Philly cyber school to surrender its charter

Updated: State Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis responded below to the news about the board's decision.

Board members from the Philly-based Frontier Virtual Charter High School voted unanimously shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday to surrender its charter to the state Department of Education.

The board announced the decision during a brief emergency meeting that was held via a conference call.

State Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis released a statement which read in part: "Today's action is in the best interest of students and provides families sufficient time to make other arrangements for the upcoming school year.

"Over the past year, Frontier fell short in providing its students with the core academic programs parents and students expect of our public schools.

"These issues were not just the normal difficulties typically experienced by a first-year organization, but they go to the heart of Frontier's ability to provide quality educational opportunities to students within the confines of its charter, as well as the Charter School Law," Tomalis said.

Earlier this week, the state filed charges to have Frontier's charter revoked, citing an astonishingly long list of academic and financial problems.  

The school's woes were exposed by the Daily News in March, when Frontier's CEO, John Craig, laid off the teaching staff and the principal.

The school year came to a halt, and some parents complained that their children sat around for weeks while the school was in limbo. The state said Frontier administrators compiled "Save-My-Year" credit packets to prevent the vast majority of students from failing at the end of the year.

State investigators found that Frontier's administrators didn't provide promised computers, Internet reimbursements and classes to students. The state also found that Frontier spent a "significant" amount of money on things that weren't related to the cyber school.

But as recently as June 30, the school's board talked about Frontier being open in the fall.

Brian Leinhauser, the school's solicitor, said Thursday that he thought Frontier's board was going to fight the state's plans to revoke the charter,  but that money woes might have forced their hand.

"There are other factors that contributed to the board's decision," Leinhauser said, "and they will be more clearly laid out in a press release tomorrow."