The Pencader Charter School held a community forum for parents, teachers and students on Tuesday, June 21 to dispel rumors and provide information regarding the recommendation by the Delaware Department of Education's Charter School Accountability Committee to revoke the school’s charter at the end of this academic year.


The Pencader Charter School held a community forum for parents, teachers and students on Tuesday, June 21 to dispel rumors and provide information regarding the recommendation by the Delaware Department of Education's Charter School Accountability Committee to revoke the school’s charter at the end of this academic year.

“This school continues to operate at a significant financial shortfall, requiring loans and major cuts,” Deputy Secretary Dan Cruce said, who chairs the committee.

Pencader, which opened in 2005, was put on formal review at the April 21, 2011 State Board of Education meeting. This is the third time the school has been placed on formal review.

If Education Secretary Lillian Lowery and the state board revoke the charter, other placements will be available for the 616 students currently enrolled to attend Pencader next year, 38 of which are from the Red Clay School District. Students may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns, or, with the approval of their home district and the new school, enroll in another charter school.

Pencader Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan and Dr. Ann Lewis, the newly appointed school leader, lead the community forum. The majority of the room was filled with parents, but a number of students, alumni and teachers joined in on the discussion.

According to Minnehan, money was not being allocated properly at Pencader so it was being taken away.

“This was being covered up by not paying the bills on time,” Minnehan said.

According to the Department of Education, formal review can be prompted by a number of reasons. In Pencader’s case, state charter officials noticed a pattern of financial mismanagement and a significant financial deficit for this year.

The school is scheduled to appear again before the Accountability Committee for a final public hearing on July 13. Pencader’s future will be decided at the State Board of Education’s July 21 meeting.

Dr. Lewis said that enrollment has remained steady, despite the recent news.

“Only fifteen students have withdrawn, which is typical,” Lewis said.

“The support [for the school] is phenomenal,” Minnehan remarked.

Minnehan believes Lowery could ultimately decide to put Pencader on probation. This way, the school would have to work closely with the Department of Education to ensure the school’s finances are on track.

But Minnehan believes Pencader has an excellent chance of remaining open and not falling prey to their previous mishaps. The Delaware Department of Education's Charter School Accountability Committee just voted to revoke the charter of Reach Academy for Girls, located in Wilmington. That school has now filed suit against the Department of Education.

“This can only help our case,” Minnehan stated.

Minnehan believes it will be hard for the Department of Education to close a school such as Pencader, which more closely resembles prestigious schools like Wilmington Charter School and Cab Calloway rather than the Christiana School District’s public high schools.

“Wilmington Charter and Cab Calloway only send one percent more students to college than us,” Minnehan said.