Charter school adopts new bylaws in hopes of renewal
Following the recommendations of the Nevada Department of Education, the Silver State Charter High School adopted new bylaws and policies Monday during a special board meeting.
The school received notice on April 15 that the state education department would be recommending to the state school board at its Friday meeting that Silver State’s charter be revoked.
The school’s executive director and principal, Steve Knight, said the letter took him by surprise, but he hopes Monday’s meeting will correct the deficiencies found by the state department.
“I expect that we’ll have our charter renewed,” he said. “We’ll show we’re in compliance on these items. All these questions have been answered.”
Knight said some of the failings listed in the state department’s report were mere oversights. He said school administrators claimed that all its teachers were “highly qualified,” because they thought it was true. The two teachers the report identifies as not meeting that status are in the process of meeting those qualifications.
He said the truck the school purchased from his daughter-in-law also could be explained. The state department called the purchase unethical and illegal, but, Knight said, it was a misunderstanding. He says a private investigation cleared him.
The state department recommended Silver State’s governing board reprimand Knight as well as the board president at the time, who is no longer on the board, for the truck purchase.
At Monday night’s meeting, Jeff Blanck, attorney for Silver State’s board, argued the reprimand was not necessary.
“(The state education department) can make recommendations, but it can’t be mandated,” he said. “It’s inappropriate to do anything at this time.”
However, Knight said he would rather comply with the state’s recommendation.
“I’d rather get over this hurdle, so it’s not a sticking point on our charter renewal,” he said.
The board then voted to verbally reprimand Knight. No reprimand was actually given, however.
Trustee Steve Silva voted against the motion, but declined to give his reasons.
Another point of contention with the state department is Knight’s salary. Nevada law prohibits administrators at charter schools – which are publicly funded – from earning more than employees in similar positions working in the school district where the charter schools are located.
According to the state department, Knight’s position is in line with that of an associate superintendent. In Carson City, an associate superintendent’s average salary is $111,000.
Knight earns $115,000. He said his salary does not include health benefits, which cost about $10,000 annually, making his base pay around $105,000.
During Monday’s board meeting, other remedies also were offered, such as updating bylaws and creating policies to govern purchasing and ethics.
Silva read a letter from former board member Dan Shirey, who resigned in February “due to the continuous poor judgment of the majority of the board, the constant poor legal representation given to the board from the attorney and the continuous questionable capabilities of the school’s director.”
Shirey wrote, “I have talked with many teachers and staff who stated that they are in fear of their jobs if they cross (Knight) in any way.”
He called on the board to terminate Knight’s position as well as the board’s attorney.
Knight called Shirey’s comments, “One man’s opinion.”
Still, Shirey praised the school, saying, “I will support it forever.”
Silva echoed the sentiments.
He urged the public to separate the issues facing the school officials from the school itself, which is a hybrid online school that also requires students attend weekly sessions on site.
“What a vital need this school has fulfilled in this community. So many students have had the opportunity to complete their high school education because Silver State is here,” he said. “It’s not about the kids and it’s not about the teachers, the allegations are about management and administration.”