ITHACA, N.Y. –– Following a series of enrollment and financial problems that ultimately led to a SUNY mandated probation, New Roots Charter School says that they’re following a remedial plan that will bring them back into compliance with their charter.

“I’m happy to say we’ve made excellent progress and we’re right on track,” said Tina Nilsen-Hodges, the principal of NRCS during a board meeting on Tuesday night.

The terms of the school’s remedial plan are:

  • By January 1, 2020, New Roots must submit final audited financial statements as of June 30, 2019, including management letter.
  • By January 15, 2020, the school must provide a plan regarding proposed recruitment activities designed to increase enrollment, and provide a budget for the same.
  • Commencing February 1, 2020, monthly reports regarding current enrollment, and applications received for the 2020-21 school year.
  • By January 31, 2020, a fiscally sound budget through June 30, 2020, based on the current or lower enrollment levels, which demonstrates the fiscal soundness the school, and includes substantial payments to the TRS totaling at least $80,000.
  • Monthly unaudited financial statements as well as all board meeting packets provided to New Roots trustees.
  • By the dates specified in the Charter Agreement, quarterly unaudited financial reports, annual budgets, annual audits, and annual accountability reports for the remainder of the charter term.
  • Documents showing the 2020-21 incoming class meets the age and grade requirements in the Charter Agreement.
  • Failure of the New Roots to comply with the terms of the remedial action plan may result in the Board’s termination of the Education Corporation’s charter.

Additionally, the school will create a contingency plan for the placement of students in other educational settings in the event that NRCS will not be able to provide instruction for the 2020-21 school year. The deadline for this plan is February 1, 2020.

Nilsen-Hodges said the school has submitted the final audited financial statements, and that they have a plan to increase enrollment. That plan is attached below.

Michael Mazza, the school’s director of community engagement, said the plan includes open houses, community events and multimedia testimonials from parents and students advertising the mission of the school.

NRCS Enrollment Plan 2020-2021 by Thomas Pudney on Scribd

NRCS is currently serving around 110 students, with a goal of adding more than 50 students by next year in order to remain financially viable and in line with their current charter agreement.

“If we do not reach our targets, we will have to present a fiscally sound budget at the lower enrollment level to continue school operations,” said Nilsen-Hodges. “So the charter agreement does not rely on the enrollment number per se, but the school’s financial health relies on having adequate enrollment to sustain school operations.”
An anonymous donation of $200,000 was just received by NRCS to address some of their financial concerns. It is currently unclear whether there are any specifications for the use of the money, and has not yet been reflected in the projected 2020-21 budget.

Travis Hyde Properties, the owner of the Clinton House building which houses NRCS, has contracted the services of Strategy and Business Development Consultant Elizabeth Corvelyn to help the school with their enrollment strategy.

Jaekah Chase, a parent at NRCS, said the school has ‘transformed’ her student and that she has complete faith in the board and the administration to get New Roots back in good standing with SUNY.

“I think that as long as there are students that are interested and benefiting from New Roots, we will continue. It really is all about the kids that come here,” she said.

There have been concerns from former school affiliates and members of the public about New Root’s transparency as an institution. Nilsen-Hodges said that the school will attempt to increase communication with the board and the public with increased document sharing ahead of scheduled reporting and more frequent press releases.

Chris Tessaglia-Hymes is a former NRCS parent, and said his daughter had a wonderful experience there. He expressed concern during the public comment section of the board meeting Tuesday night.

“This isn’t about shutting down New Roots, this is about holding them accountable for some of their actions,” he said.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com