DeLaSalle Charter school is in financial trouble and has been placed on the state’s “financial stressed” list.
The school’s former superintendent was let go nearly two months ago and new leaders now say the problem can be fixed, but people will have to be laid off.
The Kansas City charter and alternative school is the only one in Missouri stuck in this financial corner.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education put the charter on the list in October for having reserve funding less than the state-mandated 3 percent of the school’s operating budget.
Phyllis Chase, director of the Charter School Center at UMKC, which sponsors DeLaSalle, said that for years the school had been overstating its enrollment an student attendance to the state.
“DeLaSalle has had a history of over-forecasting the number of students enrolled and the attendance of students,” Chase said.
At the end of the year when the school had to return the per-pupil dollars it had taken in for students who never enrolled or rarely showed up DeLaSalle was siphoning off its reserve to pay back the state. Two or three years of this practice, Chase said, damaged the school’s financial solvency.
The problems were discovered through an internal audit. Nothing that rose to the level of criminal was discovered, Chase said.
But, she said, “had we not intervened, there was a possibility of the school having to close at the end of this calendar year.”
To fix the problem at DeLaSalle, Chase said, “We have to live within our means.”
Six weeks ago the school hired Elizabeth Ann Sanders as executive director and brought in Gary Ballard, a retired local business man, as interim chief financial officer. Ballard who is a former member of the DeLaSalle board of trustees, has agreed to help as a volunteer to get the school’s finances in order.
Last year Sanders, a former assistant superintendent in the Kansas City Public School District, was awarded the American Association of School Administrators’ Effie H. Jones Humanitarian Award for “dedicating her life to improving the quality of education and the quality of life for vulnerable children.”
She had previously been director of senior high education for the Olathe school district and was among the first African-American principals in the Blue Valley school district.
Operating a high school-only program, Sanders said, is expensive, because instead of having one teacher in a class that covers all subjects — the way elementary schools operate — high schools teachers are subject specific. You need a math teacher, an English teacher, a science teacher and so on.
“One of the first things that will happen is right-sizing,” Sanders said. An efficiency plan will mean several people on the staff and administrative side will likely be let go. No teachers will be laid off.
DeLaSalle, is an alternative high school that serves about 200 students who had not been successful, for various reasons, in the traditional high school setting.
The school has until Dec. 15 to submit a three-year turnaround and sustainability plan to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The state will continue to monitor the school through its recovery.