Education

Principal lost his license. Now his charter school’s financial condition is ‘deteriorating’

Lincoln Memorial Academy received more bad news on Wednesday, just three weeks after a Florida committee disciplined the school’s principal.

Known as Lincoln Memorial Middle School before its conversion to a charter last year, the school is now in “deteriorating financial condition,” according to a May 29 memo signed by Heather Jenkins, chief financial officer for the School District of Manatee County.

The school reported a deficit of $235,438 for the period ending on April 30, the third consecutive month that Lincoln Memorial had a negative fund balance.

Lincoln Memorial has 30 days to form an action plan and report to the state’s education commissioner, Richard Corcoran. It has every intention of doing so, according to an email from Principal Eddie Hundley.

“The board and leadership of Lincoln Memorial Academy anticipated the need for a financial recovery plan,” he wrote. “We are eager to work with the state to ensure our budget is balanced as we continue to provide the exemplary experiences and education our students enjoyed this year.”

The commissioner of education can choose a plan if Lincoln Memorial and the school district can’t agree on a solution. And if the school fails to implement the plan within one year, the State Board of Education “shall prescribe any steps necessary” to fix the issue, according to Florida Statute 1002.345.

Hundley is the president and registered agent of Lincoln Memorial Academy Inc., according to the Florida Division of Corporations. He also heads the Total Life Prep Foundation of Schools, previously known as the Lincoln Memorial Academy Foundation.

His email did not answer questions about how the school arrived at a deficit or how it planned to recover. It also failed to address state sanctions against the principal, a result of two job recommendations he gave to a former employee who was under criminal investigation.

An administrative law judge listened to the principal and several witnesses during a six-hour hearing in early January, and she concluded that Hundley should have his educator license revoked for five years. She also recommended five years of probation, a $2,400 fine and a course in ethics.

The state’s Education Practices Commission agreed with Judge Lynne A. Quimby-Pennock’s opinion during a hearing on May 8, and the state issued its final order about one week later, upholding all of the judge’s recommendations.

His state credentials were revoked as of Wednesday, according to the DOE’s public database of educator certificates.

Hundley has 30 days to appeal the sanctions. If the punishment remains, state law may prevent him from working at the school, according to a May 9 memo from the school district’s attorney to Lincoln Memorial.

Action against someone’s certificate would deny them “the right to teach or otherwise be employed by a district school board or public school in any capacity requiring direct contact with students,” the memo states.

The school district’s memo underscored new concerns, this time with Lincoln Memorial’s finances. The school reported a “net asset deficit” of $136,508 for the period ending on Feb. 28, the memo said. It reported a deficit of $130,239 by the end of March, and a deficit of $235,438 by the end of April.

District officials reported Lincoln Memorial’s financial troubles to the state’s education department, a requirement of state law, according to a prepared statement from Mitchell Teitelbaum, the school district’s attorney.

“The district will work with Lincoln on developing a corrective action plan as required by state statute,” Teitelbaum wrote.

Linda Lambert, an employee in the school district’s Office of Communications, followed up with an email on Thursday afternoon. She said the district would not answer other questions, including an inquiry about how the finances could affect staff and students, and what repercussions might ensue.

Principal Hundley pushed for about one year to convert his campus into a public charter school, and the school board granted his wish with a 4-1 vote in August 2017. Scott Hopes cast the dissenting vote, citing concerns with Lincoln Memorial’s application and its proposed budget.

“This is not about charter vs. public-run schools,” he said at the time. “It has everything to do with, in my opinion, a very poor application.”

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