Costly academic turnaround takes St. Paul charter school from ‘buckets of cash’ to deep in debt

Jul 13, 2019 by

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Three years ago, Dugsi Academy was flush with cash but failing academically.

Now, two years into a costly school improvement effort, the St. Paul charter school faces a long list of unpaid bills that may threaten its very existence.

The K-8 school south of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds had $2.9 million in reserve in July 2015. The fund balance dwindled to just $22,000 last summer and is expected to be hundreds of thousands in the red once the books close on this past school year.

“The school has a financial crisis right now,” said Ahmed Elmi, who heads a different charter school and recently rejoined Dugsi’s school board.


Dugsi ended the latest school year 10 days early to save on payroll. It’s been penalized for missing payments to the state pension plan for teachers. And it’s engaged in a bitter standoff over billing with its longtime bus provider, Minnehaha Transportation — one of 23 vendors who are owed money, according to a June report to the board.

“We have been really quite shocked with what has taken place. The money has been drained out,” said Jeff Dufresne, who sold his share of the bus company to his business partner last year.

The financial woes have coincided with efforts to improve the school’s academics.

To ensure enough cash on hand to pay bills and weather storms, a school board policy calls for a year-end fund balance of at least 20 percent of annual spending, or roughly $1 million. When that number approached $3 million in 2015, the board set about spending much of its reserves to improve the school.

But in 2016, after 6 percent of students tested as proficient on the state math test and 9 percent passed in reading, the school’s authorizer called for an outside group to turn the school around.

continue: Costly academic turnaround takes St. Paul charter school from ‘buckets of cash’ to deep in debt – Twin Cities

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