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Board Challenges Decision to Close WIlliamsburg Charter High School

By Meredith Hoffman | April 4, 2012 10:17pm
The board of Williamsburg Charter High School is contesting the DOE's decision to shutter the school.
The board of Williamsburg Charter High School is contesting the DOE's decision to shutter the school.
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WILLIAMSBURG — The board of a Williamsburg charter school is taking the city to court to fight a recent decision by the Department of Education to close it, board members said.

After the DOE announced its plan to shutter the Williamsburg Charter High School because of alleged fiscal and leadership issues on Tuesday, the board of the school, located on Varet Street, voted to attempt to overturn that ruling in court.

The DOE cited numerous problems with the school, which is part of the Believe School charter network. The department claimed the school failed to disclose board members' connections to the institution, when at least three of the six board members were employed by the network.

The school was also criticized for re-hiring the network's former CEO Eddie Calderon-Melendez, who was accused of using school funds for his personal use, including the purchase of alcohol.

But now the school's board is requesting administrative review from the state court, on the grounds that the DOE failed to look at the charter's recent reforms.

"The decision they made reiterates what they've been saying for months," Ellen Eagen, the school's counsel, said of the DOE, "and doesn't take into account the changes we've made in the past eight weeks."

"This is an arbitrary and capricious decision," she added.

The school has been on probation since the fall. It recently dismissed Calderon-Melendez and has attracted new applicants to the board, Eagen said.

"The DOE hasn't allowed us to repopulate the board," she explained.

But the DOE maintains that it has given the school many chances to turn around.

"Time and again, this school has failed to live up to the conditions we set when concerns arose over their management and finances," said Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg in the announcement to close the school.

The Department of Education referred questions about any possible legal action to the city's Law Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.