SeeWorth Academy charter school in Oklahoma City Public Schools is at risk of losing its accreditation due to “gross neglect and non-compliance with both state and federal laws and regulations.”
That language was used in a lengthy letter of May 3 from Brad Clark, general counsel for the Oklahoma State Department of Education addressed to the long-time executive director and superintendent, Janet Grigg.
Grigg has been popular with students, parents, and donors over the years since its founding in 1998 and seemed to be a catalyst of growth for the school as it moved from humble quarters to the rustic church-camp-like wooded campus of the former School of the Plains near NE 122 and N Kelley Ave in Oklahoma City.
But the five-page letter left little doubt that the OSDE has seen evidence of serious violations of federal and state school laws.
That letter and two other documents showing demands by the OSDE to SeeWorth administration were obtained by Free Press through an open records request. They are embedded at the end of this report.
The letter said the OSDE had:
“… reviewed information evidencing that the School, via its administration, has failed to properly account for taxpayer funds, failed to properly maintain accounting records relating thereto, as well as failed to provide services to students with disabilities in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act … and specifically as related to the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Each year public schools in Oklahoma and across the U.S. expend extensive efforts to clearly account for the expenditure of taxpayer funds. But, the OSDE is convinced SeeWorth has failed to keep records and might even be trying to hide where some money has gone.
The letter demands financial records for an irregular “corporate account”, and warns Grigg not to destroy any records.
Strangely, those records may be at a private residence in Talihina, Oklahoma.
The OSDE believes they may be kept there “for possible tampering or destruction” and has demanded their return. All school records are required to be kept secure on school premises.
Grigg’s status with either the school or the district is unclear as well as other top members of her administration.
Efforts to reach William Stubbs, Instructional Leadership Director for Charter Schools in OKCPS were unsuccessful Thursday. Stubbs is the administrator in OKCPS responsible for monitoring the district’s charter schools.
Special ed process failure
Taxpayer-supported schools receive hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly from the U.S. Department of Education through state departments of education to pay for extra services and planning for students with special needs.
Passed in 1975 and then reauthorized in 2004, the Individuals with Disabilities Act makes provision for developing individualized curricula and providing other adaptive supports for students with special needs.
The program is very labor intensive with special ed teachers being required to meet yearly with parents of each child with the special needs designation and working out an individualized education plan or “IEP” as is most often heard in school lingo.
Out of compliance
But, schools are also required to keep clear records of how the money was spent and specifically what plans have been developed with the parents in collaboration.
According to the letter, the school has been out of compliance with both the education planning and the expenditure of funds for special education services.
Only one example from pages of listed violations is that 64% of students on an IEP did not have “complete secondary transition plans as required by federal law.”
A key pivot for students with special needs is their transition from the lower grades into high school.
In schools that comply with federal rules and guidelines, a complete plan for how to make the transition is developed for each student according to their needs through many hours of consulting with the student and parents by the special ed teachers.
So, for 64% of the students who needed it at SeeWorth, staff cut corners at a critical point in their development.
The school’s administrators had from March 19 to their deadline on May 3 to provide updated and adequate records.
“The OSDE has made phone calls and sent requests for any such supplemental information that the School has in its possession,” the letter reads. “However, to date, responses have not been received.”
Since those demands were not met, the department has launched a “further inquiry.”
Free Press will continue to follow developments surrounding SeeWorth.