Silver State’s charter on hold while problems addressed |

Silver State’s charter on hold while problems addressed

Teri Vance

Silver State Charter School will have 30 days to correct deficiencies found by the Nevada Department of Education before its charter can be renewed.

Members of the Nevada Board of Education voted Friday to give Silver State notice that the board intends not to renew the charter at its next meeting.

The charter school now has a month to correct the problems with the administration and governing board before reappearing in front of the state board.

Before making the motion to deny renewal, state board trustee Anthony Ruggiero expressed faith in the school.

“I feel pretty confident that Silver State will address the deficiencies,” he said.

Steve Knight, executive director of the charter school, affirmed that.

“I assure you that every item has been corrected,” he said.

The school received a letter from the state education department on April 15 outlining several violations by its administrators and governing board.

The issues ranged from policy and by-law inconsistencies to what the department called an “illegal and unethical” purchase of a truck. The department also said Knight’s salary at $115,000 breaks Nevada statute, which states charter employees can’t earn more than employees in similar positions in the school district where the charter school is located.

Associate superintendents – Knight’s corresponding position – in Carson City make an average of $111,000.

The school’s governing board held a special meeting Monday to address the issues.

However, Jeff Blanck, attorney for Silver State’s governing board, told the state board the issues regarding the truck and Knight’s salary were not remedied. Instead, he contested their validity.

Knight has said his base salary is actually around $105,000, with about $10,000 allotted to him for health benefits.

He also said an investigator, hired by Silver State’s governing board, found nothing illegal with the truck purchase.

Former governing board member Eugene Paslov attended Friday’s meeting. He said he plans to speak out at next month’s meeting, supporting the charter school but calling on a change in administration.

He said the school serves a vital role in the community, but the leadership is dysfunctional.

“The board was treated as a group of personal friends and were expected to simply agree with leadership staff,” he said. “Staff did not like anyone to question policy or management decisions and worked hard to diminish any board independence.”

He said the board was manipulated to do Knight’s bidding.

“Close to half of the board resigned after the December 2009, January 2010 and February 2010 board meetings,” he said. “The new board quickly approved for the principal a significant pay raise and bonus payment even in face of serious economic problems facing all schools, including the possibility of staff salary cuts, of staff layoffs and (reduction in force) at Silver State.”

Delane Pennington, director of special services at Silver State, also attended the meeting. She said she was confident the problems would be rectified and the charter renewed, pointing out that the issues are with the school’s leadership and not the school itself.

“They’ll have everything in order, addressing every item and rectifying them,” she said. “We’ll continue to grow as a school and get better.”