Meridian spells out case against North Star

For Eagle’s financially strapped North Star Charter School, the procedural clock began ticking Wednesday.

A day after the Meridian School Board voted to revoke North Star’s charter, district Superintendent Linda Clark sent a formal revocation notice Wednesday. This gives one of Idaho’s largest charter schools 30 days to respond — and make its case that it has a sustainable long-term financial plan.

linda clark
Linda Clark, Meridian school superintendent

As far as the charter school law goes, “long term” is a relative statement. A school board can consider only a charter school’s ability “to meet its financial obligations for the next fiscal year.”

District officials aren’t convinced the school can make it through June 30, 2014. A key piece of North Star’s financial recovery plan is a “forbearance agreement.” Creditors will collect about $350,000 in building bond repayments for now, and let the remaining $850,000 in repayments slide until June 2014.

North Star officials believe this buys the school enough time to renegotiate its building loan — which now carries a 9.75 percent interest rate that has left the 10-year-old school hamstrung.

District officials believe the deal allows North Star to incur further debt through 2013-14. And since creditors can demand their money at any time, district officials say, North Star could be shut down at any time — forcing the state’s largest district to absorb North Star’s 920 students.

After North Star responds to Wednesday’s letter, the district will schedule a public hearing on the school’s fate. If school trustees stick to their plan to revoke the charter, North Star can appeal to the State Board of Education.

In other developments on the North Star story:

  • North Star Board Chairman Jim Miller said North Star will be open for 2013-14, but he is concerned that some parents are double-booking their kids in Meridian public schools and the charter school. “Our biggest challenge is the public relations piece with our teachers and parents,” Miller told the Idaho Statesman.
  • Parents have begun rallying behind the school. “The people who hold the bonds want to see North Star continue as much as the parents and students want to see North Star continue,” Debbie Coutts, a North Star parent, told KIVI-TV’s Mike Sharp Wednesday. “What we need is the Meridian School District to partner with us.”
Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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