Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Two Utah charter schools dumping vendor of online programs
Education » Move comes in wake of an audit that is critical of distance-learning oversight.
First Published May 08 2014 06:56 pm • Last Updated May 11 2014 04:51 pm

Two Utah charter schools, under fire for lax management of their distance-learning programs, say they are ending their relationship with a Provo company that recruited online students to help build enrollment.

Mana Academy in West Valley City and Pacific Heritage Academy in the Rose Park neighborhood of west Salt Lake City told the Utah State Charter School Board that they are done with Harmony Educational Services.

­—

Distance learning

o Fifteen of Utah’s 90 charter schools and 23 of the state’s 41 school districts have online or distance-learning programs, according to the Utah State Office of Education. View the audit that found lax management practices. › sltrib.com

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"It’s a predatory company and we are the victims," Richard Wolfgramm, president of the board at Mana Academy, told the state charter board. "I’m fully aware this is taxpayer money we’re dealing with. It hasn’t been used wisely."

Pacific Heritage’s board chairman, Tip Pupua, said the school turned to Harmony last summer to recruit online students after losing 150 students — a third of its student body.

"The [school’s] board moved impulsively," Pupua said. "That probably was not the right decision."

A third charter school, DaVinci Academy of Ogden, told the state it is changing its relationship with Harmony to take more control "rather than having a third party vendor do our bidding," in the words of Director Fred Donaldson.

Harmony President John Thorn declined to comment Thursday. The company recruits students, many of them former home-schoolers, and then manages their instruction for charter and district schools.

An audit by the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) this winter estimated that $10.5 million in state money is flowing this year to Harmony and My Tech High Inc. of Spanish Fork via their contracts to manage 2,550 students in charter and district schools.

The audit criticized charters and one district school for what it called lax management of their students’ education. A state senator even labeled the online students recruited and managed by private companies as "ghost students."

Eight charter schools were given warning letters as a result of the audit, telling them to write or tighten policies on everything from verification of teacher licenses to student attendance and truancy policies.


story continues below
story continues below

The eight, including Mana, Pacific Heritage and DaVinci, have until June 1 to respond, said Marlies Burns, director of charter schools for the USOE.

The state charter board, however, put Mana on probation Thursday after learning of the deteriorating relationship with Harmony.

The school has 144 in-seat students and roughly 500 online students, many of whom didn’t realize they were Mana students until the school this spring began asking for evidence of student work before granting academic credit, Wolfgramm said.

Some of the parents are angry at the school, others at Harmony, said Wolfgramm, who joined the academy’s board last fall.

Burns said that Mana, from the start, was seen as a "Harmony school." Its founder was a Harmony employee at the time she sought to create the school.

"There was significant concern at the time," Burns said, "that a charter was even being considered that was not at arm’s length."

Organizers assured the charter board it would have a full request-for-proposals process before selecting a vendor, Burns said. "I’m guessing it was not done with as much integrity as it should have been," she told the board.

The founder resigned from Harmony before the charter was granted and was the chairman of the school’s board until December, Wolfgramm said.

The school may have to repay the state, Burns said, because it improperly claimed some children as students last fall.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.