Scandalous Payoff to Failed Florida Charter School Principal Shocks….SHOCKS Legislators

While Rick Scott is telling Floridians he wants even more charter school expansion, another scandal erupts when it was learned a failed charter school principal received a $519,000 payoff. Writes Lauren Roth in the Orlando Sentinel:

An Orange County charter school that gave its principal a $519,000 departure payout was an academic failure that struggled to provide its students with basic materials and qualified teachers, an evaluation by the school district shows.

In 2011-12, NorthStar High School’s directors paid Principal Kelly Young more than twice as much money as they spent on the school’s educational program.

Including her annual salary, bonuses and payout, Young took home at least $824,000 in taxpayer money that year, not including payments she continues to receive for winding down the school’s operations.

By comparison, the school spent $366,042 on instruction, including teacher salaries, last school year, according to an audit paid for by the school.

“I have never seen an act that egregious in 15 years of working with charters,” said State Rep. John Legg, R-Port Richey, a charter school business administrator who started a charter school 15 years ago. State lawmakers from both parties are calling for reforms to the charter law that would add transparency and accountability.

“What have we done?” said state Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, an educator for nearly four decades and a legislator on a key education budget committee. “How did we let this happen and how can we correct it?”

NorthStar’s lavish payment to their principal was not an isolated instance. In 2010-11, when Young’s contract called for $305,000 in pay, the school spent $372,009 on instruction. Her pay made up a third of the school’s budget that year.

The school lacked computers, a library or cafeteria services at its facility in concrete portables on Curry Ford Road. According to the January report by Orange County Public Schools, the school’s reading teacher was not certified in reading and NorthStar didn’t have someone certified to teach English language-learners.

“I didn’t see curriculum materials that I thought would result in academic improvement for students,” said Ronnie DeNoia, principal of A-rated Lake Eola Charter School. She was on a panel that toured the school for the report, which was part of NorthStar’s contract renewal process.

“That school served a haven purpose, not an academic purpose.”

Nearly three quarters of NorthStar’s students failed the state reading test, and half failed in math. But students who attended say it was the first school where they felt supported.

In June, the charter school’s board cited Young for “leadership” and “providing an excellent educational opportunity for at risk and underprivileged children in Orange County” in its resolution authorizing the payout of more than $500,000 upon the school’s closing.

Young was president of the board for the past three years and was a voting member, said her lawyer, Usher “Larry” Brown. The state’s top official overseeing charter schools said that serving as principal and board president is a conflict of interest.

The outrage from Legg and Sen. David Simmons is especially rich as it is they who have been passing legislation which created the system where such abuse can occur. They know that they have intentionally tied the hands of school boards and forced them into dolling out taxpayer dollars to corrupt charter school operators.  Oversight no longer belongs to local elected school members but belongs to the political appointees on the state board. Florida’s board is currently chaired by Jacksonville KIPP chairman Gary Chartrand.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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7 Responses to Scandalous Payoff to Failed Florida Charter School Principal Shocks….SHOCKS Legislators

  1. Jon Awbrey says:

    Your line, Mr. Rains …

  2. Obscene. But it’s the unionized public school teachers who are greedy and don’t care about kids…revolting.

  3. J. L. McDonald says:

    “. . . unionized public school teachers who are greedy and don’t care about kids . . .” That is the most outlandish statement one could make without proof. My “unionized wife” taught for forty years receiving sub-standard pay and benefits. She spent countless hours outside of school time supporting students and their families to help them become productive members of society. Unions are not the problem, lawyers and realtors making laws that affect public education are the problem. If you’re going to make (and this site is going to allow) such vilifying and unenlightened comments, then, prove your allegations. Better yet, volunteer for a month or so in a classroom – not a high-functioning classroom, but one that is struggling. I’ll bet you’ll find a dedicated teacher who is trying to teach children without much support from her studen’s families or the community. He/She may have to leave their daytime teaching job to work a second job just to make ends meet. This Blog points out an example (of many) of the problems with the public school system. The blogger, unfortunately, seems to support your outrageous post Jennifer. However, I think that you should provide proof to your statements.

    • Bob Sikes says:

      Have read your comment several times and am confused as to your points. And I dont filter opposing POVs. I believe that jennifer was mocking union bashers. She’s a teacher.

