Parents demanding answers from Quest Academy

Darcy Spears

Parents demanding answers from Quest Academy

CREATED Nov. 19, 2012

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Teachers quitting, parents enraged and demanding answers, and students caught in the middle. That's what's going on at a local school under investigation by the state. And it's raising issues of abuse of authority and waste of your tax dollars.

"Please give us some kind of resolution.  Give us a glimpse of hope."

Parents send up urgent pleas at a prayer vigil.

"We're trying to save our school," explains Kelly Miller, a Quest parent, vice president of the PTO and the school's former office manager

It's a stark contrast to what happened just a few minutes later inside the standing-room-only board meeting on Nov. 14 at Quest Academy, a taxpayer-funded state charter school that operates three campuses and serves nearly 1,000 students.

"Please!  Hear the parents!  Hear us!  And please do things to represent our children!" shouted one parent in the meeting.

"It's wrong! This is wrong!" counters another.

Teachers are quitting, citing a hostile work environment. Five have left in just the last month.

"If we can't keep the teachers here who built this school, I have a very, very big problem with that," said another parent in the meeting.

And under their handpainted "No Fighting" sign, students broke down in tears.

"And it's not about the kids.  It's not," said one fifth grader.

It all stems from allegations against Quest Academy Principal Connie Jordan and most of the school's governing board.

Multiple school employees and one board member have filed formal complaints with the State Public Charter School Authority.

In a Nov. 2 letter to the Quest board, the authority says the issues raised in those multiple complaints suggest "among other transgressions, fiscal malfeasance on the part of the school's administrator and a lack of governing body oversight of the school."

"Many schools have gone down the same path where people try to get rich off of charter schools, which is extremely sad because parents come here hoping they're gonna get a better education for their child, and we are just left feeling we cheated our children," says Kelly Miller.

Lucretia Glidewell was contracted as Quest's financial manager. She told the state in her complaint that she was forced to kickback $1,000 a month out of her paycheck to the principal in order to keep her contract.

She also told the state she was "asked to help cover up illegal practices" regarding three $5,000 checks, which she calls an unapproved "bonus" the principal gave to herself.

"And I went along with it until I just got to the point where I just couldn't ... my conscience couldn't keep doing it," says Glidewell.

Quest board member Marc Abelman told the state in his written complaint that payroll records show Principal Connie Jordan got three checks totaling $15,000, signed by the board president. The state is investigating why that happened and what the money was for, but parents want answers now.

"The allegations have not been addressed. Shame on you guys!" said a parent at the board meeting.

Connie Jordan told the crowd to wait for the state's findings.

"Please!  Give me the benefit of the doubt. Be open minded.  Let the investigation take its course."

She's also facing allegations that she "falsified documents" to the state -- altering her contract to explain the checks as a payout of unused personal time off.

Abelman tried to get answers during the board meeting. Instead, the rest of the board voted Abelman out of office.

"If this board is not the entity that can give the answers to that, then what are they doing here besides trying to eject the one man who actually is trying to get to the bottom of it?!" said one outraged parent to the remaining board members.

Abelman's picture was removed from the wall before he even left the meeting.

"Shame on you!" another parent said to the remaining four board members. "You guys just rolled him out of here because he had allegations. Shame on you!"

We caught up with Abelman as he was on his way out of the building.

Darcy Spears: "Teachers are leaving, they're signing petitions saying they don't want to work under this principal, parents are withdrawing their children.  Why is all that happening?"
Marc Abelman: "I believe it's a lack of openness."

The assistant principal was treated the same way. One week after she made allegations of wrongdoing to the board, she was placed on paid administrative leave.

"I really think you guys have a bigger problem than you even want to know about," said a parent to the remaining board members.  "And I have a feeling all our kids are going to be in different schools come next month."

We spoke to Board Vice President Vernon Law after the meeting.

Darcy: "You've got a school divided.  You've got a school falling apart and crumbling under your nose if this meeting is any indication of what's going on."
Vernon Law: "Believe it or not, at the end of the day, it is about our students.  And I am here for our students".

While the Charter School Authority conducts its investigation, the Quest governing board will be spending more tax dollars to hire outside companies to audit and investigate their school.

They say they have to do that to make sure there are no improprieties and that it's totally independent.

Darcy's investigation is far from over. She's discovered documents showing Quest misspent thousands of your tax dollars for things like expensive lunches, gas, gifts and travel while students are left lacking things as basic as books.

Her special report continues Tuesday.
 

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