Global Academy shutdown leaves teachers in a bind

Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 3:40pm
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The school board Thursday made Nashville Global Academy’s termination official, accepting the troubled charter school’s offer to relinquish its charter contract.

Under the board’s unanimous vote, the now-defunct school must reimburse the school district approximately $500,000, the level of financial debt that led to the academy’s demise. Global Academy leaders must also conduct and submit a full audit of its monetary operations and supply the district with various financial documents and receipts.

If they fail to oblige, Global Academy would likely be subject to litigation from the school board.

But teachers who worked at Global Academy are still on the hook when it comes to their due paychecks.

Contractual agreements signed by Global Academy faculty are with the charter school instead of the school district. Hence, leaders of Global Academy, who are already coping with significant financial debt, owe teachers the remainder of their salaries.

Dave Christian, a former Global Academy teacher, said he signed a contract that paid him $34,000 per year. He was scheduled to receive bi-weekly paychecks through the summer, but said he is still owed $5,000.

“I have 46 cents left in my account,” said Christian, who claims to be considering legal action against the school. “I came here to help the inner-city disadvantaged youth, and I’m becoming disadvantaged myself. We live in low-incoming housing now, and my wife is eight months pregnant. We’re struggling to survive.”

Lou Riley, principal of Global Academy, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Parents of the 155 students who previously attended Global Academy, as well as the 24 additional students set to go there in August, have been sent letters notifying them of their new school options. Parents have through July to pick a school.

Trouble at Global Academy started not long after it opened last school year. A transportation fiasco, in which one student was left on a bus into the night, resulted in the school going on probation.

Alan Coverstone, who oversees charter schools for the district, later discovered the financial overage accumulated by the school, and asked leaders to relinquish the school’s charter. They obliged one week after the request.

School board members on Thursday applauded Coverstone’s quick recognition of Global Academy’s financial woes and speedy action.

“One positive, or one way to look at it, is that it’s good that we can move quickly to eliminate or terminate a dysfunctional school,” school board chair David Fox said. “That’s nothing to celebrate, but it’s knowing we are trying to provide good, quality education to all students.”

Fox also said the issue with Global Academy shouldn’t overshadow excellence at other charter schools.

“We do have successful charter schools and some very promising charter schools,” he said. “It’s easy in something like this to get very discouraged, but I think there’s a lot of good work that is happening.”