The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board is set to hold a charter termination hearing March 8-11 for Epic One-on-One, but the controversial virtual school has filed a motion for summary judgement that asks the SVCSB to dismiss certain allegations.
The SVCSB will hold a hearing on the motion for summary judgment at 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26. The state board has been the charter authorizer for Epic One-on-One since 2014, and it voted 3-1 to enter the charter termination process in October 2020 owing to alleged contract violations. Those allegations include failure to meet the standards of fiscal management set forth in the contract as well as alleged violations of local, state, federal and tribal law.
Filed Dec. 28 by Community Strategies, the governing board of Epic Charter Schools, the motion for summary judgment argues four reasons for dismissal of the notice to terminate charter authorization.
“Epic looks forward to presenting these issues in a public meeting of the SVCSB Friday, Feb. 26. We know it will likely be the first time current members of the SVCSB will be exposed to this evidence,” Epic Charter Schools Superintendent Bart Banfield wrote in a statement to NonDoc. “We are confident the facts and law are on our side and believe our more than 55,000 students and their families and our more than 2,000 staff members deserve fairness and prompt resolution.”
In the motion, Epic asserts that since the SVCSB was aware of the sharing of administrative services between Epic One-on-One and Epic California (known as CS-CA), allegations of the situation’s impropriety should be dismissed.
The document claims that Epic had made the “intercompany agreement” to share administrative resources with CS-CA known to the SVCSB as early as 2015.
Epic also claims in the motion that, at an Aug. 9, 2016, SVCSB meeting, Assistant Attorney General and legal counsel for the SVCSB Marie Schuble presented the intercompany agreement to the board. Epic claims they were never notified that sharing administrative costs as outlined in the agreement was a violation of law or a breach of the charter contract.
Epic also asserts in the motion that since the school’s controversial Learning Fund is currently in litigation with the State Auditor & Inspector’s Office and SVCSB members have reviewed the fund and how it’s managed, it should not be used as grounds for charter authorization termination. (The Learning Fund contains state education appropriations but is managed by a private company owned by Epic’s co-founders.)
Conflicts of interest
A larger request in the motion is to have the entire notice to terminate the charter authorization agreement by the SVCSB dismissed owing to alleged conflicts of interest with the board’s chairman in October 2020, John Harrington.
Harrington cast one of the three votes required to enter the charter authorization termination process.
Epic deposed Harrington on Jan. 26, and the school’s motion states Harrington testified under oath that his company, Funds for Learning, has been in contract since 2016 with another charter school in Oklahoma, Dove Charter Schools. During the contract period, Funds for Learning has assessed Dove Charter Schools with fees totaling about $28,400, which Epic claims demonstrates the conflict of interest.
Harrington had previously claimed he was only paid between $750 and $800 by the board that oversees Dove.
“It is clear from his deposition and in the motion we will present to the Statewide Virtual Charter Schools Board, that former Chairman John Harrington led the charge against Epic, lacked any degree of impartiality and had a financial statutory conflict of interest that he never publicly disclosed but has now admitted under oath,” Banfield’s statement said.
In December, the SVCSB voted to recuse board members Phyllis Shepherd and Mathew Hamrick from hearing updates about and voting on matters related to Epic One-on-One Charter Schools owing to their own alleged conflicts of interest.
The Tulsa World discovered in October that Shepherd is the great-aunt of Epic co-founder David Chaney through social media posts in October. According to the investigative audit of Epic, Hamrick received political contributions from Chaney for his State Senate District 45 campaign in 2017.
“Moreover, the state attorney now serving as prosecutor of Epic formerly advised the SVCSB in 2016 during Epic’s charter renewal process that matters she now sees as grounds for contract termination are matters that are legal and allowed within the terms of the charter contract,” Banfield said. “The SVCSB acted on that and renewed Epic’s contract for six years. In fact, several of the matters she now argues are contract violations by Epic are matters the SVCSB has always allowed for other schools it authorizes, including the Dove virtual school and its board, from which John Harrington financially benefits.”
NonDoc reached out to the Attorney General’s Office for comment, however communications director Alex Gerszewski stated in an email that they cannot discuss Friday’s upcoming hearing or motion for summary judgement.