  4. Diane Kepus says:

    McDonald – respectfully you need to get off the Unions! There are more important issues at hand!
    Where Is the Oversite?
    Charter Schools – the “for-profit” “public-private partnership” that is being allowed by our state legislature to us taxpayer funds to become rich. Oh you say they are not getting rich! You as a taxpayer need to check out the Financials of Academica, a Charter School Consortium run by Rep. Erick Fresen’s sister or maybe Senator John Legg who has been voting on Charter School legislation all the while running and serving as the schools business administrator or maybe even Sen. Anitiere Flores (who is leaving office) and will be the Administrator for the new Charter School Community College, Doral, which will fall under the Academica umbrella.
    How about our legislators who are also serving on Jeb Bush are various Foundations?
    Maybe even the fact Florida’s last two Commissioners of Education are members of Jeb Bush’s Chief’s for Change.”
    I wonder if this reminder of the facts will help the Florida legislators deal with what happened at the Northstar Charter High School in Orlando, Orange Cnty, FL.
    The passing of the buck between the county school board and the legislators in Tallahassee should be interesting.
    Is everyone in Tallahassee asleep or just so busy running for office that you cannot do the current job you were getting paid to do. The number of Charter school close in this state or having severe rating problems in the past 2 years is outrageous and JUST WHO IS MINDING THE STORE?
    Is the point that you really want them to fail so you can push forward your “school-work” program? Do the legislators really believe we have no idea what they are doing with the Charter school BUSINESS?
    Recently the story broke in regard to the abrupt closing of the Northstar Charter HS in Orlando.
    “The law is very clear that school boards cannot put limits or control how a charter school spends their money, including payouts like this” Bill Sublette, Orange County School Board Chair told the Sentinel. He called the payment “a shameful abuse of public tax dollars” and “immoral and unethical.”
    Bur sir, I would ask why this school has been allowed to remain open as many years as it has! Years ending in May of each school year, this school had grades of: 2004 D; 2005 D; 2006 C; 2007 F; 2008 B; 2009 D; 2010 D; 2011 D and 2012 F. This works out in my world of a school average grade of D over 9 years! What the heck is wrong with the Orange County School Board this was allowed to happen? In 2010 and 2011 they graduated 69% of seniors and in 2012 44%. Just who is minding the store?
    What do you guess the prospects of success are for these students who were not graduating, three-quarters of them had failed reading tests and half of them the math tests this past year?
    How many times do we have to point out the errors of the ways of the State of Florida Department of Education? Now that this happens you are asking questions of which you should be looking in the mirror!
    Senator David Simmons, who was the Chairman of the FL. DOE, states “There’s no room for abuse by charter or traditional schools,” Simmons told the Sentinel. He called for an investigation. “All it does is hurt children.” I say to you Mr. Simmons for 2 years I tried to get an appointment with you to speak to you about the state of “Charter Schools” in Florida and I was forced to sit through an interview with your secretary who was given the privilege to determine whether what I wanted to discuss with you warranted your attention. I guess to her it did not! Do you honestly feel you are that important as to turn away from taxpayers?
    Just what is going on in Tallahassee?
    Legislators writing and voting on Charter School legislation who know nothing about education obviously is not the only problem!
    1. Legislators who at the same time have a financial interest in Charter Schools
    2. Legislators who are also serving on Jeb Bush’s Foundations and he has an alternative motive to his actions
    3. Legislators who question Jeb Bush before voting on legislation as if he were still the governor and had a background in education of which he does not
    4. A state school Board of which half of them are also in the business of Charter Schools in one form or another, work on Jeb Bush’s fund raising events, serve on his Foundations or have worked in some capacity for the Bush family.
    5. Legislators who have written lenient legislation in regard to Charter schools with no oversight
    6. Charter schools are “for-profit” “public-private” partnerships – to whom do you believe allegiance is to – the business of Charter Schools or the children?
    7. Now with the governor’s blessing and involvement, Communist China may invest one million or more into our Charter schools and get a permanent green card status with the prospect of another $60M!
    8. Since 2010, there have been 67 incidents of some form of “bad behavior” to give reason to close down Charter Schools around Florida. If there were that many public schools involved in this type of behavior i.e., uncertified teachers, embezzlement, cheating, poor conditions, no textbooks, un-responsible boards, cronyism, bankruptcy – if these kinds of actions were taking place in “regular” public schools the outcry could be heard around the country!
    In October, Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute wrote a glowing article about how the AZ Charter schools are the best in the country. My research showed they were not #1 in the country and in fact most of their Charter schools showed no grade at all for the 2011-2012 school year. Upon my research of the top 20 Charter schools in the Country, AZ had 2, Texas 4 and CA 9 with FL having 1. Now if you were to speak with Jeb Bush or his mouthpiece Patricia Levesque they would tell you Florida is the leader in Charter schools. They must mean in lenient legislation and lack of oversight – not the teacher accountability.
    Oh, by the way, Mr. Bolick, who has written several favorable articles regarding Jeb Bush and his Charter school successes, they are soon to release a book they wrote together. More cronyism!
    Please do not insult us by telling the taxpayers it is more money that is needed because it is not! What is needed is for Florida to take charge of its own Education system without the influence of the Federal government, get rid of RTTT, CCS and all foreign education/curriculum’s within our state.
    It is time for Florida Legislators to do the job they are being paid for rather than paying homage to Jeb Bush and the lobbyists. You, the legislators, are ruining our children.

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