Making A Difference At The Charter School

***READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED***

Posts about real school tragedy, crime and/or events can be upsetting.

Imagine you arrive at your high-achieving child’s charter school in the morning and learn the school, without warning, closed. A sudden and unexpected closure happened this week to a local charter school in my area. Financial hardship is typically the reason for a charter school closure.

What leads to the financial hardship can take a few different paths. In my opinion, all paths lead to mishandling funds in one way or another. Bankruptcy can be the result of overpaying salaries, excessive expenditures, or both, as well as embezzlement.

The hardest failure to swallow is because of the type of financial hardship in the research I’m sharing this week.

BLOG POST #147: This week, I’m sharing research on a specific criminal case involving the founder and principal of a kindergarten – 12th-grade charter school.

Detour

He didn’t plan to become the leader of a charter school for high-achieving students. After receiving a political science degree, he had aspirations of law school.

While at MIT for his MBA he was featured in a Back to School news piece and learned authorities expect children who don’t read well by fourth grade will at some point end up in prison. Because he wanted to make a difference, he shifted his focus to education.

A Promising Future

He founded three charter schools in his career. And he embezzled from all three.

After the founder had moved on to fulfill other aspirations, one of the new principals noticed large sums of money missing from the budget.

You Can Run—But You Can’t Hide

As a result of the investigation, the former founder and principal was arrested and charged with theft.

The investigation found he had taken more than $1.3 million from the three schools he’d founded. He borrowed money in the name of the school without school board authorization. He also withdrew cash from ATMs and transferred money to a nonprofit he’d created.

WHY?

What did he do with the money? To name a few, there was non-work related—entertainment, dinners out and travel. Employee bonuses. Night clubs. Strip clubs. Two BMW vehicles.

Action Through Reaction

After his arrest, [State] lawmakers moved to toughen charter school financial rules that include preventing school leaders from also handling finances.

To avoid a trial, the former founder and principal pleaded guilty to multiple counts of Theft By Taking By Fiduciary, Theft By Deception, and First Degree Forgery.

Forever Changed

The judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison, with ten years served and ten years of probation. He was also ordered to pay more than $800,000 in restitution.

As part of the sentence, he cannot work with children, non-profit organizations, school districts nor have any direct or indirect contact with anyone associated with the schools he’d founded.

Worth Mentioning: The charter school with the biggest loss never recovered. As the school board discussed closing the school, an anonymous person pledged more than $1 million to save the school. But there was one condition—the entire school board had to resign. The school board did not resign, and the school closed. A sad ending for the 200-plus students affected.

Here’s a similar post you may have missed: Fleecing of America

What do you think about this case? Join the conversation on the website. We talk about the sensitive subject of crimes occurring at or connected to schools. Your relevant comments are always welcome on the Research Blog.

Do you know of a school crime you’d like to share? Email me so we can discuss the details.

Thanks for reading!

-Robin

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