Hours after rebuffing parents and voting to shut 19 public schools, education officials announced plans to end most programs at Alfred E. Smith High in the Bronx and replace them with a charter school.That charter school, however, has its own troubled history.It's called the New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries (AECI), and it has been in operation fewer than two years.Last June, a Manhattan federal grand jury charged its founder and chairman, Richard Izquierdo Arroyo, with stealing more than $200,000 from a nonprofit South Bronx housing organization.Prosecutors say Izquierdo spent the money on designer clothes, fancy restaurants and trips to the Caribbean for his grandmother, state Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, and his aunt, City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo.Another board member of the school, Margarita Villegas, an employee of the housing group, was indicted with Izquierdo. Both have pleaded not guilty. They immediately resigned from AECI's board and from the board of the South Bronx Charter School, where Izquierdo was chairman.Virtually all the teachers who began at AECI when it opened its doors in September 2008 resigned within the first year.This month, 17 of the 19 new staff members at the school filed a state labor petition to have the United Federation of Teachers represent them.The angry teachers claim that Victory Schools Inc., the for-profit management company hired by AECI to administer their school, is charging an exorbitant management fee.Meanwhile, DOE has posted little information on the academic performance of AECI students.James Stovall, the executive at Victory in charge of AECI, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Irma Zardoya, the retired DOE administrator who replaced Izquierdo as chair of AECI's board.None of these problems seem to trouble the educrats at Tweed.One day soon, our city will wake up to discover that Bloomberg's mad rush to create hundreds of independent charter schools has unleashed bigger financial scandals than in the bad old days of community school boards.At least new city Controller John Liu announced Thursday he would audit how the city decided to close these schools.The DOE posted a notice on its Web site Wednesday, detailing plans to move AECI into the Alfred E. Smith building in September. Chancellor Joel Klein scheduled a Feb. 24 vote on the plan by the mayor's Panel for Educational Policy.Amazingly, the vocational programs the charter school will offer when it moves to Smith are virtually the same programs the public school offers.Smith accepts all students who apply. AECI only takes students by lottery.At Smith, 21% of the students are in a special education program; at AECI, only 9% are.At Smith, 71% of the students come from such low-income families that they qualify for the federal free lunch program; at AECI, only 47% do.What happens to the poorest kids, to that huge special education population, to those who need the most help?Liu needs to ask tough questions fast. And he needs to follow the money going to charters, because Klein's people are not.
New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries (AECI)
Rush to create charter high schools in New York City is recipe for cash scam (NY Daily News, January 29, 2010)