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Charter School To Close; CMS Hustles To Accomodate Students

Davie Hinshaw
Charlotte Observer

StudentFirst charter school in West Charlotte is closing its doors next week due to financial problems. That means CMS will have to find room for most of their 260 students to finish out the year and the school district won’t get reimbursed for that expense.

Kids at StudentFirst charter will have their last day at the school next Friday. After that, many of them will be headed to their local CMS schools. 

“It’s unfortunate that this is a transition late in the year, but our staff is well poised to welcome those students back,” says Scott McCully who oversees student placement at CMS.

Those students come from all over the county. So many schools will only have to make room for an extra student or two. But McCully says a couple schools may be taking on another 20 students. The district doesn’t expect to receive any state money for them. 

StudentFirst received $1.6 million from the state for the year.  CMS paid the school another $500,000 in local money, spread out over several months.

StudentFirst started in 2001 as a private school.  But it converted to a charter school this year.  Right off the bat, the school encountered a lot of financial problems.  As the Charlotte Observer reported, the school was staffed for more than 400 students, but served closer to 340 students when it opened. There were also many cases of spending that went undocumented. The school’s board ended up firing the charter’s administrators and getting a new principal.  But their troubles extended beyond finances. 

“There were questions about their programming for students with disabilities and whether that had been implemented.  And there were a lot of questions that were also asked by the advisory board related to the governance of the school, what was really taking place, had they violated open meetings law in the past,” says Joel Medley, the director of the state office that oversees charters.   

Last month, the advisory board gave the school 30 days to come up with a plan to get the school on course and pay back $600,000.  Earlier this week, Student First’s board voted to close the school.  In a press release, the school said a lawsuit by the fired administrators, decreases in funding, and extensive publicity severely hampered Student First’s ability to fulfill its mission.