Texas Ed Commissioner Abruptly Suspends Operations of SASIC Charter Schools Due to Apparent Criminal Background Check and Health Violations
On March 08, 2017, Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath suspended the operations of San Antonio-based charter school district, San Antonio School for Inquiry and Creativity (SASIC). Furthermore, SASIC authorities were required to attend a hearing on March 10, 2017, regarding a number of reported violations that Morath believed had not been properly addressed prior to March 08th.
Many concerns about SASIC operations were detailed in a letter sent from Texas State Representative and Chair of Vice Chair of the Texas House Committee on Education, Diego Bernal, on February 10, 2017. Bernal writes:
Recently, alarming reports of misconduct, outlined below, have been brought to my attention directly by [SASIC] faculty, staff, and parents…:
These complaints include:
- Improper conduct and contact between staff and students
- Improper, unsanitary storage of food
- Serving expired, rotten food to students which resulted in student illness and absences
- Falsification of employee records and timesheets
- Failure to pay employee salaries, hourly wages, and overtime pay
- Threatening teacher and staff employment and certifications for raising concerns about the school environment and management
- Falsification of student transcripts, attendance records, and other State accountability documents
- Nepotism within the District Office
As such, I ask that you receive this letter as both a formal complaint and a request for a full investigation.
As News4Antonio reports, on February 16, 2017, Morath contacted SASIC Superintendent Sonja Nelson warning of possible funding and operations suspension and requesting evidence demonstrating that SASIC is in compliance with criminal history requirements as well as evidence of health inspection and associated compliance.
Morath reached the following conclusion:
After a review of the documentation presented by SASIC on February 21, 2017, as well as information provided by the San Antonio Health Department, the Texas Department of Agriculture, and the Texas Education Agency’s Fingerprint Division, the Special Investigations Unit has determined that SASIC remains out of compliance with the criminal history requirements of Tex. Educ. Code Chapter 22, Subch C and continues to have serious and ongoing food safety issues which threaten the health, safety, and welfare of its students.
Morath then froze funding and suspended operation of all SASIC campuses effective immediately and until “the conditions at the school do not present a danger of material harm to the health, safety, or welfare of students,” either by effective refutation of initial evidence or upon correction of conditions confirmed to be dangerous.
As KSAT reports on March 10, 2017, SASIC presented its case at the March 10, 2017, hearing and hopes that Morath will allow SASIC to reopen on March 20th, 2017, “after spring break.” However, Morath is not restricted to any deadline in arriving at a decision.
A March 09, 2017, KSAT article detailed some of the complaints:
Last August , the health department received a complaint that a girl’s bathroom at SASIC High School had human waste everywhere because of remodeling and that meals were being served in a classroom.
Then in January , after a complaint of rats where children ate at the SASIC Prep Academy, a health inspector found a possible rodent entry hole, missing base boards and rodent bait traps inside the kitchen pantry. …
In Wednesday’s order of suspension, the state said health violations were partially to blame for the 72-hour suspension notice given on Feb. 16. It also mentioned compliance with criminal history requirements.
The SASIC web site includes no word of its mandatory, indefinite closure and the subsequent hearing. Also, calling the school phone number (210-738-0020) provides no information, not even a generic recorded message. And there is no way to leave a message; the “mailbox is full.”
As for the SASIC Facebook page: It appears not to have been updated since March 03, 2017. Thus, it, too, includes no hint that the school has been forced to cease operating. However, according to the March 09, 2017, San Antonio Current, the SASIC Facebook page did include a post to the effect, “We hope you have a wonderful extended Spring Break!!!”
Talk about putting a spin on the situation.
According to KSAT, now-former SASIC parent, Stephanie Moreno, reports that SASIC kept news of the February 16, 2017, suspension warning from them:
Moreno is upset because she said she and other parents never knew about the first suspension notice, which was issued Feb. 16.
“We never once got an email,” Moreno said.
Moreno learned of SASIC’s “extended spring break” (tongue in cheek) at 5 p.m. on March 08th, 2017.
She is now shopping for new schools for her three children. Moreno wants to enroll her children in another charter school, but three schools have already told her that she must wait until next year.
Moreno says that until then, she plans to enroll her children in traditional public school.
Traditional public schools don’t turn parents and students away mid-year.
This SASIC situation is a mess.
Rotten meat photo taken by Rep. Bernal