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Closed Mesa Charter School Had History Of Financial Problems

(Photo via Hillcrest Academy Twitter page)
Hillcrest Academy used this logo on their Twitter page.

It’s been two weeks since a Mesa charter school closed unexpectedly, leaving at least 130 kids little time to find new schools.

The Hillcrest Academy board sent out an email to parents early August, a day before school was supposed to start, that the charter school was closing.

The Leman Academy of Excellence in Tucson planned to take over managing the school this year, but backed out after financial problems arose in July.

"We came in good faith thinking that we could work with the board and make this happen, and then over the course of about 45-60 days, we started to see things that made us nervous," Leman Academy CEO, Joe Higgins said. “The ability for us to pay our teachers became a big concern and we were afraid we wouldn’t have the income to cover the obligations we were making.”

Former Hillcrest parent Harmoni Boyles enrolled her son in the charter school because of the location, and was told of the expected management change, but nothing else.

“The fact that they didn’t let parents know at all throughout the whole summer and just let us think that everything was fine and then pull the rug on us the day before school was starting? I find that appalling,” Boyles said.

Boyles ended up sending her son to Liberty Arts Academy, another charter school in Mesa. She said other former Hillcrest parents chose Liberty Arts as well.

Hillcrest said the failing health of its charter representative, along with legal and financial problems, forced them to close.

Casey Kuhn reports from KJZZ’s West Valley Bureau. She comes to Phoenix from the Midwest, where she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.Kuhn got her start in radio reporting in college at the community public radio station, WFHB. She volunteered there as a reporter and worked her way up to host the half-hour, daily news show. After graduating, she became a multimedia reporter at Bloomington's NPR/PBS station WFIU/WTIU, where she reported for and produced a weekly statewide news television show.Since moving to the Southwest, she’s discovered a passion for reporting on rural issues, agriculture and the diverse people who make up her community.Kuhn was born and raised in Cincinnati, where her parents instilled in her a love of baseball, dogs and good German beer. You’ll most likely find her around the Valley with a glass of prosecco in one hand and a graphic novel in the other.She finds the most compelling stories come from KJZZ’s listeners.