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Quest Academy parents want more control

Darcy Spears

Quest Academy parents want more control

CREATED Dec. 7, 2012

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- A principal misappropriating tax dollars. A school board in violation of state law for being out of control and irresponsible.

All at a local school that's been the focus of a Contact 13 "You Paid for It" investigation.

Today, Chief Investigator Darcy Spears spoke to parents who are hoping the school can survive.

"The purpose of charter schools is to have that autonomy, but with that autonomy, you do get these people who try to take advantage of that, and try to gain riches off of children's education money."

Kelly Miller is a former employee and parent of Quest Academy--a taxpayer-funded charter school that's been under investigation by the State Public Charter School Authority.

The state wants to know where taxpayers' money is going?

They've found that $15,000 has gone into the Principal's pocket.

Thousands more to expensive lunches, gifts and travel.

When the Authority demanded answers from Quest, they didn't like what they got.

A big part of the state's investigation centered on three $5,000 checks written on the same day to Principal Connie Jordan, and signed by Board President Christina Fuentes.

When Fuentes submitted a formal response to the state about why Jordan got that $15,000, the state said her accounting was "inadequate," her explanations "inaccurate and contradictory."

"It was all very much an obvious lie to me about the reasons behind the money," Miller said.

That's part of why she and other parents have made a tough decision.

"I have pulled my kids out of the school for fear of their safety."

Fear that may be justified since some of those who made accusations against the principal have been put on leave, or in one board member's case, voted out of office.

"If Ms. Jordan really truly, truly cared about our children, she'd walk away or at least put herself on administrative leave, and it should have happened in the first place."

That's exactly what the state said.

Instead of firing people or placing them on leave when they make allegations, the state admonished Quest's board to "demonstrate appropriate concern..." Suggesting Ms. Jordan be placed on leave until allegations of test score manipulation and extortion are resolved, and the school's outside audit is complete.

The state also questions whether spending more tax dollars to hire a forensic auditor and employment investigator is even appropriate or necessary.

It's unclear what the school's next step will be, but parents know what they're going to do.  They've already met with lawmakers to propose new legislation in the upcoming session that would allow them--the parents--to have more say in how charter schools are run and who's running them.

"There should be an exit plan," Miller says.  "There should be something that the parents can do, especially in situations where it appears that the board has gone rogue."

Changes the state is recommending include replacing Connie Jordan and the entire current board.

If the school fails to act appropriately, they could lose their charter.

"To me this is like the 'get out of jail free' card," says Miller.  "It's one more chance to do the right thing.  And I pray that the board will listen and follow the recommendations, because for these children to lose their school is just going to be heartbreaking."

Connie Jordan tells Contact 13 she's been advised by her lawyer not to talk at this time, and though board members didn't return calls, the school spokesperson said they will comment, just not right now.

Quest remains under investigation by other agencies and Contact 13.