“One Newark”–Good news for principal banned from New York City schools

          

               

Cory Booker speaks at Eagle Academy Foundation--Photo by Publicity.com
Cory Booker speaks at Eagle Academy Foundation–Photo by Publicity.com

“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.

.

 

 

31 comments

  1. clarke

    Here we go again…more people coming to Newark Public Schools with troubled backgrounds to get rich off of our kids.

  2. Chane

    Sharpe James did 2 years for less.
    Bob Braun: Sharpe James did two years for being a powerful black Democrat who could get in the way of Christie’s political career.

  3. Bill Wolfe

    Hi Bob – Check out this superb discussion of subsidized development in East Baltimore and Johns Hopkins’ gentrification of the community. They examine a school marketing initiative in Philadelphia. Experience there shows how schools are used to promote real estate interests and change the race and class structure of the community. Strong parallels to Newark:

    http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=11310

  4. Newarkbluesman

    It seems the curse of New York on Newark continues,a few days ago I read about Beverly Hall,in the NYT,indicted on racketeering in Atlanta,seems the curse for Newark continues.Hopefully it will end soon.

  5. MzGoodBadGirl

    cami or chris don’t care about Newark public schools. It’s not about the students, it’s about continuing to fail the students.

  6. Sharonn Burford

    Newark residents are not trying to hear any of this … they proclaim to want a better Newark well I’m hear to tell you thanks to Christie and his selfishness … it’s going to be a war zone and that NY principal doesn’t have a chance. Election time EVERYONE will be getting voted out. If I have to register and recruit people myself. This is truly the work of Satan sent in the form of Chris Christie and Cami Anderson. We shall prevail!

    • Mauricio David

      Before you say such thing, go check the work he has done now! Both of my kids (11 and a 12 years old) go to Eagle Academy in Newark and they are being blessed! We should not just look at someone’s past but instead we should believe in redemption and help him to follow the right path…

      • Bob Braun

        Mr. David: So do you think as a general rule that schools should hire people who were fired from other districts for theft and inappropriate sexual behavior–and then hope they are redeemed in the end? I have no problem with personal redemption but, as a parent and grandparent, I’d rather they find redemption away from children.

      • Newarkbluesman

        Mr. David the school and concept is good.The principal gave his right to be in a public school up.We must teach our children their are consequences to our actions.We will replace him,not the school

  7. Rafael Zabala

    This must not stand. History can not be tossed aside like it is not important. That school is part of America’s history and should be respected.

  8. Bill

    Bob,
    As much as it pains me, the 60 minutes piece on Michelle Rhee’s seed schools in DC indicated that they work, and kids live at the school from Sunday night to Friday afternoon.
    I have no idea on how to change Newark, but if so much money is going towards each pupil, let’s get the kids into a residential setting. If we can’t change the city, let’s get the kids out and at least keep them alive.

    • Bob Braun

      I am not sure those schools “work,” as you say. I also don’t see a big difference between residential schools and incarceration. This was suggested years ago and created a very bad reaction among parents who believed the authorities were trying to take their children away–which is, more or less, what they are trying to do.

      • Bill

        If we cannot change the problems that plague Newark, can we at least try to save this generation of children and remove them from the city as much as possible. Wouldn’t most parents want their child to be rescued from an environment where gun shots are common?
        It is not a perfect solution. There may not be one. But at least we owe it to the children of our cities to do our best to keep them alive.

        • Becca Field

          I do believe that such an approach was taken with Native American children, forceable removal. Was that acceptable? Not to me by any stretch of the imagination.

          Saving the children does not mean removing them. And what are you saving them from?

          Providing all children in cities with great public education means doing the intensive work of implementing changes methodically, systematically, carefully and with community and school support. It is hard work and it has been done on cities such as Union (just one easy example). There are empirically proven changes we can make that do not include uprooting the basis of strong community schools but rather building on them.

