Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School




A for-profit management firm is charging a publicly-funded Brooklyn charter school nearly $4 million above market rate for its current five-year lease, a state audit found.

The Michigan-based National Heritage Academies — whose questionable leasing practices were first exposed by The Post in April — has been using an affiliate to charge Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School a whopping $2.6 million in yearly rent for its Bushwick digs.

An audit by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli shows that the school’s board of trustees had independently appraised the site’s rental value at $1.8 million — but agreed to the higher rent anyway.

They were apparently swayed by an NHA lawyer’s argument that the company wouldn’t get an appropriate return on its investment — including $13 million in renovations to the building — at the lower rate, auditors found.

The building lacks an auditorium, gym and cafeteria, forcing kids to eat lunch in their classrooms.

DiNapoli also rapped the firm for refusing to fully divulge how it spent the $10 million in public funds it received annually to operate the charter school.

NHA claimed portions of its financial formula contained proprietary information...

The Post reported in April that at another site managed by NHA — the Brooklyn Dreams Charter School in Kensington — rent was jacked up by as much as 1,000 percent, according to sources.

The firm’s real estate affiliate has been renting the site from the Brooklyn Diocese for $264,000 per year, according to a source — then subleasing it to the school for $2.76 million.

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A controversial Bedford-Stuyvesant charter school that parents charge is shortchanging students on supplies and services is being audited by the state controller's office.

Parents at the Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School on Quincy St. said school administrators aren't doling out the cash to pay for textbooks or extra help after school.

"The kids don't have the basics. They don't even get tutoring," said PTA President Faye Hodges, whose three children attend the school...

The filings also show that the school spent roughly $3.2 million on staff, including teachers and custodians, and earned almost $10 million last year.

The school made waves last year when the Daily News reported the wife of a top official for the company managing the school was given a cushy job...

A spokeswoman for the State University of New York, which oversees Excelsior, said SUNY has no policy barring nepotism...

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NEPOTISM, CONFLICT OF INTEREST FIND A HOME AT CHARTER SCHOOLS, April 22, 2010, NY Daily News

At some New York City charter schools, it's a family affair.

A Daily News investigation has found some charters hiring wives, husbands and children of school officials and board trustees as vendors, teachers aides and consultants…

Here's what The News' review found:…

BROOKLYN EXCELSIOR CHARTER SCHOOL

Brooklyn Excelsior hired the wife of a top official at the for-profit firm that was paid $7.6 million last year to manage the Bushwick-based school.

Irwin Kurz is director of school quality for all New York schools managed by National Heritage Academies, including Brooklyn Excelsior, where he has an office.

His wife, Arlene, is an instructional specialist at Brooklyn Excelsior. A spokeswoman for Heritage said Kurz does not oversee his wife and that they both have "impeccable records."

A spokeswoman for the State University of New York, which oversees Excelsior, said SUNY has no policy barring nepotism - unlike New York State.

"Hiring decisions for school staff are the responsibility of the school leader and school board," she said.

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