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Termination proceedings against Epic Charter Schools delayed once more

Termination proceedings against Epic Charter Schools delayed once more

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The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board will not meet Friday, which will push back its scheduled contract termination proceedings against Epic Charter Schools.

In late October, the board heeded the recommendation of Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Marie Schuble and voted to begin proceedings to determine whether to end its sponsorship contract with Epic, the operator of Oklahoma’s largest online public school, Epic One-on-One.

The move was based on new investigative audit findings from the state that found Epic’s operators may have violated various state laws and their contract terms for fiscal management, as well as for “good cause.”

The original dates set for January were pushed back to March 8-11, but Thursday brought a new delay.

The Statewide Virtual school board canceled a Friday meeting at which it was set to hear Epic’s motion to dismiss the early March termination proceedings altogether. Contacted by the Tulsa World, board President Robert Franklin explained that the process needed to be pushed back because of recent weather.

“The ice and snow played havoc on personal and professional schedules for the people involved,” Franklin told the World. “The SVCSB and Epic One-on-One have both agreed to delay the hearing on the Motion for Summary Judgment for approximately two weeks. The delay is not prejudicial to either party, simply agreed to by both parties.”

Franklin said the two sides are still ironing out new dates for the Statewide Virtual school board to consider Epic’s motion for dismissal and for the termination proceedings.

On Thursday evening, Epic Charter Schools’ own governing board accepted the resignation of a third longtime board member since the release of the critical state audit.

Board member Adam Reynolds submitted his resignation, citing a need to focus on his own businesses. Liberty Mitchell resigned in December, citing a relocation to Texas, and Mike Cantrell resigned in January, citing health concerns.

The Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector’s Oct. 1 report found oversight to be lacking on the part of Epic’s “handpicked” governing board members, selected by school co-founders David Chaney and Ben Harris, “whose for-profit school management company contract and performance should be overseen by an independent board,” the report states.

The Oklahoma State Board of Education, which accredits all public schools in Oklahoma, has already demanded back $11.2 million in taxpayer funds based on the state’s investigative audit.

Initial audit findings include chronically inaccurate cost accounting by Epic to state education officials that reportedly allowed school co-founders Harris and Chaney to boost their personal earnings by nearly $2 million through their for-profit charter school management company.

That for-profit company, Epic Youth Services, was found to have “improperly transferred” $203,000 in Oklahoma taxpayer dollars from the student Learning Fund account to help cover payroll shortages at Epic’s California charter school.

The forensic audit also states that Epic has improperly comingled, or mixed, public dollars allocated for its two separate charter schools, despite the terms of Epic’s sponsorship contracts prohibiting comingling of funds or requiring separate accounts.

Epic One-on-One was founded in 2010 and is currently authorized by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.

A few years ago, Epic added Epic Blended Learning Centers, a separate school model sponsored by Rose State College that offers students in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties a blend of at-home and in-classroom studies.

Statewide board begins contract termination proceedings against Epic

Statewide board begins contract termination proceedings against Epic Charter Schools.

Epic Charter Schools: A Tulsa World investigation

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Staff Writer

I'm a projects reporter, examining key education topics and other local issues. Since joining the Tulsa World in 1999, I have been a three-time winner of Oklahoma’s top award for investigative reporting by an individual. Phone: 918-581-8470

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