          • Bob Braun

            Yes and we were not the only country, formed from European colonies, that did that to aboriginal people. Because we know better. White people always know better, right?

          • bill

            Every suggestion from a white person is not racist or imperialist; in fact, I am saying that I do not know what to do. I have witnessed decades of the rebirth of Newark that have yielded so little.
            And remember, money from the suburbs helped elect Booker, is you want some patronizing closer to home

            Bob Braun: Who called you a racist or an imperialist? I didn’t. Booker couldn’t have won re-election in Newark so white suburbanites made him the US senator primarily on the strength of his ties with Christie and Oprah. Doesn’t seem patronizing to me to tell the truth about Superman Cory.

    • John Foster

      When and where did you see this 60 Minutes piece on Rhee’s schools?
      As someone who has studied Rhee’s career closely, I can tell you right now that what was reported was a snow job if it concluded her schools are “working”.
      Again, where did you see this 60 minutes piece? When was it broadcast? I’d like to see it myself.

    • Nicole

      Michelle Rhee did not help the children of the D.C. school district. It was all smoke and mirrors. Her claim to fame was raising test scores. The district cheated on the standardized tests. There was an abnormally high amount of wrong to right erasures.
      The only way to help these children is to get their parents to do their share. The state, schools and teachers are doing their share.

  9. Yoda46

    I’m all for student success and achievement and I want to see ALL children able to compete in a global economy. What disturbs me most is that the charter schools in the “one newark” plan do not address or provide programs for bilingual or self contained special needs children. If these charter schools would take students from our learning language moderate or severe classes and show evidence of growth, then this I would buy into the concept but one newark is really for “one” type of student, the ones on academic levels not for the disadvantaged!!

  10. Becca Field

    I do not want us to lose sight of what I view as the point of this blog – Cami Anderson, appointed by the state to improve the school system in Newark, has proposed a plan that is a sell off of the public schools – but with what little left she is actually controlling, she can find no better than a man caught red handed in NYC, where he can never again work? At the State BOE meeting Cami Anderson said she calls these new principals ‘transformative leaders’ – and this is who she sees fit to hire? (a cynic may of course suggest that having shared that she views Newark’s students as criminals, perhaps she is hiring who she fits to be their role model….).

    We might debate the details of the One Newark plan, but the fact that she would hire this man is a singular statement about her credibility and allegiances and she must go.

  11. Chanel Wilson

    I have lived in Newark all my life and I’m so saddened by the current turn of events for the school district that has prepared me so well. I currently teach kindergarten at a charter in Newark but I love public schooling. I feel that while they are investigating Chris Christie for Bridgegate they should look into the corrupt relationships between Christie, Booker, and Anderson. There is no reason to close the public schools. What I have learned while teaching at the charter is that the public school teachers do not have the same curricular and professional development resources as my charter school. You could easily place any of my colleagues in a public school and get the same results. I try to share with my friends working in public schools but the system is designed for them to fail.

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  13. Bill Wolfe

    Bob – do you or your readers have an inters tin police?

    If so, I can’t understand why the clip I posted on Baltimore and Philly got no response.

    Do people think Newark is unique? Or that is is all about minor political personalities?

    This is about capitalism and the capture of government policy, no?

  14. Maryam Bey

    Good Evening Mr. Braun,
    First, I would like to thank you for your honesty and support with regard to our fight for the equitable education for all students in the city of Newark. Below you will find an open letter recently forwarded to Cami Anderson, requesting her immediate resignation from the Newark Public Schools.

    January 8, 2014

    Cami Anderson, State Superintendent
    Newark Public Schools
    2 Cedar Street
    Newark, New Jersey 07102

    Re: Open Letter

    Dear Ms. Anderson:

    I write this letter regarding your decision to close our schools and why I believe this is a gross error in judgment and lack of respect for neighborhood schools, parents and our children. My name is Maryam Bey. I was a school board member, inducted in 2001 for three years, and school board president 2002-2003. In my more than three (3) decades of community service, my greatest honor thus far, was to serve the children and their parents in the Newark Public Schools and it was most challenging during my tenure.

