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…