LEAP has resolved another issue. regaining its status as a tax-exempt organization last week. The IRS revoked that status after LEAP failed to file the required Form 990 for three consecutive years.That's big news, because this might save the $8.5 million in bonds that LEAP used to finance its expansion, guaranteed by Rutgers-Camden, from going into default. I'll assume that Vargas confirmed the story with the IRS, but I wish she would have asked them why they decided to reinstate LEAP's non-profit status when they hadn't filed the correct forms for three years.
And that still doesn't address the main concern: how could the NJDOE allow LEAP and other Camden charters to operate for years without checking on their IRS filings? Where is the accountability for overseeing charter schools?
The question is amplified in another item by Vargas, which followed up on her story that the "executive chef" at LEAP - who happens to be the live-in boyfriend of LEAP's founder, Gloria Bonilla-Santigao - got a $24,000 raise, putting his salary at $95,000. Vargas reports that LEAP's RFP with a new food service vendor required that her boyfriend be employed at a set salary:
So we're back to the same question: how could the NJDOE allow a deal like this to go through?Here is the statement from Metz Culinary Management:"Mr. Pastorello’s compensation for Fiscal Year 2013 was stipulated in the initial Request For Proposal (RFP) given to Metz Culinary Management and any other food service management company bidding for the LEAP Academy food service account. In that RFP, Mr. Pastorello and two other LEAP Academy employees were required to be retained at stipulated salaries by the approved food service management company. LEAP Academy's RFP stated the following:‘Employees that the FSMC (Food Service Management Company) is required to retain must be retained at the FY (Fiscal Year) 13 (2013) hourly rate/salary plus benefits’In this RFP, Mr. Pastorello was noted as a LEAP Academy employee that must be retained as an employee of the approved food service management company at a salary of $95,000, plus benefits, for Fiscal Year 2013. Metz Culinary Management did not have control over Mr. Pastorello’s compensation, or any other employee at LEAP Academy, based on the requirements stipulated in the RFP."
In New Jersey, local school boards have no oversight powers over the charter schools that take their districts' school funds. They have no way of knowing whether or not deals like this are being made at the expense of the local taxpayers who elected them. They rely on the NJDOE to provide oversight of charters so exactly this sort of thing doesn't happen.
Why should any local citizen believe the NJDOE is a vigilant guardian of their local school funds when these sorts of shenanigans are allowed to occur in charter schools?
Accountability begins at home.