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Charter School Commission rejects renewal application for Ammon charter school

The Idaho Public Charter School Commission considered 16 charter schools up for renewal during its Feb. 23, 2023, meeting in Boise. | Clark Corbin, Idaho Capital Sun
AMMON (Idaho Capital Sun) — The Idaho Public Charter School Commission on Thursday took the unusual step of rejecting the renewal agreement for Monticello Montessori Charter School in east Idaho after learning the school had not paid payroll taxes since 2014 and had not met academic performance measures. 
Monticello Montessori opened in 2010 and serves about 150 students in kindergarten through eighth grade in the town of Ammon, which borders Idaho Falls. 
The action to reject Monticello Montessori’s renewal agreement does not mean the commission voted to close the school. Instead, the commission will move forward with a renewal hearing, with legal counsel for the school and charter commission present, on March 8. At that point, the commission will weigh whether to revoke the school’s charter and begin the process of closing it, or to renew the school’s performance charter with conditions attached. 
The Idaho Public Charter School Commission is made up of seven commissioners who are appointed either by Idaho’s governor or Republican legislative leaders. The commission authorizes new charter schools, oversees 63 existing charter schools across the state and considers the renewal of charter schools it has authorized on a rolling, five-year basis. 
Since moving to the five-year renewal and review cycle in 2014, the commission has only not renewed one charter school, director Jenn Thompson previously told the Idaho Capital Sun. 
Monticello Montessori didn’t pay federal payroll taxes for about eight years
Commissioners rejected Monticello Montessori Charter School’s conditional renewal agreement after recently hired school staff members uncovered and disclosed that previous Monticello Montessori Charter School staff had not paid federal payroll taxes between 2014 and 2022. That means the school is in default on its financial obligations. 
The school’s new business manager, Carrie Smith, told commissioners that when she went to file payroll taxes last summer, for the second quarter of the year, she noticed the taxes for the previous quarter hadn’t been filed. After some digging, Smith said, school officials learned taxes hadn’t been paid since 2014. 
Monticello Montessori has since paid more than $100,000 to the IRS in an attempt to repay the taxes, Smith said, but the IRS has not responded to let the school know if that covers all the back taxes or if there will be financial penalties imposed. 
A Nov. 15, 2022, report from Thompson, the director of the Idaho Public Charter School Commission, also noted academic concerns at Monticello Montessori and pointed out that it took the school until 2022 to meet a legal requirement to have a functional website where its budget, expenses and other transparency documents are posted. 
“The school has not made academic progress, and did not meet standard on any academic measures in fiscal year 2022,” Thompson wrote in the report. 
Idaho Public Charter School Commission member Brian Scigliano said he was very concerned about the unpaid taxes and the possibility of the IRS handing down financial penalties. 
“That is very, very concerning to me, and I don’t know what those penalties will be, but I feel very uncomfortable with this going forward,” Scigliano said during the meeting.
Although an administrator and business manager from Monticello Montessori attended Thursday’s hearing via online video conference, none of the members of the school board attended or were available to answer questions. That frustrated Scigliano and Idaho Public Charter School Commission Chairman Alan Reed, who said he worries that a nonfunctioning school board can wreak havoc on a school.
After a lengthy discussion, commissioners voted unanimously to reject a renewal agreement for Monticello Montessori and instead move forward with the March 8 hearing. 
The hearing allows commissioners to more fully consider the issues facing the school and weigh options, which include not renewing the school’s performance certificate and beginning the process of closing the school, or coming up with a plan of action to address the concerns the school faces. 
Monticello Montessori’s performance certificate is set to expire June 30, state records show. 
The post Charter School Commission rejects renewal application for Ammon charter school appeared first on East Idaho News.

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