Charter school chair won't comment on records request
Charter schools are required to comply with the state’s public records laws as a condition of their charters.
The schools that haven’t responded to the records request are managed Roger Bacon Academy, a company owned by State Charter School Advisory Board Member Baker Mitchell.
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) -
The company that runs three Southeastern North Carolina charter schools still hasn't provided public information requested a month ago.
The other six charter schools operating in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties responded to our April 30 request for the salaries of their employees. Some provided the information within days. The last to respond, Wilmington Preparatory Academy, sent its employee salaries April 20.
The government-funded schools are required to comply with the state's public records laws as a condition of their charters.
The three schools that have not responded to the request are Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville and Douglass Academy in Wilmington.
They are run by Roger Bacon Academy, an education management company based in Leland. The company's founder and president, Baker Mitchell, sits on the NC Charter School Advisory Board.
"As you are aware, due to complexity of applicable NC laws and potential individual privacy interests, our response requires careful analysis and consideration," Roger Bacon Spokeswoman Sawyer Batten wrote in an email Wednesday. "We will respond to you as soon as we are satisfied as to the proper content required under the law."
North Carolina public records law deems some information confidential and not subject to release. Confidential information includes trade secrets, tax information and account numbers used for electronic payments. The law does not specify an exemption for employee salary information.
Joel Medley, director of the State Office of Charter Schools, reiterated Friday that charter schools must follow the public records act, but he said his office does not interpret laws for schools.
"The ‘complexity' referenced by Ms. Batten may be something from their organization's retained legal counsel," Medley wrote in an e-mail.
Wilmington attorney John Ferrante is chair of Charter Day School, Inc, a non-profit group that holds the charters for the three schools.
"I'm not authorized to make any comment," Ferrante said when asked if he's concerned about the schools' management company being slow to comply with public records law.
When asked who could speak on the issue, he repeated: "I'm not authorized to make any comment."
Medley said his office would look into the matter if a formal complaint and supporting documentation is submitted.
In an April 23 memo to school boards across the state, Medley explained that failure to comply with public records laws could "jeopardize the future" of their signed charter agreements.