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Mystery school could get closing Pride College Prep’s leftover charter school money

When Pride College Prep closes in six weeks, its leaders expect to have $189,000 left in the bank — and school board members are split over how to spend that money.

But at a recent board meeting, at least one Pride board member spoke up amid passionate debate to say he’d been contacted by a Recovery School District official suggesting the school hand that money to a newly opening school for students with special needs.

Board chairman Allen Square said the RSD official told him that a new school opening in the fall could use Pride’s leftover money. He did not name the school.

After the meeting, Square also would not disclose who from RSD contacted him, though he did say the name “Patrick” during the meeting.

“Patrick made very clear he did not want the money to come to RSD,” said Square, “he basically said ‘there is a school with a need.’”

Patrick Dobard is superintendent of the Recovery School District.

RSD spokeswoman Zoey Reed said on Tuesday that Dobard said he did have a conversation with Square about the money, but didn’t specify a school. She said Dobard suggested the funds go to benefit education in the city, but that any decision would be left to the board.

Pride’s board members already appeared split over whether or not to dedicate the fund balance to Mildred Osborne Charter School, the school that will be opening at Pride’s current location in the fall. Some board members argued that there was no need to rush the decision.

Last month Pride claimed they would have control of the money after the school year because they could demonstrate the money came from private sources.

Pride board member Scott Jacobs said the school could donate money directly to that new school, which may not happen if the money was returned to the RSD.

Jacobs said the RSD was likely hesitant to pick winners and losers, which is why he thought they would rather not directly handle the money.

On Friday, when The Lens asked Square for more detail about his conversation with RSD, he said Pride leaders probably eventually would have identified this as an option for how to spend the extra dollars. But, he said, RSD “beat me to the punch” by floating the idea.

“It was not an urging or anything like that,” Square said. “But just a suggestion.”

Asked again what specific school could be the recipient of the money, Square said he was in the dark.

“I don’t know the exact school,” he said. “I know there is a new school for children with special needs.”

RSD officials recently asked The NET charter high school to pioneer a specialized program next year for overage middle school students. RSD officials have even assured NET staff that donors are in place to jumpstart the program.

Asked by The Lens if the school in question is The NET, Square said, “I think it is called The NET, but I’m not sure.”

On Friday The NET Principal Elizabeth Ostberg said she was still unsure whether the specialized program would be funded and had not heard of possibly receiving money from another school.

“We certainly haven’t come up with a solution at this point,” said Ostberg.

Adam Hawf, RSD’s assistant superintendent in the Office of Portfolio, said that while his office has had ongoing conversations with Pride — just as he does with all closing and opening charters — he was unaware of this specific conversation.

“We did not make a specific request,” Hawf said of his department.

Hawf also said he isn’t sure what RSD would do with the money if it were returned to the district. He said his department would have to consult with its legal and financial team.

Despite the suggestion that they donate the money to an unrelated school, some Pride leaders said during the May 14 meeting that they would feel better if the dollars stayed closer to home.

“I think it should stay here,” said board member Janice Piazza.

School leader Michael Richard said he felt the same way. He said 88 percent of Pride students are returning to Mildred Osborne Charter School next year.

But Jacobs cautioned against dedicating the money before the board knows exactly how much will be left. Jacobs said the school still has to complete an audit and negotiate utility bills. And with changes in per-pupil funding, he thought it wise to wait.

Member Sam Joel agreed, saying he hopes the school will settle all debts before committing any money.

Board members decided to table the matter until they have more information.

Pride will be taken over by ARISE Academy come July 1, at which point the school will assume the Mildred Osborne Charter School name.

The non-profit that operates Pride will dissolve after its charter expires June 30. The board discussed hiring an attorney to help with dissolution, but Jacobs advocated that they wait and let all processes take place naturally. “The entity is still the entity,” he said, just without a charter school.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its original version to reflect a Tuesday afternoon interview with Recovery School District spokeswoman Zoey Reed. Reed said Superintendent Patrick Dobard did speak generally with Allen Square about the funds.

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