State questions whether all-new charter board is ready to run school

ahelms@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 4, 2014 

VoTechHigh_Entrepreneur_01

Entrepreneur High Charter School board member Robert Hillman Jr., B+E Manufacturing Company President Alex Lindenbeck, Entrepreneur High Charter School CEO/Principal Dr. Hans Plotseneder and the school’s chief operations officer Hans Faulstich, from left, in front of a SNK Machining Center at B+E in Monroe. The company plans to work with the new school to offer students internships.

DAVIE HINSHAW — dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

— State charter-school officials say they’ve never seen a case like that of Entrepreneur High.

A group of Charlotte-area educators and business people spent a year and a half planning a vocational charter school and convincing state officials they could make their plan reality.

Then, exactly one month after clearing the biggest hurdle on Sept. 5, that group dissolved itself.

Founder Hans Plotseneder, a retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher, told the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board in December that the 3-2 vote to dissolve his board in October was a maneuver to replace a group undermined by one member’s talks with CMS. He compared the change – only two of eight founding members remained, with four new members hastily added – to school board elections.

But staff from the state Office of Charter Schools said they’ve never seen so much turnover on a board that is moving toward charter approval. The state Board of Education granted preliminary approval to Entrepreneur and 25 other schools in September, with the final vote scheduled for Thursday.

“It appears to me that your board is not the board that was originally interviewed,” said advisory board Chair Helen Nance.

Also troubling, panelists said, was the fact that the two remaining founders, Plotseneder and Hans Faulstich, planned to stay on the school’s board while holding paid leadership positions.

“Then you vote for your own salaries?” one advisory board member asked.

Plotseneder said the plan to double up would eliminate bureaucracy. “The key for us is we have new approaches,” he said. “We don’t have 2,000 administrators like CMS.”

But he said if the employment of board members was a deal-breaker, his board would revise that plan.

Some advisory board members talked of deferring the Entrepreneur charter until 2015-16. But others argued that Plotseneder had a good plan that he’s been working on since 2012.

The advisory board voted unanimously to recommend approval of Entrepreneur’s charter if the board revised its bylaws to ban employees from serving as voting board members. On Wednesday, the state Board of Education will get a report on that change.

Plotseneder said he and Faulstich have become nonvoting board members so they can work for Entrepreneur High. The all-new board will be chaired by Robert Hillman Jr., a financial adviser recruited to join the team.

One founding member says Entrepreneur High doesn’t deserve to be revived.

Mike Horrigan, the human resources consultant whom Plotseneder accused of “selling out” the charter school to CMS, said Plotseneder not only misrepresented Horrigan’s actions but also improperly created a new board.

Horrigan told state officials he suspected Plotseneder and Faulstich might try to create “a more agreeable board” when Plotseneder moved to dissolve the existing one. But Entrepreneur’s bylaws require at least three members on the board of directors, he said, so the duo didn’t have the authority to create a new board.

Helms: 704-358-5033; Twitter: @anndosshelms

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