The challenges of overseeing charter schools’ finances, which I wrote about Tuesday, aren’t limited to San Diego Unified School District.

Today, the North County Times reported that Eagles Peak Charter School in Vista owes roughly $7.3 million to the state, based on a county Office of Education audit. The money was paid to the school based on inaccurate attendance counts, which make up the bulk of school funding.

Because the Vista school is still open, California may have a chance to recoup that funding. However, in San Diego, the district has had few options for collecting debts from charters after they close. Currently, shuttered charters owe more than $300,000 to the district. District staff said the money comes from the school district’s general fund.

Another problem that parallels San Diego’s dilemma is the question of appropriate spending by charter schools. None of the Eagles Peak directors has been charged with financial misconduct or any other crime, according to the Times, but credit card expenses haven’t been well-documented. That makes it difficult to gauge whether purchases were justified:

The (county) report specifically examines several decisions and transactions by former Eagles Peak Executive Director Kathleen Hermsmeyer and her management team, including $18,284 worth of food purchases, $32,458 in balance transfers onto school credit cards and the lease of a beach-front condominium for visiting administrators.

Hermsmeyer didn’t return phone calls this week. No charges of any kind have been brought against her.

Because school officials never asked for documentation of those credit card expenses, the auditors say it’s impossible to determine exactly where that money went. When Hermsmeyer parted ways with the school earlier this year, the Eagles Peak board signed an agreement saying it would not seek to recoup any money.

EMILY ALPERT

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