E-Z Money for Friends of Charter Schools

It turns out that Diana Lam, currently head of the Conservatory Lab Charter School, and lately of San Antonio (which paid her $800,000 to leave) and New York City (where she was forced out of her job as Deputy School Chancellor in a controversy involving allegations of nepotism) has been an angel investor in the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School.

The school borrowed $75,000 from her in 2011 for three weeks, securing the loan with a pending payment from the Commonwealth, and paying Ms. Lam $2,500 for her troubles. As bad as one public school paying the principal of another public school an exorbatant rate for a loan might seem, that’s only the beginning.

It turns out that Ms. Lam:
a) has stated that it was actually her brother who loaned the money to the school, and
b) was recently engaged by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Eduation (DESE) as one of the evalutors of …

yes, the very same Gloucester Community Arts Charter School.

Massachusetts based education blog EduShyster.com has a summary of the story.

The Department’s report on the school, available on the DESE website, does paint a disturbing picture of life inside one of the most visible Commonwealth Charter Schools in the Commonwealth, detailing a lack of curriculum materials (never mind the “arts integrated curriculum” promised in the school’s charter application), failure to engage students and teach at grade level, and and failure to maintain discipline. But Ms. Lam’s presence as one of only two outside evaluators, who are both heads of other charter schools, raises troubling questions about what the report might have said had an evaluator with no personal stake in charter schools participated in the review.

Even more troubling are questions Ms. Lam’s participation raises about whehter the DESE is providing adequate oversight of Commonwealth Charter Schools and the associated spending of millions of dollars. Who at the DESE was responsible for enaging the services of Ms. Lam as one of only two outsisde evaluators? Does Ms. Lam have other connections to the Department and its staff members? The DESE only engaged two oustide evaluators for this report. Was it too much trouble to ask if they have any relationship with the school to be evaluated that might create or appear to create a conflict of interest?

People in the DESE should be nervous. Ask Chad Vignola, formerly employed by the New York City Schools, who lost his job when Ms. Lam was forced out of that school system…



Discuss

7 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I'm not a lawyer, but...Usury is illegal, right?

    My cursory (and non-professional) look at the law suggests to me that loaning people money for more than 20% is punishable by a ten year jail sentence and/or a 10K fine.

    And the taxpayers are the ones paying this rate? Have they had an audit? Does the Commonwealth not track this kind of thing? Can someone please give me some kind of explanation of why this was done and then how she was on the school’s site review committee that makes sense?

    • It seems fishy as hell

      but I didn’t see anything saying the exact rate. You seem to be assuming the $2,500 is all interest accrued in only three weeks, but there are other ways of classifying it.

      The bigger issue, of course, is that that this sort of thing shouldn’t be happening. My wife works for a charter school but I don’t condone this.

      Speaking of things that shouldn’t be happening, as we know from credit cards there are states out there with no usury laws. This is something I’d like to see addressed at the federal level.

    • My experience with Lam

      I personally worked for Diana Lam at CLCS when the teachers were forming a union there . She took me to dinner,asked to me to attend the teachers union meetings, and report back to her and bust the union.
      When I refused due to the highly unethical and illegal nature of her request, she promptly dismissed me and said she no longer needed my teaching services. Needless to say people wonder why the high turnover in her school?
      Nothing surprises me with this administrator!

  2. Robert M. Hughes charter in Springfield

    In Springfield, the now-closed Robert M. Hughes charter school saw no problem whatsoever with purchasing computer equipment from the company bearing the same name as of the people on its board of trustees. They also saw no problem with renting their building from a corporation controlled by most of the same people on their board of trustees. That should be illegal, but it isn’t. Other charter schools – even nonprofits – purchase their educational materials from parent for-profit corporations. This is how the nonprofits siphon off public education money.

    Charter schools take public dollars and use them with virtually no oversight. Their primary oversight is the “votes” of the people choosing to send their kids to the charter – and apparently Robert M Hughes could always find 100 suckers in a city of 150,000. The only other oversight is from the MA Board of Education, and their only penalty is to revoke the charter, meaning that minor to moderate transgressions are basically without repercussions (it took 10 years for RMH to have their charter revoked).

    I have no idea why anti-government zealots push these schools so heavily when they have control of public dollars with virtually zero oversight.

    • I have a guess

      I have no idea why anti-government zealots push these schools so heavily when they have control of public dollars with virtually zero oversight.

      Two words: no union.

      • The loudest defenders of public education

        They figure that once the union is shut up, it will be much easier to privatize education the way that they privatized penitentiaries, transport, and the military.

        sabutai   @   Wed 28 Nov 5:21 PM
  3. Board of Ed to receive recommendation on action next month

    The latest news about the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School was presented to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education yesterday.

    Commissioner Chester told the Board he will have a recommendation of action to take next month.

    Today’s Gloucester Daily Times has not just one, but two stories, and an editorial.

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