I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, August 23, 2013

NJDOE Fail (Again): Camden Community Charter School

Camden's schools open this year on Monday, September 9 -- a little more than two weeks. But when Camden Community Charter School opens, there will be a huge black cloud over the campus:
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale charged Wednesday that Pennsylvania's largest charter school - located in Chester - was improperly reimbursed $1.3 million for lease payments on its own buildings and called on the state Department of Education to clamp down on the practice.

Speaking to reporters on a teleconference, DePasquale said Chester Community Charter School should not have been reimbursed because the property was owned for most of the three years in question by Vahan Gureghian, a wealthy Gladwyne lawyer who heads the company that manages the school. A nonprofit took it over in 2010. [emphasis mine]
Why does this matter to Camden? Because Camden Community Charter School and Chester Community Charter School are both managed by Vahan Guregehian. And, according to the PA State Auditor, Vahan has been a very naughty boy [I edited this text so only the headings show; see details at the link - JJ]:
Finding No. 1: Charter School Improperly Received $1,276,660 in State Lease Reimbursement.  
Finding No. 2: Charter School Failed to Comply with the Teacher Certification Provisions of the Federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Finding No. 3: Weaknesses in School Board Meeting Minutes.

Finding No. 4: Failure to Develop and to Timely File a Memorandum of Understanding with Local Law Enforcement.

Finding No. 5: Charter School Failed to Comply with Open Enrollment and Lottery Provisions of the Charter School Law.

Finding No. 6: Charter School Out of Compliance with Retirement Requirements.

Finding No. 7: Improper Reporting of Certified School Nurse on Health Services Reimbursement Form Submitted for State Reimbursement.

Finding No. 8: Inaccurate Reporting of Child Accounting Data to the Pennsylvania Information Management System.

Finding No. 9: Internal Control Weaknesses in Tuition Billing Procedures.

Finding No. 10: Charter School Lacks Sufficient Internal Controls Over Its Student Record Data.

Finding No. 11: Charter School’s Original Charter Lacks Important Requirements and Has Never Been Updated to Reflect Its Current Operations. 
Oh, my. Well, I'm sure NJDOE officials can document that they investigated each of these issues before they granted CCCS its final charter. I mean, there's just no way someone at NJDOE wouldn't have picked up the phone and talked to officials in the PA Auditor's office before granting a charter to a CMO as controversial as Gureghian's. Right, fellas?

[chirp... chirp...]

Well, I guess when you're PA Governor Tom Corbett's biggest campaign donor, you get a little slack from Republican administrations in bordering states. Let's see how much scratch Gureghian throws Chris Christie's way in his upcoming election(s).

I documented the saga of Chester Community, Gurgehian, and his entrance into Camden in a two-part series earlier this year (Part I and Part II). The auditor's report confirms what I found:
The Charter School did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the 2011-12 school year and is in a warning status level. Warning means that the Charter School fell short of the AYP targets but has another year to achieve them before any consequences are imposed. A school that misses only one measure will not meet AYP. This is the first year that the Charter School did not meet all AYP measures. Specifically, the Charter School fell short of the AYP targets/goals for Academic Performance. If the Charter School meets all AYP measures next year, it will be considered on track to meet the goal of all students attaining proficiency in Reading and Math by the year 2014.[emphasis mine]
In addition to fiscal, test cheating, and academic concerns, Bruce Baker found Chester Community has taken advantage of a broken school financing system in Pennsylvania to send the local public school district into a tailspin.

And yet, in spite of all this, the NJDOE is giving Camden Community the green light to open in a little more than two weeks -- all so a politically powerful charter operator can get embedded into another state.

The NJDOE's charter oversight system is hopelessly broken. If Governor Christie, Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, and Acting State Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard want to show they are serious about providing Camden's children with a great education and protecting the taxpayers' interests...

They really have no choice. They need to suspend Camden Community's charter, find seats for the children and teaching jobs for the staff, and thoroughly investigate the PA Auditor's charges.

Anything less would further compound their dereliction of duty.

Accountability begins at home.

2 comments:

Michael Fiorillo said...

It's impossible for the Excellentest Best and Brightest Bold Disruptive so-called reformers to fail, as long as they keep getting our money.

Mrs. King's music students said...

If no one else is going to bring this up - I will. There's no denying that Applitrack is changing the application process in Camden. For one thing, there's reason to believe that all applications make it to HR, and are intercepted by RACs w/o prejudice. In addition, prerequites for supervisory positions like frequent visits to schools, collaborates w/teachers and maintains integrity of evaluation process are a step up from 'came up in Camden', goes to the same church as the guy who wrote this, etc...

Of course this is just the first half of a job well done. Every one of the supts helpers will have to monitor whats actually happening in classrms longterm to accomplish the second half - visit schools frequently, and then go IN the classrooms and help the teachers in there.