Walter D. Palmer, founder and former board president of a city charter school that closed in 2014 amid crushing financial woes, has a new job.
He is now acting CEO of Khepera, a financially troubled charter school in North Philadelphia.
Previously, Palmer was the face of the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners charter, which had campuses in Frankford and Northern Liberties.
Khepera, 926 W. Sedgley Ave., is an African-centered school with about 370 students from kindergarten through the eighth grade.
The school is permitted to have 450 students, and it initially contracted with Palmer as a consultant to help boost enrollment.
Palmer, 82, said he was named acting CEO about a month ago.
"I'm trying to see if I can help them organize some things over there," Palmer said Thursday.
He has been advising on school climate and culture and developing accountability systems.
"All of my life, all I did was education," Palmer said. "I'm trying to make a difference."
DawnLynne Kacer, executive director of the district's charter office, said she did not know whether Palmer was Khepera's interim or permanent CEO or a consultant.
"We would expect that the board of Khepera did their due diligence before bringing Mr. Palmer aboard, given his past leadership of a charter school that failed financially and was forced to close in the middle of the school year," she said.
Richard Isaac, Khepera's board president, could not be reached for comment.
Some administrators at Palmer's shuttered charter took the Fifth Amendment 77 times during a School Reform Commission hearing in 2014 on revoking the school's operating agreement for financial mismanagement and academic shortcomings.
At the hearing, administrators cited the Fifth Amendment in response to questions ranging from "Isn't it true that you lied . . . about accurately submitting invoices?" to "Do you have a master's degree?"
More than 960 Palmer students scrambled to find new schools when that charter closed its high school in October 2014 and its elementary school two months later.
Palmer said the school could not continue to operate after a Commonwealth Court judge ordered it to repay the district $1.5 million for students it was not authorized to enroll.
That order came one day after a Common Pleas Court judge rejected the charter's emergency request for a $1.4 million payment from the district. The charter said the district owed it the money for students it had educated above the 675 enrollment cap set by the district. The school said it had never agreed to the cap.
The closing of the Palmer charter prompted several lawsuits, including a pending class-action suit filed by former employees who are seeking to be paid for work they performed in the fall of 2014.
As for Khepera, the district has been concerned about its finances since earlier this year, when teachers began complaining that money deducted from their paychecks for the state retirement system was not being credited to their accounts at the state Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS).
The school has not been making timely payments to that system and has failed to file some financial documents required by law with the district.
A former chief administrator at Khepera filed a whistle-blower suit in federal court in October. Mukasa Afrika alleges his contract was not renewed in retaliation for reporting concerns about the school's financial and management practices to the district's charter office and other government agencies.
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