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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Juan Gonzales on the NYC Charter School Scam

Mr. Gonzalez has written a very good article which I have re-posted below on the opaque nature of the NYC BOE charter scam.

"One day soon, our city will wake up to discover that Bloomberg's mad rush to create hundreds of independent charter schools has unleashed bigger financial scandals than in the bad old days of community school boards."

Read more

Rush to create charter high schools in New York City
is recipe for cash scams

Juan Gonzalez, Daily News, January 29th 2010

Hours after rebuffing parents and voting to shut 19 public schools, education officials announced plans to end most programs at Alfred E. Smith High in the Bronx and replace them with a charter school.

That charter school, however, has its own troubled history.

It's called the New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries (AECI), and it has been in operation fewer than two years.

Last June, a Manhattan federal grand jury charged its founder and chairman, Richard Izquierdo Arroyo, with stealing more than $200,000 from a nonprofit South Bronx housing organization.

Prosecutors say Izquierdo spent the money on designer clothes, fancy restaurants and trips to the Caribbean for his grandmother, state Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, and his aunt, City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo(pictured at right).

Another board member of the school, Margarita Villegas, an employee of the housing group, was indicted with Izquierdo. Both have pleaded not guilty. They immediately resigned from AECI's board and from the board of the South Bronx Charter School, where Izquierdo was chairman.

Virtually all the teachers who began at AECI when it opened its doors in September 2008 resigned within the first year.

This month, 17 of the 19 new staff members at the school filed a state labor petition to have the United Federation of Teachers represent them.

The angry teachers claim that Victory Schools Inc., the for-profit management company hired by AECI to administer their school, is charging an exorbitant management fee.

Meanwhile, DOE has posted little information on the academic performance of AECI students.

James Stovall, the executive at Victory in charge of AECI, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Irma Zardoya, the retired DOE administrator who replaced Izquierdo as chair of AECI's board.

None of these problems seem to trouble the educrats at Tweed.

One day soon, our city will wake up to discover that Bloomberg's mad rush to create hundreds of independent charter schools has unleashed bigger financial scandals than in the bad old days of community school boards.

At least new city Controller John Liu announced Thursday he would audit how the city decided to close these schools.

The DOE posted a notice on its Web site Wednesday, detailing plans to move AECI into the Alfred E. Smith building in September. Chancellor Joel Klein scheduled a Feb. 24 vote on the plan by the mayor's Panel for Educational Policy.

Amazingly, the vocational programs the charter school will offer when it moves to Smith are virtually the same programs the public school offers.

Smith accepts all students who apply. AECI only takes students by lottery.

At Smith, 21% of the students are in a special education program; at AECI, only 9% are.

At Smith, 71% of the students come from such low-income families that they qualify for the federal free lunch program; at AECI, only 47% do.

What happens to the poorest kids, to that huge special education population, to those who need the most help?

Liu needs to ask tough questions fast. And he needs to follow the money going to charters, because Klein's people are not.

AT RISK: A Jamaica (Queens) High School student speaks at a Dec. 16 rally against her school’s closing. PHOTO: ANGEL GONZALEZ, GEM-NYC

Carmen Arroyo's grandson quits as head of charter school after embezzlement charge
BY Robert Gearty and Greg B. Smith
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS, June 12th 2009, 1:37 AM

The nephew of City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo resigned Thursday as head of a Bronx charter school she helped fund - a day after he was charged with embezzlement.

Richard Izquierdo Arroyo - who's also Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo's grandson and chief of staff - Thursday notified the city he was resigning as chairman of the board of the South Bronx Charter School for International Culture and the Arts.

His city councilwoman aunt sponsored $1.5 million in taxpayer funds this fiscal year to help build a permanent facility for the school, which is temporarily housed in a public school.

The school board will accept his resignation, Department of Education spokeswoman Melody Meyer said.

The school's principal, Evelyn Hey, would not answer questions about Izquierdo Arroyo's role at the school.

Izquierdo Arroyo also notified the city he would resign as chairman of the board of a second institution, the New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries.

It was not clear when that school's board would meet to accept the resignation. Principal Eugene Foley declined comment.

On Wednesday, Izquierdo Arroyo was charged with stealing from a nonprofit group, SBCC Management Corp., that manages low-income apartment buildings in the Bronx. SBCC Management's director, Margarita Villegas, also was charged.

The duo stole more than $200,000 from the nonprofit to pay for designer clothes, trips to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and dozens of restaurant meals, a criminal complaint charged.

They also used the nonprofit's money to buy airline tickets to Puerto Rico for City Councilwoman Arroyo and her mother the assemblywoman.

SBCC Management's director, Villegas, is also a board member of the South Bronx Charter School. Officials said she's notified the city she'll step down from that position, too.

Villegas and Izquierdo Arroyo deny wrongdoing.

Read more:

Junior Abraham Sepulveda, 16, of Morris Park hopes the DOE reconsiders its plan to phase out Alfred E. Smith High School. Photo by Daniel Beekman/

South Bronx Rallies in Support of Smith High: Community Reminds DOE That This School Provides Valuable Real World Skills That Enable Students to Graduate and Get Jobs
By Mary Heglar, The Indypendent, January 14, 2010

Hundreds of supporters of Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School urged the Department of Education to rescind its proposal to phase out the South Bronx school at a public hearing Monday evening. The school, located near the Melrose and Morrisania neighborhoods, has been a valued part of the community since the 1920’s.

Located at 333 East 151st Street, Smith High School’s almost 1,300 students have access to training programs include heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), auto repair, plumbing, carpentry, electrical, and architecture—there is also an adult education component. Graduates are certified to practice their trades immediately upon graduation, and thus avoid the unemployment and underemployment that plagues the surrounding area.

