Troubled Coconut Grove Charter School Loses Funding
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COCONUT GROVE (CBS4) – A Miami-Dade charter school in the midst of a forensic audit concerning questions about school funding has now had its funding cut off by the school district.
According to CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald, the school district is withholding more than $185,000 from the Academy of Arts and Minds charter school in Coconut Grove because the school failed to provide some services for children with special needs which is a violation of state and federal law.
School district officials said the school had failed for weeks to provide evaluations and update education plans for more than two dozen students with special needs, as required by law and the school’s charter. In addition, two students were denied services from a speech language pathologist, school district officials said.
Last month, the school, which has 460 students, was also slapped for illegally charging fees to students for basic classes.
The school has faced plenty of criticism from parents lately including claims that the school lacks teachers and books and claims that the school failed to conduct required background checks on employees.
In the last six months, two experienced and well-liked principals also left the school and cited issues with management.
At the center of the controversy is Manuel Alonso-Poch.
Alonso-Poch is the schools founder, owns the management company that runs the school, owns the food service company that provides breakfast and lunches to the students, and owns the building, collecting $77,000 a month in rent from taxpayers.
In the last school year, Alonso-Poch received some $6.000 per student in taxpayer dollars.
Some parents have come to Alonso-Poch’s defense, citing the school having earned an “A” grade.
“We can’t keep moaning and complaining and pointing fingers at the past if we’re going to move forward,” said parent Monica Munivar.
Detractors, though, say Alonso-Poch runs the school as his own and has stacked the board of directors in his favor, including a cousin, and a good friend who doesn’t even live in the country.
Arts & Minds will likely receive its funds when it is in full compliance with the law.
The district also withheld $79,000 from the Balere Language Academy in South Miami Heights over questions about the school’s finances and staff. Last year, the school district found that the school, which now has 85 students, was in a “deteriorating financial condition,” requiring the school to draft a plan for recovery.
Balere is facing a foreclosure lawsuit on its school building, and the school has about $136,000 in outstanding debts, including $99,000 owed to a previous landlord.
Last month, Balere was also under investigation after advertisements surfaced indicating that the school was being used as an adult-themed nightclub on the weekends. The school’s principal, Rocka Malik, has denied that the school was doubling as a club — though a phone number on the ads comes back to her husband’s business.
(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)