School in Steeplegate Mall surrenders its charter prior to state hearing about finances

  • Commissioner of the Department of EducationFrank Edelblut talks with student at the Capital City Charter School in the Steepgate Mall on Thursday, November 7, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Commissioner of the Department of EducationFrank Edelblut talks with student at the Capital City Charter School in the Steepgate Mall on Thursday, November 7, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Stephanie Alicea talks with interested students and parents inside the former Bon-Ton space that she is transforming into the new Capital City Charter School at the Steeplegate Mall in Concord on July 24, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Monitor staff
Published: 2/9/2021 2:33:38 PM

A charter school that ran for two years in the former Bon-Ton store in the Steeplegate Mall has shut permanently after the state raised questions about its financial records.

The founder of Capital City Charter School, Stephanie Alicea of Boscawen, surrendered the school’s charter last week, meaning it cannot legally reopen. The state Board of Education had scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on the school’s finances and whether to revoke the charter. That hearing has been canceled.

Alicea, who had been a teacher for two decades, started Capital City Charter School in the fall of 2018 after receiving a five-year charter from the state. It was greeted with enthusiasm as an example of how charter schools can take alternative approaches, including its decision to locate in a mostly-empty mall. Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut visited in November 2019, saying, “I love the location, the facility and how it’s laid out, the open concept, the fluidity.”

However, questions were raised by the Board of Education soon after Capital City Charter School opened, many around Alicea’s failure to submit state and federal financial audits. Some are still missing, according to the notice that canceled Tuesday’s hearing: “As of the present date, (the school) had not submitted either of the required State Audits, and has also missed other financial reporting deadlines as stipulated in the Remedial Plan.”

Among other issues raised in the notice are “excess/unsupported grant reimbursements of $153,837.98” that the department is seeking to have refunded as well as “complaints from a teacher and a contractor alleging financial irregularities at the school.”

Alicea said in a statement to the online news website Patch.com that because the school could not “fulfill the requests,” she had “knowingly chosen to surrender the Charter rather than have a revocation hearing.”

Alicea said the Capital City Charter School was built around a service-learning concept. Many of its students were attracted by its small classes and focus on learning through doing, including internships.

She previoulsy told the Monitor  that she couldn’t find affordable space for the school until the Bon-Ton store closed, after which Steeplegate Mall leased up to 34,000 square feet as part of its transition away from the retail tenants that usually anchor malls.

The school’s charter for grades six through nine allowed for as many as 330 students but enrollment was usually around four dozen.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)



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