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Wilmington-area charter schools in financial noncompliance for not giving salary information

A group of charter schools in the Southeastern part of the state will face disciplinary action if they don’t soon provide the salaries of school personnel hired by a private contractor to work in the schools.

The State Board of Education voted Thursday to place the four schools run by Charter Day Schools, Inc. – Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, South Brunswick High School in Southport and Douglass Academy in Wilmington – under financial noncompliance.

The designation means that the charter school group will have 10 business days to comply with the request for information. After those ten days, the schools will be held under a financial disciplinary status, and will have another 10 days before any fines or sanctions go into effect.

The state board would decide what sanctions to take against the charter schools, and could decide to levy fines against the schools, freeze public funding or seek revocation of the charter schools ability to operate in the state, said Alexis Schauss, the school business division at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

Roger Bacon Academies, the company owned by conservative charter school founder Baker Mitchell Jr., has received millions in public funds as part of the company’s exclusive contracts to run four Wilmington-area charter schools.

Nearly 2,000 students enrolled at the four tuition-free schools this year, which draw down federal, state and local education funds. Mitchell also owns a company that leases land and school supplies to the public charter schools. Close to $9 million has gone to Mitchell’s companies over the last two years, according to the Wilmington Star-News.

The schools are the only public charter schools that haven’t provided salary information for education management contractors to the State Board of Education following a pledge from Gov. Pat McCrory that charter schools would be held to the same disclosure standards as other public schools.

In late October, an attorney for Roger Bacon Academy wrote the state saying it would disclose the information if the state agreed to classify it as a “trade secret,” to be kept confidential from the public.

Bill Cobey, the chair of the State Board of Education, said he thinks the information should be public, as it is with other charter schools and traditional public schools.

“I happen to disagree, the board happens to disagree and the governor happens to disagree,” Cobey said.

Charter schools are considered public schools, but are run by separate non-profit boards.

Buddy Collins, a state board of education member from Kernersville, was the only member to vote against holding the schools in financial noncompliance.

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