The Epic Charter Schools Board of Education met Wednesday night for the first time since the release of State Auditor Cindy Byrd’s scathing report earlier this month.
“I've sat here for 10 years and I’ve never heard anything like this. And now, this,” said Board Member Mike Cantrell.
The board, which governs both Epic Blended and Epic One-on-One school districts, discussed the results of Byrd’s audit, which was conducted at the request of Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Attorneys for Epic disputed most of the report’s points and said there is no sign of criminal wrongdoing.
“We have combed through this audit report and you will not find one criminal statute sign that’s been violated. You will not find any finding of fraud,” said Elizabeth Scott, one of the attorneys representing Epic Youth Services (EYS), which is the for-profit company that oversees both districts.
Cantrell said Epic has not had a chance to defend itself fully because it has not received the work papers from the audit, which would allow the districts to perform their own fact-check. Although Epic did release a 134-page point-by-point response to the audit.
Since its release, the Oklahoma State Board of Education demanded Epic return more than $11 million in funds flagged by the audit, Attorney General Mike Hunter appointed a special prosecutor to review its findings and the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board (SVCSB) began the process of possibly terminating its operating contract with Epic One-on-One.
“For them to just pile on without giving us due process is just wrong,” Cantrell said. “I hope we can all kind of work together to come to a resolution on things. None of us likes this hanging over our head, but it sure seems politically motivated to me.”
Byrd told lawmakers Wednesday the audit found that EYS collects 10% of state funding for both districts as a management fee. How those funds are being spent remains unclear, Byrd said.
“Using state resources to run a for-profit business could be considered embezzlement,” she said.
The Epic board committed to a hearing with the SVCSB in January. Both the state and the district will be able to submit evidence and call witnesses to argue their case.
As of 10:45 p.m. Wednesday, the board of education was in closed session to discuss the audit and the ensuing responses from state agencies.