North Star appeals to state board to save school

Officials say they won't get a fair hearing from Meridian trustees.

broberts@idahostatesman.comJuly 25, 2013 

North Star Charter School wants the State Board of Education to intervene in its fight with the Meridian School District.

North Star officials on Tuesday asked the Ed Board to tell Meridian to stop a process that could lead to revoking the school's charter and instead hold its own hearing on the school's fate.

State officials say Idaho law doesn't give the board the authority to stop Meridian's revocation process. North Star can appeal a decision if Meridian revokes the school's operating charter, but there's no evidence that has occurred.

North Star accused the Meridian district of making mistakes in its handling of the initial vote to revoke the school's charter on grounds that North Star was not financially stable.

The district did not consider steps North Star had taken to improve its financial situation, including getting bondholders to temporarily forgo collection of more than $800,000 in payments to help ease the school's financial burden, North Star said.

Trustees worried that an interim agreement with bondholders could easily be terminated, leaving nearly 1,000 students with no place to attend school. North Star officials say trustees ignored financial information provided to the district that such a possibility was unlikely.

School officials also say the district has a conflict of interest on voting to revoke the charter because it could possibly get income from an emergency levy if it had to absorb the school's 900 students at a time when the district has said it is facing dwindling resources.

Continuing with a public hearing would be a waste of time and resources, North Star officials say.

"We are not after their kids," said Linda Clark, Meridian School District superintendent. "(The school) is not solvent."

Jim Miller, North Star's board chairman, said a short-term agreement with bondholders has given the school enough money to operate for the next school year. But if it cannot arrive at a long-term agreement, the school might not be able to stay open.

There's dispute about how the board handled the North Star case, starting with a June 25 vote.

In the spring, the Meridian district issued a notice of defect to North Star Charter School as the school faced financial problems growing out of bond payments it was making on its school building.

On June 25, the board was unanimous on what it said at the time was a vote to revoke the charter.

North Star argued that the district should have given a notice of intent to North Star, and then scheduled a public hearing and a final vote.

Clark said this week that the district followed the proper process. The June 25 vote was to give North Star notice that the district would revoke its charter; Clark said the board has an "error in the wording."

The district still needs to schedule a public hearing and final vote, she said.

Bill Roberts: 377-6408

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