|Pictured: Student: Gabby Werner|
UPDATE: Portland Public Schools held a meeting Monday Sept. 12, to help students and families sign up for another high school. Lorna Fast Buffalo Horse, principal of Leadership and Entrepreneurship Public Charter High school, said eight students had talked to the school about enrolling, and one has already started classes.
"We want students to start as soon as possible," she said. "I feel really sad for the school and for the families affected.
"Lots of people have been questioning the theme of the school and I think that's unfair because trying to reach students through the Arts is a recognized approach to education.
"Many charter schools start out small and if they are reaching their target population they grow. It's not easy to start a charter school because of the way the funding works. We get less money and we have to pay rent at market rates."
The Engage Me Project will hold an evening of Arts education, "Back to Cool" from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 4815 NE 7th Ave. Portland.
Erica Jayasuriya sent a public letter to media, Monday, apologizing for failing to successfully open the school.
A small group of disappointed parents and students gathered outside the building that was to be home to REAL Prep Academy. The charter school, which promised to give students an education grounded in the recording arts, has fallen apart because of poor financial management and won't open Monday Sept. 12 as planned.
The Skanner News Video: Students and parents react
|Renee Mitchell said students deserve the kind of Arts education promised at REAL Prep Charter Academy|
Excited by the Vision
Shalonda Mennefee says her oldest son, who is 17, told her, "I can't wait to go to school."
It was an excitement she'd never seen before in her children, she says, which makes it all the harder.
"I was hoping my two sons would be able to attend a school that would offer an alternative education that they would enjoy and where they would be comfortable."
Students Gabby Werner and Akasha Hays-Marshall said they were hoping to find a supportive place to learn. Hays Marshall said she had thought about dropping out when she heard the news, but knew "that's not an option."
Lakeitha Elliot, hired to tell students and families about opportunities at the school, became increasingly concerned about the lack of funds for basic equipment. Afraid of the impact on students she took the story to the press. The Skanner News Video: Lakeitha Elliot
|Students Nikolai Nyschens and Rachael Warner say they don't know what they will do|
Just 48 students were enrolled with another 15 students waiting for confirmation when the news broke. The school had planned to have at least 160 students. Charter schools receive education funding on a per student basis.
Erica Jayasuriya, the mother who pushed the vision three years ago left school early August. Under her leadership the school received – and spent close to half a mllion in federal grants. The Oregonian reports that she was paid $68,000 between March and July this year.
Tom Klein, a former administrator of another charter school, was to be the school's administrative director responsible for overseeing the finances.
'''The Oregonian' reported that Klein resigned during a meeting with school officials where questions about resources for students were raised.
Keisha Edwards who was to lead academics at the school began asking questions when she learned that there was no money available for basic supplies, or enough professional recording equipment to fulfill the school's mission.
"I feel obligated to the kids and the parents," Edwards told The Skanner. "I've stayed in it to make it right for them. This is a social justice issue.
"We need a powerful program for students with a creative, artistic vision – and it doesn't exist."
Jill Corley, an experienced charter fundraiser and grant writer was hired three weeks before the school was supposed to open to bring in the additional funds.
"I was appalled when I saw the finances," she said. They were not upfront with me or with Keisha Edwards.
After Klein resigned, he didn't respond to requests to turn over the charter's books, Corley said, so she and Edwards contacted board president Juan MCGruder to ask for immediate action.
"He never called us back."
Edwards called McGruder last Monday night, Corley said.
"He told her that because we were hired as 'a triad' that made our contracts null and void," Corley said. "But we were all hired at separate times. And never has anyone told me anything. No-one has called me.
Through other sources Corley heard that McGruder had allowed Klein to revoke his resignation.
Stunned and Confused
One man present who didn't want to be identified, but said he cared about the school, told The Skanner News those responsible for mismanaging the funds were should be held accountable.
"The kids were robbed of that opportunity and they deserve for that opportunity to be redeemed. The people responsible for misspending the money are not here. The kids are."
"This is what I don't understand. They allow a management team to take back something they pretty much set awry," she said.
For students the dilemma is what to do next. Four students told the Skanner they felt let down and confused about what to do.
"It's really disappointing," said Nikolai Nyschens. "It would have been better if we'd learned earlier."