Charter school faces revocation hearing after going $160K in debt

JAMES ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) - A James Island charter school will argue its case to keep its doors open this week after the school district sent the school's board a revocation letter.{}As of Tuesday evening, the two sides said they were "negotiating" the school's fate, according to members of the school board as well as the school's principal."We had a meeting on it this afternoon that we can't talk about right now," Charleston County School Board trustee Todd Garrett said Tuesday. "But our primary concern was what's going to happen to the children and ensuring they get the best education they can. There are a lot of different possibilities."On Feb. 10, the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees voted to revoke the charter of Apple Charter School on James Island. According to letters sent from the district's general counsel to Apple's board of directors, the decision came after the school failed to respond to a Dec. 6 letter to Patricia Williams, Apple's principal."In short, the school has failed to achieve the goals set forth in its application with regard to enrollment and student performance," the Feb. 11 letter reads.At that point, the school owed the district more than $80,000 and was not maintaining a state-mandated full board of directors.The school had 14 days to respond to the letter, which is more than two months before Friday's revocation hearing.In the Dec. 6 letter to Williams, LaCresha Cromwell, Shmica Smalls, and Tichka Mack, CCSD's general counsel asked for "a written corrective action plan" to address a list of failures at the school, including meeting achievement goals, meeting enrollment projections, and a course of action to fix the school's negative bank balance of $160,000.According to Apple's enrollment projections, school leaders estimated 280 students in its first year and an increase to 360 students by the 2013-14 school year. However, the school opened its doors with 114 students, and by 2013 enrollment had dipped to 74 students, or 21 percent of the projection.Records from the school district also show that Apple failed to improve PASS scores, nor has it met Average Yearly Progress goals since it opened in 2010.In finances, the CCSD report shows that the school did not stay current in reimbursing employees for health benefits, leading to more than $70,000 in debt by Nov. 19.As of June 30, there was an overall negative fund of nearly $160,000."The ability of the school to pay past debt will be extremely difficult without external funding from another source," the letter to the board reads."These projections were not aspirational, they are contractual and promised in your charter application."

Before Principal Patricia Williams left school for a 4 p.m. meeting on the issue, she told ABC News 4's Stacy Jacobson she was resolved to keep the school open. She also said she did not think Friday's revocation hearing would be necessary. She promised to return for an interview, but her lawyer later told ABC News 4 she changed her mind.

Over the last two weeks, ABC News 4 has attempted to contact the members of Apple's board of directors but phone numbers for the listed members were disconnected.School board members said Apple Charter would be scheduling a public hearing before Friday. But, Williams' attorney said he had no knowledge of any such plans.