when they do stupid stuff.
In this case, three charter schools apparently let themselves be ripped off or intentionally overpaid an accountant for four years. I have nothing against outsourcing or part time relationships with business managers, but the $700,000 plus collected by this business manager seems far in excess of what a charter school might normally pay. I know what my company charges for such services, and (at the risk of this sounding like a marketing campaign) it's far less than that for an average set of schools, and we provide the entire business office. In addition, Ms. Sharif must not have been a very good accountant because she had over $100,000 in expenses charged to a credit card that she could not document. I understand a lost receipt here and there for small items, but $100,000? Then add the fact that she reported working over 365 days, well last time I checked my logic, it's pretty difficult to work more than 365 days a year.
Oh, and not to pile on, but Harambee is approximately $220,000 behind in its payments to the employee retirement program.
To make matters worse, her husband's construction company earned construction business from the schools. It isn't clear in the article if there was any competitive bid process or whether or not Sharif was involved in the hiring decision, but it sure looks a little strange given all of the other issues.
On top of all of this, one of the schools is the Harambee Institute of Science and Technology that was found to be operating a night club in the school facility.
Yet, the head of one of the schools praised Sharif for doing an excellent job and thinks that all will be sorted out in the end.
As readers of this blog know, I am normally one to defend charter schools, even if they've made some mistakes. In this case, especially since I'm a financial geek, I just can't fathom someone working for three schools and making $175K per year while allowing $100K in undocumented credit card expenditures, retirement contributions to fall behind by $220K and apparently be involved in getting her husband $7.4 million in business from the schools.
I hate to jump to conclusions, (I get enough exercise playing soccer with my son) but if even one of these claims is true, things would look bad. If two or more are true, then, well, "excellent" might just be a touch of grade inflation for the job Sharif has done. I hope the schools aren't guilty of the same grade inflation in the classroom.
The school superintendent is threatening to shut the schools down, which would be sad (assuming that schools are performing well academically). However, surely the superintendent needs to take action against these schools.
A few days ago, I made an offhand comment about Colorado (my state) considering three bills to put into place laws to ensure schools and authorizers have the ability to correct situations like this. I said that those laws were "unnecessary." After hearing about schools like this, I am reconsidering my position on those laws. Laws like the ones that Colorado is considering might have allowed the district to step in sooner.
I hope that these allegations turn out to have another explanation, but the fact is that charter school leaders have to be more responsible than this. They have to know the law and abide by it. Mistakes can happen, but this seems like a clear instance of schools simply ignoring, not only best practices, but the interests of the schools. Charter schools must set high standards in the classroom and in their financial management.
I love charter schools, but I hate charter schools when they violate the law and good accounting practice. It makes us all look bad.