Wednesday, December 31, 2008

School district digs deeper into Arthur Academy

Private investigator is hired to probe charter school’s operation amid internal turmoil

For the first time, Portland Public Schools has hired an outside investigator to look into the financial and operational issues at one of its charter schools.

The investigator was hired Dec. 9, the same day the Portland Tribune published a story on its Web site about allegations of financial and operational mismanagement at the Portland Arthur Academy, one of the district’s seven charter schools.

The story reported that the school’s founder, Charles Arthur, was stepping down amidst the turmoil, although Arthur withdrew his resignation days later.

Kristen Miles, the district’s charter school manager, said hiring an outside investigator is a unique situation in the district’s nine-year history with charter schools.

“We’ve never had a situation that has required this before – drawn enough serious attention that the the district has needed to” investigate, she said. “It’s important to make sure everything’s on the up-and-up.”

Miles said the investigator works for the Oregon City private investigation firm Alexander Christian Ltd. and was referred by the district’s Risk Management office. The investigator is being paid $75 an hour. The contract runs through the end of the school year, Miles said.

On Dec. 19, the Tribune reported that teachers and staff at the Arthur Academy were upset that their Public Employees Retirement System accounts haven’t been paid into since May.

The story detailed the administrative struggles between Arthur and another school leader, John Liljegren, who disagreed about how fast the school should expand.

The Arthur Academy is the state’s largest charter school network, with six locations including those in Portland (7507 S.E. Yamhill St.), David Douglas and Reynolds school districts.

The Portland Arthur Academy’s charter runs through summer 2011, after the school board in February extended it for another three years.

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