As much as it disgusts me to write about the constant stream of charter scandals, failures, and closures- it’s more important than ever to stay informed about what’s really happening.
Goodyear, AZ Daniel Hughes, the owner of the now shuttered Bradley Creemos Academy Charter School wrote to parents back in January to say there wasn’t enough funding to keep the school open. This after receiving $2 million from the state in taxpayer money. Teachers and staff have accused Hughes of using state funds for his own personal gain.“There were things that were purchased on personal credit cards that school funds were used to pay off, the janitorial staff for the school was used to clean his personal residence, and the cooks from the school were used to cater and sponsor parties at his house, including his daughter’s first birthday party” (CBS).
In a 2014 IRS tax form, the school indicated Hughes’ salary as $60,736. In 2015 Hughes’ salary had increased to $100,000. Additionally, payments in 2015 of $949,000 were made to Hughes and to Creemos Association, which is a separate organization owned by Hughes.
The filing also showed hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursements to Hughes for “Purchases on behalf of the school,” “Reimbursements of amount due,” and “Purchases and payments on revolving agreement” (CBS).
The closure leaves more than 100 students searching for new schools, and teachers, janitors, teaching assistants and administrators looking for new jobs (ABC15).
New York City, NY Families for Excellent Schools, a once well-funded charter school in New York City announced last week it too is shutting the doors and firing Executive Director Jeremiah Kittredge after allegations of inappropriate behavior with a non-school employee. Politico reported that a woman who attended a conference with Mr. Kittredge in November had accused him of sexual harassment. Kitteridge was fired from another pro-charter school group, Democracy Builders, in 2011, according to multiple sources. The reasons are unclear. Kittredge is best known in New York for helping to arrange enormous pro-charter rallies in Albany.
Atlanta, GA Chris Clemons, former principal of Latin Academy was ordered by an Atlanta judge to pay $810,000 in restitution, serve 10 years in prison and 10 years on probation. Clemons spent more than $500,000 on strip clubs and made numerous unaccounted cash withdrawals from the school account. “As part of his sentencing, Clemons cannot work with children, cannot work for any nonprofit or school district or have any direct or indirect contact with Atlanta Public Schools, Fulton County Schools, school boards, students and parents of the three schools affected (Fox5).
Eureka Township, MI James Mata, a teacher at Flat River Academy was back in the classroom despite having been placed on administrative leave. Mata was formally charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and third-degree child abuse. This stems from an incident first reported in May 2017 and involved a 13 year old boy. Mata was placed on unpaid administrative leave and, according to the school, would remain on unpaid leave until the case was resolved in court The Daily News.
However, The Daily News learned Mata was teaching again at the school. A phone call to Interim Principal Joel Hilgendorf was not returned, nor has he responded to questions as to why Mata was allowed back in the classroom.
New Orleans, LA Gregory Phillips, CEO of the James M. Singleton Charter School in New Orleans is stepping down after the state voided dozens of standardized tests at the school for suspected cheating and other testing irregularities. According to The Advocate, “The testing investigation was launched after the state Department of Education received a tip last summer that students had gotten copies of LEAP tests beforehand, that test administrators were coaching students, and teachers and staff were taking the tests themselves”
State officials discovered many students had gotten help on LEAP tests, even though the assistance wasn’t authorized by their IEP’s. Officials found a suspicious number of answers had been changed to correct answers for 21 students (The Advocate). The state voided tests for 155 students due to testing irregularities.
Moriarty, NM Estancia Valley Classical Academy in Moriarty, New Mexico, hosts fundraisers every year to raise money with hopes of a new school building. Since 2015 the school has been raffling off handguns and rifles. Local residents didn’t want to comment on the fundraiser, but residents of Albuquerque don’t see the harm in doing so. One resident spoke on record, “I think it’s good for the kids to build familiarity with the firearms and know what they’re doing”(Daily Mail).
According to the Department of Education, it is up to individual districts or schools to decide how they wish to raise money and the state has no control. The state is only able to enforce that the money be used for proper ventures (Daily Mail).
Napa, CA The El Centro Elementary School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to deny Imagine School Imperial Valley’s petition to renew its charter, citing the charter school’s failure to meet academic requirements. A 21-page report cited a number of deficiencies with Imagine’s governance, academic progress, corporate structure and teachers’ credentialing. According to the ECESD report, in 2017 roughly 75% of ISIV students didn’t meet English Language Arts standards and 88% didn’t meet mathematics standards. In comparison, 40% met or exceeded ELA standards and 31% met or exceeded mathematics standards in the El Centro Elementary School District.Board members remarked how often they reportedly hear from community members and educators that Imagine students who transfer to another district are a grade level or two behind. (Diane Ravitch).
One final note today- the proposed education budget includes an allocation of $1 billion for vouchers (Washington Post).
These are my reflections for today.
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