OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education voted Monday night to request an audit of Santa Fe South School finances. Santa Fe South is a charter school organization founded by Chris Brewster, who is the superintendent.
And Brewster told Free Press late Monday after the Board action that he has “no idea what is going on with OKCPS.”
This comes after district officials were surprised to hear about the heavy financial involvement of Santa Fe South and the Santa Fe South Development Corporation in the failing Sovereign Community Schools Charter school during a special Oklahoma State Board of Education meeting Friday.
The Santa Fe South Development Corporation was formed to hold real estate purchased for use by the school which covers several campuses on the south side of Oklahoma City.
The official statement from the district at the end of Monday read:
“Tonight, the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously following an executive session to call for a special audit by State Auditor and Inspector, Cindy Bryd, of Santa Fe South Charter School for FY 2018-19 and 2019-20 and any other years deemed necessary. The purpose of the special audit requested is to determine compliance with statutes, rules, policies and internal control procedures. In light of comments shared at the OSDE Board of Education meeting on Friday, April 9, the Board felt this was an important step to take as an authorizer of Santa Fe South.”
Oklahoma City Public Schools is the current charter authorizer for Santa Fe South and is requesting the audit as an entity responsible for oversight.
(Updated) According to Brewster, SFS was in talks with Rose State University and other institutions as possible future authorizers which led some to speculate that the new authorizer would be Rose State. But, he said the school will be authorized by Oklahoma City Community College at the end of June.
All charter schools under state law are required to have established schools as authorizers. OKCPS is the authorizer for several charter schools.
The district is asking for an audit of Santa Fe South Charter School because that is the only entity the district has responsibility for.
Free Press reached out to Brewster Monday after the Board meeting and asked for a response.
“To be clear, we have no idea what is going on with OKCPS,” Brewster wrote in a message. “No one from the district, our authorizer, has contacted Santa Fe South prior to taking what seems to be very serious action. At no time have they requested any documentation, asked any questions or shared any concerns. I am looking forward to sorting this out tomorrow. Again, we have not had any conversations with district staff, leadership or board members.”
Santa Fe South’s financial dealings were a surprise to most who listened to the virtual State Board of Ed meeting Friday. It was not widely known that Santa Fe South or Santa Fe South Development Corporation had been involved in providing loans and other assistance to Sovereign Community School.
The presentation by OKSDE General Counsel Brad Clark raised questions about the close relationship between Santa Fe South School and Santa Fe South Development Corporation that has provided loans and other financial assistance to Sovereign Community School, the topic of the presentation.
But, the similarities between Santa Fe South and Epic Charter Schools in organization structure drew the attention of the OKCPS Board. Evidently, the similarities were enough for a unanimous vote of seven of the OKCPS Board member present Monday night.
Epic is in serious trouble after an audit by State Auditor an Inspector Cindy Byrd found too much doubling up of duties by the same small number of individuals who were approving their own requests for the transfer of state funds to a private entity and not fully disclosing the expenditure of those taxpayer funds.
In October, the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted to demand reimbursement of $11 million dollars after State Auditor and Inspector (SAI) Cindy Byrd delivered an audit report on the charter school and its associated entities.
Then, the Oklahoma State Virtual Charter School Board voted shortly thereafter to begin the termination process for their sponsorship contract with Community Strategies, Inc., the governing organization for Epic One-on-One charter schools.
This is breaking news. Free Press will continue to update this story and generate news reports as developments occur. Watch this space.
Last Updated April 17, 2021, 11:10 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor