“One Newark”–Gov. Chris Christie’s plan for privatizing many of the city’s schools–might be bad news for many parents, children, and school employees. But it’s likely to mean a promotion–another promotion–for a former New York City school principal who was banned from working in the New York City public schools because he misappropriated public funds for personal use.
Why would Cami Anderson– the woman Christie appointed to run the Newark schools–first hire and then promote Vaughn Thompson, now the principal of the Eagle Academy for Young Men? I asked that question twice of Matthew Frankel, Anderson’s press spokesman, and received no answer. Anderson’s attitude toward hiring and Frankel’s attitude toward letting the public in on the truth is extraordinarily disrespectful of children, parents, and school employees.
Under the “One Newark” plan, The Eagle Academy for Young Men in Newark, an all-male school, will take over historic Weequahic High School. Thompson is expected to become that school’s principal once Anderson’s plan is imposed–and Weequahic won’t really be Weequahic any more. Thompson was the principal of the Young Scholars Academy in the Bronx when, according to a spokesman for the New York City schools, he resigned after his involvement in an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate and for using $9,000 worth of school funds for personal purchases.
The New York Post’s story on Feb. 22, 2010 had the headline “Principal quits in sex scandal.” The story in the New York Daily News ran more than two years later and its headline was: “City investigators say Bronx principal quit post because he was caught stealing and had affair with aide — Vaughn Thompson stepped down from Young Scholars Academy in 2010. Officials say he’d rung up $9,000 in personal expenses on school’s credit card.”
The New York Post story reported Thompson quit Jan. 4, 2010. The New York Daily News story cited a settlement reached between Thompson and the New York City Conflict of Interest Board that came two years later. The summary of the case published by the board states:
“A former Principal for the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”) violated the City’s conflicts of interest law by using a DOE-issued credit card—known as a Procurement Card or P-Card—to make approximately $9,000 of personal purchases. In a public disposition of the Board’s charges, the former Principal admitted that he understood DOE issued him the P-Card to pay for educational and school-related expenses only and acknowledged that, by using the P-Card for personal purchases, he violated the City’s conflicts of interest law. In a January 2010 settlement with the DOE, the then-Principal agreed to pay $9,000 to DOE, to irrevocably resign his position, and to never seek future employment with DOE. The Board imposed no additional penalty in its case.”
The settlement document also reported Thompson had resigned in January, 2010. Anderson was working for the New York City schools when Thompson resigned; Christie appointed her in 2011.
In 2010, Thompson began working as a director of curriculum and instruction for the Adelaide Sanford Charter School. The school was closed by the state in 2013.
He left Sanford in 2012 and was hired to be principal of the Eagle Academy for Young Men in Newark. The academy is not a charter school but it receives additional funding and other resources from The Eagle Academy Foundation which is behind the opening of similar all-male schools in New York City. It operates under different rules than other public schools.
The foundation board includes both community members and members of the New York City financial community. Its chairman is A. Mark Getachew, a lawyer who specializes in corporate finance, counting among his clients Donald Trump.
Former Mayor Cory Booker “invited” the foundation to form the school, according to the foundation website. The foundation has honored him for his support.
The Star-Ledger ran a story about the Eagle Academy shortly after it opened in October, 2012. Only in its seventh paragraph does the article mention, “Eyebrows also are being raised about the Eagle Academy’s principal, Vaughn Thompson, who resigned from the Young Scholars Academy in the Bronx after issues arose about unauthorized spending.”
Issues arose? The man was accused of misspending $9,000 public money for personal purposes and was forced to leave and never come back.
The article goes on: “After an investigation that determined he had an affair with a female subordinate and inappropriately used a city-issued credit card, he was ordered to pay back the education department $9,000 for the unauthorized charges, said David Pena, a New York City Department of Education spokesman.”
The article doesn’t mention that Thompson was forced to resign and faced a lifetime ban from New York City public schools. Apparently, that information should be of no concern to parents in Newark.
Then it offers this whopper: “Newark school officials, who said they were aware of Thompson’s past troubles, said he used the credit card to buy school supplies, including paper and books, and not for any personal expenses.”
If that is what those unnamed Newark school officials told The Star-Ledger reporter, then they lied. In the settlement agreement, Thompson wrote: “DOE gave me a bank-issued credit card, known as a Procurement Card or P-Card, to use for certain categories of purchases related to the legitimate educational and/or administrative expenses of my school. I understood that purchases that are personal in nature were strictly prohibited. From September 20, 2008, to February 2, 2009, I used the P-Card to make multiple personal purchases totaling approximately $9,000, which were charged to DOE.”
In two other paragraphs of the settlement, he repeats he used the card for “personal” purchases and violated the law. As part of the settlement, he paid back the $9,000. If he used the money for school supplies, why would he agree to a settlement in which he said four times he used the money for personal purchases? Why would he quit?
Perhaps the saddest words written about this incident were attributed to Thompson in an article published by the Newark Trust:
“The young men need role models who can help them address the challenges of life.”
They do, indeed.