Sunday, March 20, 2016

Charter Network Protects Top Leader Jobs and Salaries. . But Not the Rights of Students

Another excellent investigative report by The Lens reporter Marta Jewson follows an earlier report by Danielle Dreilinger and further exposes an apparent effort to protect the jobs and salaries of top executives of the ReNEW Charter Network who dragged their feet in correcting wrongdoing at one of their charters. The two executives may have attempted to cover-up of major policy violations at Sci Tech Academy. When it was discovered that then ReNEW CEO Gary Robicheaux had tried to cover up fraud and abuse at the school relative to bilking the state and federal government of special education funding and various other violations, he was simply transferred to another administrative position at the same salary. But Jewson found out using a public records request that the new CEO who took his place was apparently just as guilty of the cover-up of wrongdoing. The mid-level administrators who had actually committed the fraud were forced to resign, but the big bosses got to keep their high paying jobs. Colleen Mackay who was informed first of the wrongdoing by an email from a brave special education supervisor, got promoted to Robicheaux's job as CEO and Robicheaux got another bureaucratic job with ReNEW at the same upgraded salary of $154K. Pretty sweet! And their role in the cover up was kept secret by John White's DOE by redacting their names from the report of wrongdoing.

This is where Jewson's investigative efforts really shine in turning over this pile of steaming dung! She filed a public records request to demand that the full emails and reports of the Department on the incident be revealed including the redacted names of participants in the cover-up. No one has explained yet why John White's Department of education chose to protect the top executives by redacting their names from the report while seemingly sacrificing the middle managers who were force to resign from the school system. But the protected executives simply exchanged job titles to make it look like a shake-up had also happened at the top. But both executives were actually rewarded by having their salaries bumped up to a higher level while their part in the cover-up was also covered-up by the redaction of their names from the incriminating report! Oh yes, and those two seemingly fired managers. . .  Their future prospects for jobs were apparently protected by being allowed to resign instead of being fired. It they had actually been fired, their credentials as educators would have been canceled.

Jepson's report also points out the similarities between ReNEW's violations and violations at the less influential Lagniappe Academy which actually got closed down because of similar violations. But it looks like the ReNEW group had more pull with the LDOE and were able to not only keep their school open, but also get shielding of their top executives from appropriate sanctions. Also, the LDOE gave the ReNEW group a six year extension of their charter right at the time they were still being investigated for the very serious violations of law and policy.

This incident illustrates of the main differences between the real public schools and these government protected charters. They are run by self appointed boards, not elected boards. So if there is wrongdoing or individuals who are abusing our taxes and denying children services to insure that they can get exorbitant salaries, we the taxpayers can't do anything about it. We can't elect new school board members as a way of correcting the problems. They get to self-investigate violations. They can intimidate employees because there are no unions allowed to protect employees, and they can run off whistleblowers. The employee at Sci-Tech who revealed the violations has left the school. Meanwhile our tax dollars pay the high salaries of the executives even though many students are neglected.

If you are a taxpayer or a parent or a real educator please take the time to read the entire article by Jewson and the previous article by Drelinger here. This story shows just how crooked and self-serving these vaunted charter operators are at the expense of students they are supposed to be serving. Send this story to the legislators in Georgia and other states that are in the process of setting up  "Recovery Districts" or "Achievement Zones" patterned after the Louisiana Recovery District. Do you remember when we were told that these new charter schools would do away with wasteful bureaucracies that were siphoning money away from the students? Instead we have a self protecting double bureaucracy under the RSD and the Renew administrators protected at the very top by John White's charter/voucher incubation machine.

1 comment:

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