Charter Schools Education Reform Florida Scandals Fraud and Hoaxes

Nominee for Best Charter School Scandal of the Year

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Just when I think I have heard the most absurd story possible about charter schools that pillage taxpayers’ dollars, I discover a story like this one (thanks to a reader in Florida).

This is only part of the story:

With roughly 270 students, the new Paramount Charter School in Sunrise has already received $740,000 in taxpayer-funded money and is slated to get about $3 million during the school year.

Despite the infusion of public cash, Paramount — an elementary-level school that, like all charters, is privately owned but publicly funded — is riddled with problems. According to a school board member, it’s already had three principals, lost nearly all of its teachers after the first month due to firings and resignations and has some parents alleging their children aren’t learning there.

The president of the company that owns the school, Jimika Williams Mason, drove away from a Local 10 News camera in her vehicle. It was discovered the listed vice president of the company, Ashley Challenger, is a 22-year-old Nova Southeastern University student who said she was given a spot on the school’s board of directors through the college and had no idea she had even been listed as a corporate vice president of the Advancement of Education in Scholars Corporation.

She said she had met once with Mason but had no idea what was happening at the school and had yet to attend a board meeting.

More findings about the troubled charter school include:

Mason, the president, lists no experience in the education field in the application, instead noting that she spent six years in management at a Miramar company that specializes in unsecured home improvement loans.

Former NFL player and reality TV star Hank Baskett is listed in the application as a “non-voting board member” who will “aid in the Sports and Fitness program.” But Baskett’s agent, Jim Ivler, said Baskett is not affiliated with the school. “They reached out to us more than five years ago interested in establishing a relationship with Hank,” Ivler wrote Local 10. “It never went anywhere and we haven’t heard from them in years.”

The corporate office goes to a building in Boca Raton’s Mizner Park, but a manager there told Local 10 the company doesn’t actually rent physical office space, but rather has a “virtual office” where it can receive mail and phone messages.

After promising at least two teachers who spoke to Local 10 on condition of anonymity a salary of $36,000 and full benefits, the school after the first month instructed them that if they wanted to keep their jobs they would have to take a $6,000 pay cut and forego benefits. Both teachers were among those who resigned, while numerous teachers were fired. “I don’t understand how you can give someone a school just based on paper,” said one teacher. “Not only the school, how can you give them the children,” said the other.

A member of the local school board said:

“Everything is a free-for-all basically…And the sad part is we’re going to find this generation of kids, many of them, who are not educated properly in these schools.”

To learn more about this school, read Mercedes Schneider’s description here.

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