A Chester County charter school is being investigated by the Coatesville Area School District, which is requesting a wide range of information about its operations.
The district also has directed Graystone Academy Charter School not to purchase any real estate for a new site "in light of the serious nature of our investigation."
Graystone's lawyer said the school had complied with the request for information and was not about to purchase land anyway.
The school, in a former office building in South Coatesville, has 479 students, an annual budget of about $5.7 million, and a teaching staff of 36, according to school documents. Its operations are overseen by the Coatesville district, which first issued the school's charter in 2002.
A Nov. 9 letter to Michael Frattone, Graystone's lawyer, from the school district's attorney, Vincent Champion, told the school to provide a long list of items.
Among them: annual reports from 2004 to the present; minutes of Graystone's board meetings; policies for handling petty cash; discrimination and sexual harassment policies; documents relating to real estate purchases; and documents identifying current teachers and their certification levels.
To questions from The Inquirer, Frattone replied by e-mail that "Graystone was informed that the Coatesville School District received a letter from someone with certain complaints about the school. Graystone was not given a copy of the letter, so they are not aware of the specifics of the complaints.. . . The board has given the district copies of all relevant documents that are in existence and in its possession."
Coatesville Superintendent Richard Como referred a request for comment to the district's solicitor, James Ellison. Ellison said allegations were made to the district concerning Graystone, but declined to comment "on their substance."
To the extent that any investigation is ongoing, he added, he could not comment on it. The letter to the charter requesting documents, he said, "speaks for itself."
A source with knowledge of the investigation said the district was looking into a complaint that Bill Bush, a Realtor who is chairman of Graystone's board, should not be overseeing the search for a new school site.
The source, who declined to be identified, said the same person also complained that the school had deposits in TD Bank, which employs two of Graystone's five trustees, and that the board had violated the Sunshine Law by making decisions in executive session.
Bush, Graystone's board chairman, did not return phone calls seeking comment. The board's treasurer, Jerry Calone, a TD Bank branch manager, referred questions to Frattone.
Frattone said in an e-mail that "all of the board members have been involved in the process of locating a new facility, but given the fact that Mr. Bush has many years of real estate experience and is the board chair, he has been the lead in overseeing the process from the board's perspective."
He labeled "ludicrous" the suggestion that Bush's position as a Realtor should keep him from lending his expertise to the process.
He added that "Bill Bush is not acting as the school's Realtor or broker or in any similar capacity." The school has hired Newton Real Estate Advisors to help in its search, he said. Graystone is not close to purchasing property for a new site, Frattone said.
Frattone said the two board members employed by TD Bank "were able to obtain very favorable deposit rates for the school that exceed what the school would be able to obtain at other financial institutions. Again, this is an example of board members using their specific areas of expertise/backgrounds to help benefit the school."
He did not respond to questions about whether the Graystone board was complying with the Sunshine Law.
The board has also been criticized by a parent of a former pupil. Valley Township resident Jarrett Jackson, whose daughter was briefly enrolled this fall before transferring to another charter, has called on the board to resign, saying it does not represent parents and students at the school.
Jackson, who is active in Coatesville district issues, said in an interview that the board has no parent members and has only one African American on it, though most Graystone students are African American or Hispanic.
The administration at Graystone, Jackson said yesterday, "should do whatever is necessary to make sure there is a board of trustees that is responsive to the needs of the students."