Parents, teachers feel abandoned by sudden closure of Newark charter school

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Parents and teachers are saying they feel abandoned by New Horizons School, a private charter in Newark, after the principal announced its closure amid rumors of financial troubles. 

It was a bittersweet moment Friday. There was joy for the middle school’s promotion exercises, but there was also pain and confusion because it was the final day the school would be open. 

“It’s a shock the way it happened,” said Angela Eggleston, the school’s vice principal. “It’s a shock the way it unfolded.” 

Eggleston had to arrange Friday’s promotion — originally scheduled for the end of the month — hastily. That’s because, on Wednesday night, the staff got an email from Principal Victor Dawson. 

The email informed them that the school had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and would close at the end of day Friday. 

“There are parents who paid advanced tuition and registration for the next school term,” Eggleston said. “And I don’t know if they’ll get their money returned.”

Dawson is also the majority owner of the school, according to Eggleston. Parents say that they haven’t seen him on campus in a couple of months. 

NBC Bay Area did reach Dawson over the phone. He said that he was devastated, but the financial times and loss of enrollment hit them hard. Dawson asked for 90 days to issue backpay for the teachers and to reimburse parents who have already paid tuition. 

Teachers say they knew something was very bad when paychecks stopped arriving last February. But they still showed up to work. 

“Every day,” said Santa Johnson, a teacher. “Every day. Because I’m attached. After 30 years, what are you going to do? You don’t leave the kids high and dry today because you’re not getting paid.”

Parents were also shocked, as well as amazed by the teachers’ resiliency. 

“To be here every day without pay, they’re our heroes right now for these remaining kids,” said Caroline Siebert, a parent. “I can’t say enough about these teachers.”

Still, the staff has been left with a lot of uncertainty and disappointment. 

“I’m using my credit card. I’m in some debt,” said teacher Brenae Crocket. “So I’m barely making it here.”

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