    Although we have never officially met since your becoming the State Operated Superintendent, I did meet with you briefly in the summer at the administrative office building when we were planning the redesign of West Side High School. During our planning for West Side High School, I publicly stated my concern that all the work our team did, along with the Urban League for the students of West Side High School, would be undermined if the school closes or is turned into a charter school. We were assured, without a shadow of doubt, closing the school would not be an option, would not happen and any rumors of it happening, were just that – rumors. We now know these were no rumors and obviously the intent was always there.

    It is clear to me, your decisions regarding the closing of schools, firing staff and referring to our children as criminals is being done with malice, disrespect and no concern for the majority of our children who attend Newark Public Schools. Your malicious attack on public education is being orchestrated and executed in such a way that has, is and will continue to bring great harm to our children, teachers and community. I have remained cautiously quiet, because it was important to give you the benefit of the doubt. We, the minority group of concerned parents, community leaders and grass root organizations throughout the city, who have no other interest than the success of our children here in Newark, would never fight against superior schools for our children. Those of us who were truly desperate to see an improved education system and greater opportunities for our children, truly believed you would do what is right, fair and just for the students of this district, and never imagined our children would become pawns in a political fight over public education and what is financially beneficial to wall street, corporations and the new “education business.” You must understand, Ms. Anderson, your decisions while they may positively impact the lives of some children, will never benefit the mass number of students n our city and in fact, place them in a dangerous situation and undermines instructional staff and administrators who have been committed to our children.

    You have been very successful in the art of pitting parents against each other, by using their desperation for a better education for their children against them. That behavior is unacceptable and immoral. Thus, I am requesting detailed clarification.

    Recently, I came across a document entitled “Money for Nothing, a report on the performance of the Newark Public School District,” which was released in 2008, by what is considered an organization in support of charter schools. After a thorough review of this document, it is clear to me that there was a formula outlined for the takeover of Newark schools and property and you are following that plan. A plan authored by a company created to assist in the advancement of charter schools, Excellent Education for Everyone (E3). In chapter three, “Student Achievement and Graduation Rates,” Weequahic HS, Malcolm X Shabazz HS and West Side HS, are referred to as “dropout factories” and strange enough, you intend to close these schools. However, are you not taking into consideration that since this report, great changes and improvements have been made at these schools, some of which were your initiatives? More shockingly, in chapter nine, “Recommendations for Reform,” fourteen (14) recommendations for the “reversal of the districts’ long failure,” were given and it is sadly obvious that you are following this plan to the letter and how insulting this action is given the fact that you weren’t the Superintendent in 2008 and did no further research regarding the issue.

    You continue to support segregation of our schools by leaving overcrowded, dilapidated buildings, however in the politically strong east and north ward schools without change. I am the first to agree with you that our educational system is in need of profound change and repair, we have failed our children in public schools and some staff must be replaced, however; to consciously destroy and close schools is not and cannot always be the answer. Infusing resources and exceptional staff is the key and what you promised when you arrived.

    In the three (3) plus years you have occupied the space of our leader in education, we have yet to see the “best practices” you promised shared. If in fact, you had used your time here in our city cultivating a true relationship between our successful charters and struggling public schools, wherein best practices were shared, we would not be in our present predicament. However, that was not a recommendation in the 2008 Money Matters report and obviously, not beneficial to those who have a financial and/or political interest in the expansion of reform and honestly, that is what makes your plan questionable. Instead, you closed some schools, renewed others, did no planning for those neighborhood schools unaffected and ignored and now you deem them failures and shut them down? This cannot be a plan created for the betterment of our children and your intent must be explained.

