Conduct a Transparency Investigation of Mountain Phoenix Community School Governing Council decision making. Is this a Rogue Charter School Board?
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Charter schools provide a variety of curriculums and methodologies, many students experience emotional and academic success for the first time through the choices offered by these schools. Not for Profit publically funded charters are created by inspired parents and grass roots community support.
Charter schools must have a Board of Directors (a.k.a. Board of Trustees, Governing Council) that is authorized by the Charter Bylaws, Federal, State, and local laws to ensure the school is legally and morally fulfilling the stipulations of the Charter Agreement with the local School District. Unfortunately, there are regular cases of Charter Schools having to shut down because of a lack of appropriate and knowledgeable Governance oversight. Well-meaning parents become part-time school volunteers by securing seats on the Board’s Governance Council. But do these individuals provide the necessary know-how, professional experience to appropriately oversee complex, multi-million dollar budgets?
One such case has occurred in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Mountain Phoenix Community School has been recognized as a pioneer and leader in Waldorf-inspired education across the country. It had experienced phenomenal growth, attracted some of the very best Waldorf trained teachers, and became a center of professional Waldorf conferences. Yet during this past year, questionable decisions by the Governing Council must be examined by Nuveen Investments, the Private Bondholder who officially stated that the school has defaulted on contractual covenants and requirements for several months now. Under the oversight of the Governing Council, it appears that actions taken by the Council might be more than breaking just contractual obligations. Have their actions supported the greater good of the students, their families, and the Charter movement as a whole?
In a letter addressed to the Governing Council as well as Jeffco School District representatives, the Bondholder of the school and property (Nuveen Investments) stated:
My company is the investment advisor for the mutual funds that hold a majority of the bonds outstanding (87%). I have become aware that Mountain Phoenix is in default of several of the covenants and requirements of the loan agreement for the Series 2012 bonds. For instance, the school violated the limitation on additional indebtedness, and has also been in violation of the liquidity covenant. Timely and complete financial reporting required by the agreement has also been neglected.
This letter submitted for Public Record further stated:
In the interim, I ask that you do not make any substantive changes to the personnel of the school, (nor any change to the bond trustee). I also ask that you consider your fiduciary responsibilities in any of the decisions that your make, and act in the best interests of your two most important stakeholders – your students and your investors. Please also keep in mind that our interests are very much aligned and we want nothing more than for Mountain Phoenix to thrive.
Andrew Clark VP, Senior Research Analyst; Nuveen Asset Management, April 29th, 2014
* Did the Governing Council inappropriately take as a “false claim,” without notification, additional indebtedness as the Bondholder states? Is it the loan that the Council received from Jeffco School District?
*Why has the Board still not taken advantage of a recent initiative that taxpaying voters approved? The earmarked funds to construct gates and fences as safety features for the children including modern security measures have not been spent. The money was appropriated, but why does the campus remain unsafe and vulnerable for the children and the staff!
* Even though stipulated in the Bylaws, why hasn’t this self-appointed Board still not embraced “strategic planning”? Where are the solutions for finding room for the expanding student population? Why does the newly constructed middle school remain unfinished and yet allow class activities in unfinished, unlicensed classrooms?
* Is it okay that there are only 1 of 6 Members who were elected? There’s been no Election Process when school Bylaws say there is supposed to be one. How do self-appointments meet the needs and desires of the entire community?
*The Bondholder of the property stated “do not make any substantive changes to the personnel of the school”. Why did the Board ignore this directive and reorganize the school without community input during the summer hiatus? Is it in the best interest of the students that nearly half of the certified Waldorf professionals on campus are no longer present on the first day of school? What did these professionals do during the summer that caused them to no longer have employment?
Across the nation, charter school Governing Board Members sometimes act out of ignorance and pride, destroying the dreams of many parents and their children. If you support alternative education in the public school setting through the Charter School movement, we ask that you sign this petition.
We are asking that the Bondholder, Nuveen Investments investigate the financial actions and decision making that this Council has done this past year. If Nuveen Investments really want “nothing more than for Mountain Phoenix to thrive” then please, can you find answers to these questions? Has this Board fulfilled its obligation to act on behalf of the good of the charter community? Has this self-appointed Board acted appropriately and legally? Will the Bondholder submit legal proposals to legislatures to prevent Rogue Boards from hijacking successfully functioning Charter Schools in the future?
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