CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Public Schools officials said the Chicago Virtual Charter School could end up being closed if officials don’t sufficiently address academic and financial problems.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory has been digging into the troubles at CVCS, which include missing curriculum, high staff turnover, and questionable spending.
CVCS board chairman Matthew Lewellen asked Victory to leave a town hall meeting he promised to hold Wednesday night, after sending parents a letter about the reports on the school’s financial and academic issues.
“It’s not covered under the Open Meetings Act,” Lewellen said.
CBS 2 left the meeting, but tuned in online.
A representative from the CPS office of incubation and improvement told parents they have been questioning CVCS administrators since October. She explained the school is on academic and financial probation, and if things don’t improve, CVCS could move from the charter school warning list to the “schools closed” list.
“I’m really sad, because one of my friends actually did leave the school, because his mom wasn’t happy with the curriculum, and I have a ton of friends, and it’d be really sad if I didn’t get to see them,” eighth grader Cillian Halbleib said.
While starting the year on academic probation, CVCS tried to right the ship by changing academic probation, but educational materials were delayed. Parents and teachers said students went without their coursework for as long as three weeks.
Meantime, payroll records obtained by CBS 2 show at least 22 CVCS employees resigned over the past year. After calling current and former educators to cross-reference all 22 departures, CBS 2 calculated a turnover rate of nearly 30 percent.
Among the questionable spending at CVCS, school officials reimbursed director of strategy Angela Richardson-Bryant $3,752 to fly between Chicago and her home in Atlanta.
Those flights were first paid for when Richardson-Bryant was the school’s board president, a volunteer position. CVCS then promoted her to director of strategy, knowing she lived out of state. Her travel costs were accompanied by a $135,000 salary.
“Somebody’s got a $26,000 raise for the worse performance in the world. You can tape this,” CVCS parent John Hebert said.
In addition to monthly financial checkups of CVCS, the school district plans a site visit in April.
“I think CPS’s role is fine, except that they need to have a little more teeth,” Hebert said. “They need to be more hands-on if they’re going to have these kinds of schools.”
Parents left the CVCS town hall meeting with mixed feelings about the road ahead.
“The school itself is amazing when the model is working correctly. Unfortunately, we are being poorly managed right now, and it has been that way for a few years,” Michele Gomez said.
CVCS parent Lisa Varga said she thought the meeting went well.
“I’m actually kind of hopeful now that we voiced our opinions,” she said.
The people in charge of CVCS declined to talk before and after the meeting. CPS representatives also declined to comment.