Eagle Arts Academy is temporarily withholding paychecks from its teachers and staff for the second time in a month, saying that it is out of money and unable to arrange a short-term loan to make payroll.
After telling staff last week that it was on the brink of negotiating a short-term loan, the Wellington charter school announced this week that its efforts had failed and that the paychecks due Monday will not be arriving.
“We will continue to work on this, but in the case we do not receive bridge funding, your paycheck will be delayed until May 11th with a second check paid on May 15th,” Gregory Blount, the school’s executive director, told staff in a Tuesday email obtained by The Palm Beach Post.
The school made a similar announcement a month ago, setting off a wave of concern from parents and teachers about whether the school would be able to stay open. The school’s two principals resigned in protest, saying that Blount had deceived his staff and had steered money into his own companies as the school’s finances foundered.
The school was able to give teachers back pay and their regular pay in mid-April after receiving its monthly payment from the county school district. But the uncertainty led several teachers to quit and some parents removed their children from the school as well.
Tuesday’s announcement raises new concerns about whether the school can maintain its staff during the school’s final month. Blount did not respond to a message seeking comment.
“I know that the lack of receiving your paycheck puts us in an uncomfortable and difficult situation,” Blount wrote in Tuesday’s email to staff. “As you are aware, we are in the heart of testing. The board and I appreciate your commitment to the children and for their safety.”
Charter schools are privately managed but publicly funded and operate under the supervision of the county school board. School district administrators have been monitoring the school regularly to verify that enough staff are on hand to ensure students’ safety.
The school will receive its monthly payment from the school district next week, which will likely provide enough money for the school to distribute teachers’ back pay.
The Palm Beach County School Board voted earlier this year to close the school when the school year ends on June 1, citing the school’s ongoing financial problems. The school has appealed the decision in state administrative court. A two-day hearing is set for May 31 and June 1.
Situated on a 13-acre campus, the K-8 school once had more than 700 students, but its enrollment fell this year to about 425.
Fewer students means less money from the state, even though many of the school’s fixed costs remain the same. That has made it impossible for the school to balance its books, school leaders say.