NC Board of Education to decide fate of Wake Co. charter school accused of false reporting, unqualified staff

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The North Carolina Board of Education will meet Thursday to decide on what kind of action to take against a Wake County charter school.

Torchlight Academy was given until Wednesday morning to submit documentation showing they were in compliance with state and federal special education laws. During Wednesday’s BOE meeting, leaders said the school has submitted documentation.

The board was scheduled to talk about the materials during a closed-door session. The board will discuss what steps to take next during their Thursday meeting.

Last month, the school was placed on Level 3 Governance Noncompliance Status, the most severe level of probation. That means the charter school could potentially lose its license to operate if the board determines it is still not in state compliance.

The state BOE previously said the school has had long-standing issues with its special education program, listing the following reasons:

  • Grossly negligent administrative oversight of the EC program;
  • Failure to properly implement the Individualized Education Program process as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act;
  • Alteration and falsification of EC student records;
  • Lack of federally mandated “Maintenance of Effort” for the previous three (3) consecutive years;
  • Inability and/or failure to provide access by NCDPI EC staff to EC student and finance records when requested;
  • Lack of qualified staff in the EC program;
  • Falsely reporting staff’s compliance with Every Child Accountability and Tracking System (ECATS) training; and
  • Failure to provide all documentation requested by DPI’s EC Division.

During a December meeting, board member Eric Davis said, “The board remains concerned that Torchlight appears to have engaged in intentional misconduct such as altering documents to change dates and documents on student IEPs.”

Davis also said school leadership had not taken responsibility either.

“Rather than acknowledge its failures, Torchlight continues to blame the Office of Charter Schools and DPI’s Exceptional Children’s Division,” Davis said.

CBS 17 called the school to see what it had to say at the time but did not hear back.

In its written response to the state, Torchlight said the recommendation for probation is “unwarranted and overly severe.” The school added that the Office of Charter Schools “exaggerated the purported non-compliance”.

Thursday’s board meeting begins at 9 a.m.

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