(Editor’s Note: The Epic News Network is a journalism program sponsored by Epic Charter Schools)
OKLAHOMA CITY – After postponing its meeting four different times, the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to schedule a hearing to determine whether or not it should terminate its contract with Epic Charter Schools.
The board’s action came after it shot down a motion for a summary judgement from Epic’s attorney, William Hickman. That motion would have dismissed the termination.
The board set the hearing for May 12 and 13, though both Hickman and Assistant Attorney General Marie Schuble– who is trying the case for the board – said two days wasn’t enough time to present their cases.
“I don’t want to be rushed at a trial that deals with the lives of 30,000-plus children, teachers and staff,” Hickman said. “I think this is more important than that and deserves the time that it takes.”
The board’s chairman, Robert Franklin, said the reduced time frame was necessary because his father-in-law was ill. Franklin acknowledged the reduced time frame would be a challenge for Hickman but added that Hickman was a seasoned an experienced legal veteran. He said the board would give both Hickman and Schuble enough time to present their information in a fair manner.
“I think if we begin with the two days, we have to say that’s our perimeter, we’ll work toward that end,” he said.
The hearing is the latest salvo in the on-going fight between Epic and the SVCSB, the entity that authorizes the school. Last October, following a release of an investigative audit from State Auditor Cindy Byrd’s office, the SVCSB voted to begin its charter termination effort.
Following last fall’s action, the board set a four-day hearing for March 8 through 11. That meeting, along with three others – was postponed.
During the same time Epic officials and the SVCSB have been in negotiations for a consent agreement. However, SVCSB Executive Director Rebecca Wilkerson said Tuesday a consent agreement was not ready.
Epic Superintendent Bart Banfield said school officials were confident that facts were on their side. “All we have ever sought in this process is fairness and transparency,” Banfield said in a media statement. “We have concerns (that) a hearing, which includes cross examination on both sides, can take place in two days, as well as hearings on motions. We have indicated we want to cooperate and meaningfully engage with our One-on-One charter authorizer and remain committed to doing everything in our power to do just that.”