San Diego

Founder and CEO of Inspire Charter Schools Resigns

The school has given no explanation for the resignation

The founder and chief executive officer of Inspire Charter School, a home-based charter with two schools authorized by the Dehesa School District in San Diego County, has resigned amid allegations of fiscal mismanagement.

Doctor Nick Nichols had been on a temporary leave of absence since Sept. 27. A letter was posted on Inspire Charter School's Facebook page.

The school has given no explanation for the resignation, but NBC 7 Investigates has been reporting on the carious problems facing the charter school since the summer.

In August, NBC 7 Investigates reported that some educators within the charter school industry strongly criticized Inspire, questioning the charter school’s ethics and recruitment practices.

At one time, the school allowed parents to use taxpayer money to go to theme parks for educational purposes. The school also allegedly offered financial incentives to teachers to recruit families to the school, money some educators say should have been used for educational purposes.

Inspire told NBC7 Investigates in August it does not offer bonuses to families or teachers who recruited families. But, according to an undated document, there was a new student referral incentive program that offered a $200 allowance credit for each new Kindergarten through 12th grade student who enrolled in Inspire. The money was to be spent on enrichment. According to another undated document, staff members were offered $100 for each new family that enrolled in Inspire, the money to be in the form of extra work hours.

The California Charter Schools Association rescinded Inspire’s membership in September, and recommended an independent audit of the school’s management. At that time, in a letter to parents, Inspire Executives wrote in part: "The Association abdicated its role as an advocate for family educational choice. Now, the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) in investigating Inspire for possible fraud. The request for the investigation came from six superintendents in California and the California Charter School Association."

Dr. Steve Lawrence will continue on as executive director of the Inspire District Office, according to the letter sent to parents.

Inspire has denied any wrongdoing.

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