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Troubled Coconut Grove Charter School Gets Reprieve From District

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Casey Anthony Coverage

COCONUT GROVE (CBSMiami) – A Miami-Dade charter school in the midst of a forensic audit concerning questions about school funding will not be closed by the Miami-Dade School district, for now.

According to CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald, Arts & Minds Academy in Coconut Grove has nearly complied with demands from the district to improve their special education services or face indefinite closure.

The school has come into compliance with all but four special-needs students, according to district spokesperson John Schuster.

“The school is heading in the right direction,” he said Tuesday. “However, the district will continue to monitor and maintain vigilance over the situation.”

The district still plans to conduct a full audit of the schools finances.

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.

The school, which has 460 students, was also accused of 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.

Alonso-Poch’s cousin, Ruth Montaner, is the chairwoman of the governing board wrote a letter saying the school was working to regain compliance.

“The governing board of the Academy of Arts & Minds Charter High School is diligently developing [special-education] policies, practices and procedures so that in the future, the delivery of [special-education] services to Academy students is strengthened and delivery is assured ahead of schedule,” Montaner wrote in a letter to the school district.

(©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.)

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