Part one of an audit of Epic Charter Schools was released by State Auditor & Inspector Cindy Byrd this week claiming that the charter schools owe Oklahoma $8.9 million for violation of a statute limiting administrative costs at such schools.
Meanwhile, a group of parents at Stillwater Public Schools have requested that a judge order the district to resume in-person classes full time.
The State Department of Education also received $15.2 million in federal grants to support districts in meeting the needs of their students.
Catch up on the week’s #coveducation news with this recap of headlines from around Oklahoma.
Epic Charter Schools audit released
A report released by the State Auditor & Inspector’s Office on Thursday claims Epic Charter Schools owe Oklahoma $8.9 million after allegedly violating state law that limits how much money a charter school can spend on administrative costs. The audit also claims the schools used state tax dollars to fund a venture in California and only repaid the money after being detected by auditors.
NonDoc reported that State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd was asked to audit the charter schools by Gov. Kevin Stitt in 2019.
“I’ve seen a lot of fraud in my 22 years, and this situation deeply concerns me,” Byrd said of the audit.
The Epic audit is being turned over to Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Byrd said the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service and the Office of Inspector General will also receive the 120-page Epic audit.
“We have received the audit and will review it,” said Alex Gerszewski, communications director for Hunter.
OKCPS changes response to Department of Education alert levels
Oklahoma City Public Schools announced Friday that the district will now only be making significant changes to instruction and activities if county COVID-19 numbers reach the Oklahoma State Department of Education Red Alert level.
Today’s state reporting shows that Oklahoma County has shifted from Orange Level Two back to Orange Level One. Superintendent Sean McDaniel said in a letter to OKCPS families and staff that consultation with OKCPS and district and state health officials confirmed that the county may be faced with a fluctuation between Orange Level One and Orange Level Two for the foreseeable future.
The change in the district’s response is to better align with guidance provided by the department of education and district and state health officials.
OKCPS will be moving forward with plans to bring pre-K and kindergarten students back to in-person learning on an A/B schedule on Monday, Oct. 19. However, due to the number of students the district will be welcoming back, school officials will consider delaying their return if the county returns to Orange Level Two next week.
First through 12th grade will return to campus on an A/B schedule on Nov.9. Alternative Education students at Putnam Heights, Emerson North and Emerson South will return on an A/B schedule on Monday, Oct. 19. Newcomer and English Language Development students will return on an A/B schedule on Monday, Oct. 26.
High school athletics and extracurricular activities will resume on Monday, Oct. 5.
Parents ask judge to order Stillwater schools to resume in-person classes
A group of parents in Stillwater and their attorney have asked a Payne County judge to order Stillwater Public Schools to resume in-person classes full time.
According to a report from News 9, the civil action asks District Court Judge Stephen Kistler to grant a temporary injunction to force the school district to return to traditional classes. The group of six parents and their attorney claim Stillwater administrators have “failed and continue to fail in [their] duty to educate students.”
This comes after Stillwater Public Schools transitioned to in-person classes on a split schedule Monday, Sept. 26, owing to rising COVID-19 transmission rates in the county. The district plans on utilizing the split schedule for four weeks and will then re-evaluate the districts needs.
Former Ponca City wrestling coaches charged with sexual misconduct
Three former wrestling coaches with Ponca City Schools have been charged after being accused of sexual misconduct involving current and former students.
The Oklahoman’s Adam Kemp reported Oct. 2 that police said the investigation began in September after a 17-year-old girl told police that former coach Dylan Schickram had massaged her in his hotel room during a January wrestling tournament. Schickram faces felony charges of first or second-degree rape and soliciting sexual conduct or communication with a minor by use of technology.
Former head wrestling coach Jaren Wynn was charged with misdemeanor harassment by use of an electronic device and permitting invitees under 21 to possess or consume alcohol or controlled dangerous substance.
Volunteer coach Justice Circle has been charged with felonies for one count of lewd or indecent acts to a child under 16 and soliciting sexual conduct or communication with a minor by use of technology. The situation was reported Sept. 30 by Peyton Yager of KFOR.
Putnam City student athletes question cancellations
Student athletes, parents and coaches from Putnam City Schools gathered at the district’s administration building Monday to question the decision to cancel all athletic activities this week.
— Cameron Jourdan (@Cam_Jourdan) September 28, 2020
The Oklahoman’s Cameron Jourdan reported that the athletes from fall and some winter sports wore their uniforms with masks, chanted and marched from a parking lot west of the administration building to the front lawn of the building. Athletes, parents and coaches questioned why athletics for their schools are being cancelled when neighboring school districts are still allowed to play.
Oklahoma City Public Schools and Millwood Public Schools have temporarily cancelled all extracurriculars — including athletic programs — owing to a rise in COVID cases in Oklahoma County, prompting the raising of alert levels to Orange Level Two.
Oklahoma Department of Education awarded $15.2 million in federal grants
The Oklahoma Department of Education has been awarded four federal grants totaling $15.2 million to support districts in meeting the needs of students.
According to a report from News on 6, officials say the largest of the four grants totals about $9 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency. A $6 million five-year ARTech grant will help create online art classes for students with limited or no access to arts programming.
A $330,000 supplemental Get Fit grant will provide technical assistance to school nurses and physical education teachers on how to safely conduct physical education during COVID-19 for the current fiscal year. A nearly $100,000 two-year grant form the U.S. Department of Agriculture will fund the FRESH Project, which has a goal of increasing fresh produce consumption in schools in southeastern Oklahoma.
Oklahoma education tweets of the week
— Jennifer Palmer (@jpalmerOKC) October 2, 2020
— OK State Dept of Ed (@oksde) October 1, 2020
I think it’s important to make feedback as personal as possible. Make them feel noticed and that you know they exist as an individual. Unusual times need creative solutions. Students struggle and we must adapt during this time. We can’t expect to force students and not us #oklaed https://t.co/y6zD5F9KtJ
— Robert Mouser (@RobertMouser) September 28, 2020
We encourage all teachers to get tested for COVID-19. See below re: testing options for #oklaed teachers & staff. @joy4ok: This voluntary testing program is an important component of a layered approach to in-person instruction that will help mitigate risk for the school community pic.twitter.com/jlx9dgUwkv
— OK State Dept of Ed (@oksde) September 28, 2020
A8) Quality instruction will happen as long as we are all healthy. We need to be working together to lower the numbers of cases. Seriously. Please wear masks, practice social distancing, and stay home when you don't feel well. #oklaed https://t.co/sBjdaoHmkA
— Twylla Hester, Ed.D. (@TwyllaHester) September 28, 2020