Schenectady County

International Charter School will get $740K

The state will send more than $740,000 in aid to the International Charter School of Schenectady to
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The state will send more than $740,000 in aid to the International Charter School of Schenectady to make up for money charter school officials say the city school district improperly held back.

In December, the charter school filed what is called an “intercept” with the state Education Department and state Comptroller’s Office to receive the $741,601 it says it is owed from the Schenectady City School District. The charter school receives state aid of $9,500 annually for each student that attends, money that would go to the city district if the student attended there.

Jonathan Berman, a spokesman for the state Education Department, said in an e-mail that the department has told the Comptroller’s Office to take $741,601 of the Schenectady district’s aid and send it to the charter school.

The decision follows a months-long dispute between the charter school and the district.

Harold Gordon, attorney for the charter school, said it sends a bill every other month for the students it has enrolled. He said the issue came to a head in November, when the city school district was about $700,000 short on payments due.

“Needless to say, it caused unnecessary inconvenience,” Gordon said.

They filed the formal process to get this aid, which he said the charter school should receive on Friday.

Schenectady Superintendent Eric Ely said he believes the Education Department erred. The district withheld the money because he thought the charter school did not provide accurate enrollment figures. He said the charter school did not provide proper documentation including proofs of residency for enrolled students.

‘FRAUD COMMITTED’

“We believe there’s fraud being committed against the Schenectady taxpayers,” he said.

In July, he said the charter school sent them a bill for 715 students. The district paid for 636 students and the charter school only provided proof of 385 resident students, according to a letter he wrote to then-Director Sam Penceal on Nov. 5. In August, the charter school sent a bill for 701 students, the district paid for 587 students and only had proof of 389 resident students.

Then, for the November bill, Ely said the charter school said it had 576 students. However, Ely said adequate documentation was not provided and the city district could only account for 384 students.

On Nov. 5, he sent a letter to Penceal expressing his concerns. “I got no response,” he said.

Penceal was fired Jan. 21.

The next correspondence Ely received was on Jan. 10, from state officials saying the district had underpaid the charter school.

Ely said the charter school since then has provided some documentation on proof of residency. However, he said the Schenectady School District may owe an amount in the range of $200,000, not the $700,000 figure. That is why he did not pay. “I can’t do that and be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of Schenectady,” he said.

The district is exploring its options to appeal the state’s decision, but Ely could not cite specifics. The district does plan to file a complaint with the SUNY Board of Trustees.

He also said the state “fast-tracked” this issue when these items normally take more than a year to resolve.

Ely added that 10 students have recently transferred back to the district from the charter school.

Charter school Business Manager Lori Veshia said the school stands by its enrollment numbers.

“Everything is updated every time I do a new billing,” she said.

Gordon added that state law says that the district and the charter school are supposed to work out any discrepancies in the aid given for the amount of students at the end of the school year — not during the year.

This dispute is just the latest in a series of clashes between the district and the charter school. City district officials were opposed to the school when it was first announced in 1999. They criticized the curriculum of then-management company SABIS Educational Systems and opposed the loss of funding from state aid.

In December 2005, the charter school purchased he former Draper School in Rotterdam and began serving students there in January 2006.

Categories: Schenectady County

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