    Further, you renewed 13th Avenue, Camden, Peshine and Chancellor, wherein staff was released and jobs were lost and now you propose the “re-renewal” of those schools. One must ask why? Did your initial renewal plan fail or are you simply out to reduce staff once again? Yes, parents are calling for a better system and yes some charters are doing great work and successful. But if changes are being made because Money does Matter or the Pink Hula Hoop or Kingston Education Holdings, Inc., must expand and make a profit for the wall street bond holders, you should be ashamed as an educator.

    You exhibit your disdain for our children by agreeing to place them in harms way by justifying that the failure of schools means we should close neighborhood schools, send those students across town to other schools and sell our schools to charter schools. How is that helping and educating our children? Yes, there are schools that need immediate change and some teachers that need to be removed from classrooms. Accountability and lofty expectations are necessary and executing an educational agenda that prepares children in Newark for a world class education is the epitome of success for our children. You cannot be allowed however to continue to commit an assault on our school system. As the educational leader, you must support all children and do so in a way that does not hurt and cause harm to our students, economy or community.

    Newark Public Schools has a billion dollar budget, less students, and the state has operated this district for 18 years plus years and still continues to fail the student, which means the State does not and has not had a plan for success. There is no excuse for the consistent failure of our schools under the states’ watch. These facts clearly demonstrate that this is about the color green (money) and not the education of our brown and black children.

    Our children are not for sale. You have turned the clock backwards to the “new education Jim Crow” and that is dangerous for our children. You have not engaged parents or community, simply because you do not respect the parents and community. The clear inequality you have perpetrated on our children and community has nothing to do with education. You are not considering how constantly changing principals, sending children across town and hiring unskilled, uncertified staff is detrimental to our children.

    I do not fault parents who want a better education for their children and enrolling them in charter schools is not my issue. However, it is not choice either. The choice is for parents to have schools they can choose and witness the reform of their neighborhood schools.

    Finally, your actions in destroying our schools will ultimately destroy our children and when you think of them as criminals and treat them as such, true service can never be the ultimate goal. You would do us a great service if you submit your resignation to the governor, so the planned financial takeover and destruction of our community and the children of Newark can immediately cease.

    Sincerely,

    Maryam Bey

    MB:
    c: President Barack Obama
    Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education
    Senator Cory Booker
    Community at Large
    Newark Teachers Union
    Newark NAACP
    Governor Chris Christie
    Chris Cerf, Commissioner of Education
    Mayor Luis Quintana
    Newark Mayoral Candidates
    Newark Municipal Council Members

  15. Alex R. Jurgelevicius

    Amen, Ms. Bey! Amen

    Bob, you have opened my eyes and put names, facts, and figures to what I have been feeling in my gut but couldn’t explain as an educator. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

    Bob Braun: Thank you. Sorry if you feel let down by MSM. I do, too. We–they–should know better than to take the side of the powerful.

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  17. Ruth Landis

    Mr Braun. I have found your articles enlightening. I happen to know where Mr Thompson has landed. He is working as a consultant in Forrest City Arkansas for….wait for it….. None other than Tiffany Hardrick. She managed to weasel her way into a superintendents job there under the woefully ignorant eyes of the school board. She brought along her long time compatriot in crime Keith Sanders. She has placed Oceola Hicks as Principal of their only High School because of course he has an excellent background… from the Memphis school system. She is running out long standing educators who are invested in the community and dedicated to educating the children there so that she can complete her theft ring. They started in July and are have already garnered the attention of the state department who are sending in investigators. They are stealing from this community of high poverty and low test scores. Promising things that can only happen if you genuinely care about these people and their condition. It is a sad day for education that these people continue to be rewarded for their unconscionable behavior by simply moving their activities to a different state. Thank you for creating these articles and encouraging the open discussions that occur here.

    Bob Braun: I had to edit a few words out of this because I found no reference to the charge made against Mr. Hicks in this comment. He was, however, fired from a position as principal in Memphis.

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