Troubled Entrepreneur High charter school closing its doors

The troubled Entrepreneur High charter school closed Friday amid financial difficulties, school Chairman Robert Hillman said.

The move came just four days after North Carolina’s charter school advisory board recommended that the State Board of Education move toward terminating the school’s charter.

Hillman told the advisory board that the school had only $14 in the bank. Entrepreneur High had projected enrolling 180 students in its first year. Last week, only 49 students were enrolled and 31 attending classes.

Administrators informed parents of the closing at a meeting Thursday evening, Hillman said. Kennedy Charter, a school on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University that focuses on preparing at-risk children for college, enrolled several of the students.

Teachers helped the handful of remaining students at the school Friday finish their first-semester exams and make plans to transfer to other schools. Hillman said he hopes to reopen the school.

“As we are able to fix the situation with the state, we’ll invite them back,” Hillman said of the students. “If we are not able to, they’re where they need to be.”

Teachers at the school will not be paid for the month of January, Hillman said.

“They don’t like it, I don’t like it, nobody likes it,” he said. “But they are just a stand-up group and realize that what we’ve got to do is the right thing by the students.”

Entrepreneur High is the third Charlotte charter school to close in the past year. Concrete Roses STEM Academy closed down in September, just four weeks after opening. Before that, StudentFirst Academy closed in April after academic and financial troubles in its first year.

Troubled year

Entrepreneur High was created with the idea of training students in advanced manufacturing and other vocations. The school received nearly 300 applications over the summer, but only about 120 showed up on the first day of class.

At the start of the year, the school’s building was not complete, and classes began in a location without workshop space. Each student had been promised a laptop, and those weren’t ready either.

Parents steadily withdrew their children. By the time the permanent campus was ready in October, about 50 students were enrolled.

The school’s board fired the CEO and principal, Hans Plotseneder, on Christmas Eve. Hillman declined to comment on why he was terminated.

On Friday, school Chief Operating Officer Hans Faulstich and new principal Elaine Worthey placed the blame for the school’s troubles on Plotseneder.

“He didn’t take care of the customers, the students,” Faulstich said.

Worthey said the school also wasn’t prepared to handle a number of students referred to the school from the juvenile justice system. The school wasn’t adequately staffed and struggled with discipline issues, she said.

Plotseneder said Entrepreneur High’s problems were Hillman’s fault and accused him of a “hostile takeover” of the school.

“I regret that he feels that way,” Hillman said.