Oasis Charter loses its charter
School board unanimously votes to revoke school's charter
It appears to be the end of the road for Oasis Charter Academy.
The Hesperia Unified School District school board voted Monday night to revoke the school's charter. To continue operation, the school would need to find another district to approve its charter and supervise its operations.
The problem, according to Superintendent Mark McKinney, were the five-year-old school's financial problems.
"We have asked for an investigation of the finances," McKinney said Monday night. "This has nothing to do with the instructional program or the instructional staff."
According to Oasis director Cynthia Ferguson, the school took out a loan in 2004 to pay for start-up expenses. But state law requires charter schools spend 80 percent of their revenue on instructional services, benefits and salaries. And that left little money for a smaller school like Oasis was for most of its existence to repay its debts. Ferguson had argued at the May 9 school board meeting that now that the student body had grown to more than 100 students, they would have sufficient operating capital to repay their debts.
But in the meantime, the money problems just kept piling up. According to a PowerPoint presentation made by McKinney at the meeting, paychecks for five employees had been delayed, personnel and payroll files for current and former employees were missing, workers compensation payments have not been consistently paid, complete payments were not made to employees' 403(b) retirement plans, the school has accumulated $79,420 in tax penalties and the school ended the 2007-2008 school year $194,692 in the hole.
On May 19, the board voted to give Oasis an extra 30 days to get their financial affairs in order.
"Unfortunately, the issues have not been resolved to our satisfaction," McKinney's final PowerPoint slide reads.
"Since then, they've sent us notification that they're dissolving themselves," McKinney said.
In a letter dated July 15, Ferguson told the school district that Oasis was shutting its doors as of June 30.
"In our process to come to this decision," Ferguson's letter reads in part, "It was always in our minds to keep the school operating somehow. We have found that avenue. Another well established charter school that operates a similar program of independent study has decided to start a satellite site in the Victor Valley area and has offered to service our students if the students and their parents so choose. Since we have decided to close our school they have taken it upon themselves to contact the landlord of our facility and have negotiated a new lease agreement for that facility. We are appreciative and relieved that there is this opportunity for our students. That school is Desert Sands Charter High School."
District staff recommended to the board that the school's charter be revoked, and the board agreed, voting 5-0 to remove Oasis' charter.
The Hesperia Road K-12 charter school taught 147 students by the end of the 2007-2008 school year and had nine employees, five of them teachers.
Ferguson did not speak at Monday's school board meeting and was not available for comment on Tuesday.
The next meeting of the Hesperia Unified School District school board will be held on August 18 at 6 p.m. in the Hesperia Administration and Educational Support Center, 15576 Main Street.
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.