Frontier virtual school agrees to give up its charter

Posted: July 06, 2012

IN THE END, it took only a minute or two to bury the remains of the Frontier Virtual Charter High School.

Board members from the Philly-based cyber-school held a brief emergency meeting by phone Thursday afternoon and agreed unanimously to surrender the school's charter, rather than face a revocation hearing in Harrisburg later this month.

It wasn't much of a choice.

The state Department of Education filed charges this week to have Frontier's charter revoked, and released a staggering amount of evidence that showed that the school had numerous violations of the Charter School Law.

There was seemingly no end to the school's problems, but some stood out more than others:

Frontier didn't supply students with promised laptops, printers and Internet reimbursements, the state said.

The school's administrators didn't properly monitor attendance, truancy and grades, according to investigators.

A "significant" amount of money was spent on nonschool expenses, the state said, including trips to restaurants and cash purchases that weren't backed with the receipts.

The school failed to provide many of the classes it had offered students.

"Over the past year, Frontier fell short in providing its students with the core academic programs parents and teachers expect of our public schools," Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis said in a statement that was released to the media. "These issues were not just the normal difficulties typically experienced by a first-year organization, but they go to the heart of Frontier's ability to provide quality educational opportunities to students within the confines of its charter, as well as the Charter School Law."

The school's woes were exposed by the Daily News in March, when Frontier's CEO, John Craig, unexpectedly laid off the teaching staff and the principal.

The school existed in a state of limbo for weeks, and state investigators said that Frontier scrambled at the end of the school year to create credit packets to help students pass.

Brian Leinhauser, Frontier's solicitor, said that the school's board would release a statement Friday.

Frontier may be finished, but the school's former teachers — who worked for half-pay for most of the year — are still trying to recoup lost wages.

"We'll be bringing a lawsuit against Dr. Craig and some other individuals," said Gregory Shields, an attorney who represents several former Frontier teachers.

Contact David Gambacorta at 215-854-5994 or gambacd@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter at @dgambacorta.

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