As many of you may know, MVRCS was originally managed by Advantage Schools. While many business arrangements begin and end, most do not result in legal action being taken against a school for non-payment. In 2000 an Arbitrator awarded Advantage Schools, Inc. over 200,000.00 in fees that MVRCS had disputed. Although MVRCS was ordered and agreed to make an initial payment by August 31, 2000 and then subsequent payments, they did not do so. As a result, Advantage Schools, Inc. was forced to take the case to court to collect their funds. The sad part is that this MVRCS did not pay it as a result of their challenging the ruling (as they missed the 30 day appeal requirement) but rather that they chose not to pay it after having agreed to the initial payment plan. An excerpt from the case follows:
MVRCS was required to pay Advantage Schools, Inc. (“Advantage”) $193,407.67 by August 31, 2000 and pay $101,906.64 into an escrow account by August 31, 2000 and make scheduled monthly payments to Advantage and into escrow thereafter. In addition, Mystic was required to pay $1,466.38 in administrative fees and expenses of the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”). Advantage now seeks an order to confirm the arbitrator's award persuant to G.L. c. 251, § 1, and add interest, costs and attorneys fees to the award.We also found an instance from 2004 where the school refused to accommodate a life threatening peanut allergy within the school. Although the allergy qualifies the student for a 504 plan, the school violated his civil rights of non-discrimination by not allowing the student to be educated within a peanut free environment. Per the ruling by the Board of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) stated the following:
Superior Court of Massachusetts.
MYSTIC VALLEY REGIONAL CHARTER SCHOOL,
ADVANTAGE SCHOOLS, INC.
Dec. 19, 2000
"It is troubling that Mystic Valley has waited until it is faced with a complaint or is made part of a hearing before the BSEA to take steps to provide the required accommodations to Student. In 2003, Parents filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights."Furthermore, the finding stated the following (which we can neither confirm nor deny takes place but have not heard of such training):
The school eliminated its peanut butter sandwich alternate lunch in 2003; agreed to have the school nurse conduct mandatory training for all staff including substitute teachers regarding recognition of and response to allergy attacks by students with food allergies; agreed to engage an outside consultant to conduct training for staff; and to conduct information sessions regarding food allergies for all parents. As of the day of closure of the Hearing, this last accommodation had not taken place due to scheduling difficulties.While not everyone can appreciate the stress or difficulty of having a child with a life threatening allergy (we know that we have no personal experience), nor does everyone agree that because one child can't have peanut butter, no child should be permitted to bring it for lunch, the fact remains that due to the severity of the situation, the school was lax in requiring the parents to go to this extent in order to secure a safe environment for their child.
As many of the parents and staff members of our school can attest to, the employee turnover rate is incredibly high. While some individuals choose to leave of their own accord and/or their contract is not renewed at the end of the year, many other individuals are terminated. This within itself brings into question a number of issues with the first of which being the interview and hiring practices of the individuals responsible for hiring. We know that Anthony Chiccuarelli is responsible for Human Resources (and according to the organizational chart, has something to do with math, but we are not aware of what that portion of his position involves or if he is compensated for it) but believe that the responsibility for interviewing belongs to Jennifer Mullen, Gina McKinnon, Christopher Finn, and George Benzie. Considering the high turnover, we must question their abilities within this portion of their job description. We have also heard from a number of teachers regarding their being terminated under questionable or outright illegal circumstances. In light of these issues it was not a big surprise to find that the school owes money under the Federal Unemployment Tax Contingency (FUTA). Granted these funds revert back to the fiscal years of 1998 and 1999 (when we believe the school had a much lower turnover rate) and included penalties and interest yet we must question why this situation has been allowed to go on for such an extended period of time. According to the Financial Report that the school contracted a CPA firm to conduct, the school has been relieved of the portion relating to 1998 but not to 1999 as of the time of the report ( see http://www.mvrcs.com/files/FY09_Audit_Report.pdf). While the question of whether the school is responsible for these taxes has come into question as they are a governmental agency (although it seems odd that the IRS would not be overly aware of whether they qualify or not), the fact that the school is 'vigorously defending its position' makes us question the cost of defending themselves versus the cost of the initial FUTA taxes. While this is not as clear of an example of wrong doing as others we have listed, we find ourselves concerned about the numerous aspects that are connected to this matter.
Finally, the most sever instance of wrong doing we have heard of we are not able nor would we be willing to provide legal backup for. We have heard of several instances where the school Administrators (specifically Kathy Kinnon) have refused to report, as required by law, concerns regarding a abuse or neglect of a student or a student threatening to cause harm to themselves or others. While these instances disturb us greatly, nothing disturbs us more than the incident regarding a high school teacher who was allegedly acting inappropriately with a student. The situation is upsetting and unfortunate but the manner in which the school handled the situation was deplorable. Rather than follow the law and report the incident to proper authorities AND the girls parents, the school chose to try to 'sweep it under the rug'. Fortunately the girls parents found out about it and took the appropriate actions but the school should be ashamed of itself for the manner in which they handled this situation. Again, as the case involved a minor, we are not willing or able to provide information about this incident but rest assured, it was an unfortunate event.
While many of you who question of motives and purpose will wonder the significance of the information contained within this blog, we turn full circle to the laws that govern Charter schools (from http://www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/603cmr1.html?section=13):
1.13: Charter Revocation, Probation, Suspension, and Non-Renewal
(1) The Board may suspend or revoke (hereinafter, "revoke") a charter for cause, including but not limited to:In light of this, we question whether any of the above detailed incidences are worth losing our school over. We think not and hope that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education agree, for the sake of our children.
- (a) a material misrepresentation in the application for approval of the charter or renewal of the charter;
- (b) failure to comply substantially with the terms of the charter, with any of the applicable provisions of M.G.L. c. 71, or with any other applicable law or regulation;
- (c) financial insolvency;
- (d) misappropriation, conversion, mismanagement, or illegal withholding of funds or refusal to pay any funds that belong to any person otherwise entitled thereto and that have been entrusted to the charter school or its administrators in their fiduciary capacities;
- (e) fraud or gross mismanagement on the part of charter school administrators or board of trustees, including but not limited to, mismanagement of the educational program and failure to provide a healthy and safe environment for students;
- (f) criminal convictions on the part of the charter school or its board of trustees; or
- (g) failure to fulfill any conditions imposed by the Board in connection with the grant or renewal of a charter.