Despite successes, Beach charter school dogged by administrative issues

Green Run Collegiate, a public charter school in Virginia Beach and the only one in South Hampton Roads, has put up some of the district’s highest Standards of Learning scores since opening in 2013, is fully accredited and has a higher percentage of minority students and those from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds than the district average.

“GRC is a special place,” Barbara Winn, the head of the school told the Virginia Beach School Board on Wednesday.

Despite the academic success, administrative problems have caused concern for members of the community and School Board.

The biggest issue is that the charter, which is run by its own governing board, still lacks the nonprofit status that will allow it to raise private operating revenue. The expectation that Green Run Collegiate would be able to draw on private funds was a major selling point when the School Board approved the school’s charter.

Currently, the school is primarily funded through the Virginia Beach City Public Schools budget, although it receives some state and federal grants largely because of its charter status. It recently received a grant for $600,000, spread over three years to help fund its non-school-hour programs, such as tutoring and Saturday classes.

The charter school accrued expenses of $2,244,916 during its second year, about $292,000 more than the district budgeted.

William Brunke, the president of Green Run Collegiate’s governing board, said Wednesday that the school’s nonprofit application was submitted last month and he expects to hear back about it soon.

School Board members voiced disappointment over the time it has taken.

“We have a perception, from the newspapers and the public, that we’ve dragged our feet on getting this stuff ready to apply for the 501(c)(3),” said Beverly Anderson, the School Board’s vice chairwoman. “There’s a perception the board has dragged their feet on this. The teachers at Green Run Collegiate and the students themselves have outdone themselves.”

Brunke cited administrative issues, such as discrepancies between the charter’s application and its operating bylaws, as well as the fact that three original members of the school’s governing board, including Jill Gaitens, who was in charge of the initial non-profit status application, are no longer on the board.

Anderson said the delay has reflected poorly on the school district and the charter school.

“We have a lot of constituents who are really upset with the fact that the school system is funding this, and we were kind of expecting to have a 501(c)(3) at least a year ago, and now we find out, it’s just now, within the last month now been filed,” she said.

School Board member Kimberly Melnyk also asked why the charter hasn’t tried to bring in funding from elsewhere.

State Del. Glenn Davis, a member of Green Run Collegiate’s governing board, responded, saying the top priority was making sure the school was up and running. Now that they have a full board they can focus on funding issues, he said.

The current agreement between the charter school and the School Board runs until June 30, 2019.

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