School Board gives nod for charter school to stay open

Klamath River Early College of the Redwoods is still digging itself out of a financial hole but will open for the 2013andndash;14 school year.

School Board members agreed to allow KRECR to open next month but stated they will review the charter school's financial progress in December to make sure its budget is balanced. Meanwhile, county Office of Education officials said KRECR fell short of its 2013 academic goals and added that improving test scores could cost money the school may not have.

"Your budget is close, yet you need to make budgetary changes to meet the academic needs of your students," Superintendent Don Olson told KRECR Executive Director Bernadette Johnson on Thursday. "I'm not here to pick at your test scores, but some things have to change and you need the funding to make that happen."

The KRECR Board of Directors entered into a memorandum of understanding with the County Office of Education in June, which stated that the school would recruit at least 119 students or find another source of funding. At that meeting, KRECR and representatives with EdTec, the school's bookkeeping consultant, reported an ending fund balance of negative $241,000 for the 2012-13 fiscal year. KRECR's funding is based on the number of students enrolled, and 119 students would be enough for it to break even in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

On Thursday, Johnson said that 99 students have said they will attend KRECR, although roughly 10 have also enrolled in local district schools just in case the charter doesn't open. Stacie Ivery, the school's new consultant with EdTec, revised the 2012-13 ending fund balance to roughly negative $177,000, which will translate to a positive ending fund balance of $61,000 for 2013-14.

Starting the year with a negative balance of $241,000 is projected to give KRECR an ending fund deficit of $9,427 in 2013-14, according to Ivery.

Johnson said she's confident that KRECR will end 2013-14 with a positive fund balance. KRECR's cash flow will improve since state funds will arrive on schedule through January, she said. The charter school also expects to curtail its practice of borrowing against its state funding. KRECR may only need to borrow money once or twice this year, Johnson said.

Johnson also reminded Board members that it's in their best interest for KRECR to remain open.

"The bottom line really is if the school doesn't open these vendors are not going to get paid at all," she said, referring to KRECR's outstanding bills. "It's really in everyone's interest to allow us to move forward with our financial plan in place and to take care of everything that we need to take care of."

Steve Godla, district assistant superintendent of instruction and educational services, said the charter fell short on its academic goals for 2013.

According to a two-year memorandum of understanding between KRECR and the County Office of Education, KRECR's academic goal was to obtain test scores of at least 40 percent proficient and advanced in English-language arts and math in 2013. The school's goal for 2014 is to have 45 percent of its students score proficient or advanced in English-language arts and math, Godla said.

On Thursday, Godla reported that 36 percent of KRECR's students scored proficient or advanced in English-language arts on the California Standardized Test. Twenty-three percent scored proficient or advanced in math, he said. Godla said he would work with Johnson to develop an improvement plan, but that will cost money.

"We're going to have some professional development," he said. "I don't know if there's a line in there for special projects, but that will cost money."

Johnson noted KRECR's math scores have improved. In an e-mail to the Triplicate on Aug. 14, she stated that KRECR's math proficiency increased by 11.11 percent from last year. Its language arts scores dropped from 45 percent last year, however. Johnson stated that KRECR's goal for the 2013-14 school year is to have 50 percent of its students score proficient or advanced in math and language arts.

"Even if math was bad overall, it was still a significant improvement," she said Thursday. "We're not celebrating it, but we're seeing our (scores) moving in the right direction."

Board President Don McArthur said KRECR has a history of digging its way out of a hole, but stated that he doesn't feel that a negative fund balance of $9,000 is a huge problem.

"My criteria that I brought up (in June) is that I wanted to avoid a mid-year catastrophe," he said. "But there's no way to avoid risking that. The way I'm thinking about the (ending fund) numbers and the gap is they're soft numbers. There's a path to something sustainable at either number."

Board member Lori Cowan said she was concerned how KRECR's tight budget would affect its students.

"As much as your financials scare me, your academics scare me a lot more," she told Johnson. "As a parent, that's frightful."

Cowan said she wanted to see KRECR's improvement plan after its teachers meet with Godla.

Even though its enrollment is less than 100 as of Thursday, Johnson said she's confident more students will choose to attend KRECR. Staffing at KRECR will be at the level it ended 2012-13 with, she said. The school also plans to hire an additional teacher on a temporary basis, but hopes to make that position permanent, Johnson said.

"It's not an option to not have our school," she said, adding that KRECR's enrollment goal is 125 students. "I'm hoping for a positive decision this evening and I think there will be an increase in student enrollment immediately following that."

KRECR will hold a parent orientation from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at its school site, 510 E. Washington Blvd. School starts Sept. 3.

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