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Foxx charter school faces allotment restriction, ‘aggressive monitoring’ from state

EAST SPENCER — The Essie Mae Kiser Foxx Charter School is under an “allotment restriction” and “aggressive monitoring” after state officials raised concerns about administrative and financial matters last week.

Alex Quigley, chairman of the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board, last week told representatives of the school that it is in a serious position financially. Still near the start of the school year, the school has already drawn down a third of its allotted state funding, Quigley said during last week’s meeting.

Now under an allotment restriction, the school will receive a limited amount of its total funding each month, with one board member calling it “a lock box with a drip.”

When in tough financial spots, Quigley said, some schools draw large pots of their state money and spend their allocations before the year ends. And board members told representatives of the Foxx school last week that it would have enough money from the state to pay its bills — something that’s been a problem of late.

Dave Machado, director of the Office of Charter Schools, told the Post this week that the school is not in imminent danger of being shut down and the monitoring isn’t some form of probation. But the state’s increased scrutiny of operations is something happening for fewer than five schools in North Carolina, Machado said.

“I do not anticipate that the Charter School Advisory Board will recommend that the school will be closed,” he said. “They have requested us to do some aggressive monitoring.”

At their meeting, Charter School Advisory Board members implied that the school might not remain open through the end of the school year.

Among other things, the “aggressive monitoring” involves providing payroll, budget and other information on a “much more regular basis.”

The Office of Charter Schools visited the Foxx school after the board meeting last week to do a head count of students and observe the rigor of the school’s curriculum, he said. The school has an enrollment of 125.

Machado told the Post that staffers from the Office of Charter Schools were pleased to see that the number of students at the school during the visit matched what the state had been told. He said the state staff also was pleased with conversations with administrators and Principal James Fisher.

Part of the tumultuous situation in which the school finds itself is a result of its relationship with Raleigh-based Torchlight Academy Services, which the school ended earlier this summer because of fiscal and operational concerns. Now, school staff members are having to oversee tasks for which Torchlight was formerly responsible.

Tina Foxx Wallace, who chairs the Foxx school’s board of directors, told the Charter School Advisory Board last week that the school has been working to recover from several vendor deficits.

She said the school was “seriously delinquent” with its landlord.

“Services have been at risk of being terminated,” she said.

The school has been able to stabilize its operations, she said, in part because of the “persistence of board members and the local community.”

She was not available for an interview this week to elaborate on the school’s current status.

While Quigley said it is secondary to financial and operational concerns, the addition of Kenneth Lydell Muhammad El, formerly Kenneth Foxx, to the Foxx school’s board raised concerns, too, because of his previous felony convictions from his time as mayor of East Spencer. The school’s first charter application was denied in 2015, with the Charter School Advisory Board citing those charges.

Muhammad joined the board of Essie Mae Kiser Foxx Charter School, which is named after his mother, in May.

Speaking to the Salisbury Post, Muhammad said he’s not too worried about state concerns because “they don’t have the power to take me off the board.”

“They don’t have the right to use their public position as a punitive position. I’ve served the time and paid my debt to society,” Muhammad said.

While he noted that he is still new to the board, Muhammad said the school is headed in the right direction and that Principal Fisher “has a good vision.”

Muhammad said having a school is vital for the town of East Spencer. Foxx Charter School is the only one in the town limits.

“When you live in East Spencer for as long as I have, you understand,” Muhammad said.

The town has a poverty rate of 38.6%, according to the U.S. Census’ 2017 American Community Survey.

“It’s really a miracle that we don’t have problems like a high crime rate and a high violent crime rate,” Muhammad said. “It’s by a stroke of God that we’ve been able to avoid some of the things in Salisbury. … As Rowan County is growing more and more, it would be insane not to have a school here.”

Contact editor Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4248.

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