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Member of the state charter school board resigns abruptly over scheduling conflict, says not tied to lawsuit

Published March 28, 2017 2:12 pm

Education • Move prompted by scheduling conflict, not pending lawsuit, he says .
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Rob Enger, a member of the state charter school board since 2012, resigned abruptly Thursday in an email to his board colleagues.

Enger's resignation letter, obtained through a records request, did not state his reason for quitting the board, a subsidiary panel to the Utah Board of Education that oversees charter schools.

"I know that it probably can't come at a worse time, since [American Preparatory Academy] is on the agenda for tomorrow's meeting and I was quite honestly looking forward to finding a resolution to the school's problem," Enger wrote. "But please trust me when I say that it's in the board's — and my family's — best interest to step down immediately and that I not participate in any further board activity."



Enger told The Tribune on Tuesday that his work schedule was increasingly interfering with his ability to participate in state charter school board meetings.

"I took a new job and it doesn't give me the flexibility to attend those meetings," Enger said. "It's, completely, a scheduling issue."

Enger's resignation letter referenced an ongoing property dispute between the governing board of Draper's American Preparatory Academy, or APA, and an industrial park located on the school's south side.

APA is functionally landlocked, relying on an easement to maintain vehicle access from Lone Peak Parkway. The school is seeking to expand by constructing a high school on its property and had asked the state charter school board to intervene on its behalf and use eminent domain to condemn a narrow strip of land that separates APA from a partially-private roadway that runs parallel to the school property.

On Friday, the day after Enger's resignation, the state charter school board voted to delay consideration of eminent domain actions until an ongoing lawsuit between the two property owners is resolved. There is also an ongoing debate over whether the charter school board, composed of unelected members who are appointed by the governor, has the statutory right to claim private property through eminent domain.

Enger said he has no ties to American Preparatory Academy, but had studied the property dispute as a member of the state charter school board and had hoped to participate in its resolution.

"It's a pain point for [property owner John] Price and for APA and for the board and the city," Enger said. "I wanted to be a part of the decision but I just couldn't be there."

Enger is also named in a 2015 lawsuit against Providence Hall, a three-campus charter school in Herriman where Enger previously served as governing board chairman.

The school's former superintendent, Erin Preston, alleges wrongful termination and breech of contract by the school's board, as well as gender and religious discrimination stemming from Preston's status as an inactive member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In the lawsuit, Preston alleges she was fired over objections to a plan by Enger to profit from charter expansion by forming a private charter management organization with Howard Headlee, founder of American Preparatory Academy and former chairman of the state charter school board.

Preston also alleges her hiring of a racially and religiously diverse faculty was criticized by Providence Hall board members as unrepresentative of the majority-white and majority-Mormon community in Herriman, and that her status as a divorced, single mother and her personal political views drew complaints from school staff and parents.

Enger said his resignation from the state charter school board was not related to the lawsuit, which is currently pending in federal court. And he added that he has no involvement with any charter management organizations.

While he is named in the body of the lawsuit, Enger is not listed as a defendant as he is no longer a member of the school's governing board.

"I am not involved in any way [with Providence Hall] other than my kids go there," he said.

Preston said Tuesday that she did not name Enger as a defendant in her lawsuit because her employment was terminated by the full governing board.

"He was acting in his role as board chair," she said, "whether he was acting inappropriately or not."

A spokeswoman for Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday the governor does not have a timeline set for replacing Enger on the charter board.

bwood@sltrib.com

Twitter: @bjaminwood

 

 

 

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