Frederick Lee, one of the school’s special education instructors, said, “Smith is a resource for the South Bronx, the community, and the world.” An eighth-grade community resident who hopes to attend Smith in the future quietly told the panel, “If Alfred E. Smith closes, there will be a huge gap in my dream.”

As speakers addressed the DOE-appointed panel, the poverty of the South Bronx came into sharp focus.

“Whoever is in favor of shutting down the school is in favor of increasing the poverty rates,” said one parent.

Green Jobs

When the hearing began at 6:11 pm, the crowd quieted to watch a video presentation by Smith’s Energy, Environment, and Green Club. This group of students had made partnerships with environmental justice groups to arrange for the implementation for a green roof for the school’s building, which would be the first of its kind in the city. If the school is phased out, the partners will abandon the project.

This video was followed by the reading of the Educational Impact Statement (EIS) by Santiago Taveras, the DOE’s Acting Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning. Taveras stated that Smith had received its third consecutive C on the annual DOE-administered progress report, that parents were not participating, and that the school’s graduation rate was well below the city’s graduation rate. Thus, the DOE has proposed that it will be phased out and replaced with smaller schools.

The school’s principal Rene Cassanova stated that the school had made consistent improvements on its progress report since their inception three years ago. “Alfred E. Smith has never received a rating below proficient,” she said to loud applause. The crowd rose to its feet holding signs reading “Smith Helped Build Yankee Stadium” and “Smith is $$$.”

Another teacher stated that Smith and its staff were not the problem here. Instead, he said, “the problem is a serious lack of appreciation for education on the part of the Department of Education.”

Among the many alumni who came out that evening was the valedictorian from the class of 2006. Now an electrician, he told the panel about his work on the new Yankee Stadium. He continued, “Without Smith, that would not have been possible.”

Brian Alexander-Washington, another alumni of Smith, told the panel about the many trades he studied at Smith. He proudly stated that he still lives in the South Bronx, but had just bought a condominium with the money earned through the trade he learned at Smith. However, he reminded everyone that Smith teaches more than trades. In fact, he learned to play the piano and to sing opera in both German and Italian at Smith. He sang for the crowd to great applause.

A total of 21 city schools, including seven in the Bronx, are slated for closure. Monday’s hearing at Smith High came just four days after a passionate outpouring of protest at Christopher Columbus High School in the northeast Bronx.

The future of these schools will be officially decided on January 26 at Brooklyn Technical High School by a vote of the Panel for Educational Policy. None of the voting members of this panel were present for the hearing.

For more, see this video of Smith student Danny Escobar speaking at January 8 rally in support of keeping the school open.


Anonymous said...

I taught in District 12 when Evelyn Hey was an A.P. in PS 92 in the South Bronx. She was notorious then for skirting her duties and for having an affair with a married school guard, at the same school. But I needed to provide some information from Andrew Wolf, editor of the NY Sun.

Arroyos Back in the Biz
By Andrew Wolf | April 9, 2007
NY Sun,

Evelyn Hey was removed as a principal twice before in nearby Community School District 12. As investigators closed in on the practices there in 1992, the superintendent of the district, Alfredo Mathew, was found in an Albany motel room with two plastic bags taped over his head, a presumed suicide.
In the light of this, Ms. Hey and a number of other appointees of Mathew were removed as principals the following year by Joseph Fernandez. He was the chancellor now best remembered for the flap over the use in the public schools of the book "Heather Has Two Mommies." It was alleged that Ms. Hey won her job as principal of P.S. 234 at the insistence of school board member George Gonzalez despite being rated 14th of the 14 applicants for the post by the screening committee.
As the late Murray Kempton recounted in Newsday at the time, "She had, however, an advantage overriding all considerations of merit, because she was the reputed inammorata of George Gonzalez, who had subsumed in her all his greeds for patronage. Gonzalez promised that he would do anything Mathew wanted, if Mathew would just do what Evelyn Hey wanted. The screening committee was thereupon disbanded and Evelyn Hey installed. …"
To the chagrin of Kempton, Ms. Hey and the other tainted principals somehow found themselves back at their jobs, courtesy of Mr. Fernandez's successor, Ramon Cortines. The great columnist observed, "Its severest critics cannot say of District 12, as was said of Joe Fernandez, that it insufficiently venerates heterosexual love and the values of the family, whether solemnized or not."
Behind Mr. Izquierdo's choice of Ms. Hey as the principal of the South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures might be the miracle of dramatically increased test scores at P.S. 234 during Ms. Hey's stewardship. These scores aroused the suspicions of Edward Stancik, now deceased but then special investigator for the New York City school district, who charged that Ms. Hey developed a systematic method for helping students cheat on the standardized tests.
Once again, Ms. Hey was removed as principal. After years of kicking around the "rubber rooms," in which the school system houses its alleged miscreants, she never had a hearing, was reinstated, soon retired, and is collecting her city pension. Yet she is now ensconced, courtesy of her politically connected patron, Mr. Izquierdo, as principal of the South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures.
I am told that Mr. Izquierdo is delighted that his grandmother has helped expand the number of charters and that he has an application at the ready to create a second charter school in the South Bronx. With even fewer restrictions on them in regard to hiring than in the "bad old days" of decentralization, the Arroyo family business continues and prospers.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure if you place all these people together you will find Evelyn Hey and Irma Zardoya are sisters that Evelyn Hey also takes trips on school time and that this staff is terrified of all the political going ons at the school runned by Ms. Hey and her friends. Which includes Ricard Arroyo.

Anonymous said...

Evelyn Hey you will find is very well connected. She is Irma Zardoya sister good friends with Richard Arroyo. I'm sure if carefully reviewed you will also find she takes trips many of them and that her staff, if not on her side will be terminated immediately.