceedings against Epic over its handling of public monies to date.
But the effort failed, and the board, which sponsors all six statewide online public schools, voted to move ahead and schedule a two-day trial for May 12-13.
At issue is whether Epic has violated the terms of its sponsorship contract and should therefore lose the statewide board’s sponsorship for Epic One-on-One, Oklahoma’s largest online public school.
According to the terms accepted by Epic on Wednesday, a Statewide Virtual Charter School Board compliance monitor will be reviewing Epic’s compliance with its operating contract and the pending settlement. That individual is to have access to financial documentation, policies and procedures, as well as Epic One-on-One’s Learning Fund records — which has been the source of great controversy and scrutiny.
Attorneys for Epic’s longtime school management company, which reportedly has made millionaires of school co-founders David Chaney and Ben Harris, have been in Oklahoma County District Court trying to block access to records of Epic’s student Learning Fund spending to date by Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd.
In the press statement, Epic school officials indicated that the school’s relationship with Epic Youth Services is in flux as a result of attempts at self-reforms already adopted by the school’s governing board.
“As a result of corrective actions made by the Epic board prior to the settlement agreement, all school personnel now report to the superintendent and the board, and EYS is no longer logistically or financially managing the school,” reads the press statement from Epic Assistant Superintendent Shelly Hickman.