The founder of a public charter school in the East Bay that provides a comfort zone for Muslim students is under attack in the wake of a state audit that uncovered questionable financial practices, including lavish payments to her.
In 2007, compensation for the founder and director of the FAME school in Fremont, Maram Alaiwat, was more than $240,000. This was roughly the same as the total compensation of the Fremont Unified Schools superintendent, who oversees 38 schools.
Ms. Alaiwat’s compensation package included a base salary of $153,702, a $32,500 housing allowance and a mileage stipend of $7,000. She was also given 10 percent of federal grant money that the school received for books and other needs, a stipend worth $30,000. She was paid $18,700 in lieu of vacation, and was provided with the money to buy a $74,820 2007 Mercedes GL 450.
According to the audit, the five-year-old charter school, Families of Alameda for Multi-Cultural/Multi-Lingual Education, had also taken out more than $3 million in loans from private lenders including Ms. Alaiwat’s two brothers and two school board members, at an interest rate significantly higher than commercial lenders charge. In most cases, the private lenders also received a 10 percent fee.
In addition to the compensation and the loans, Ms. Alaiwat rented her new condominium to an employee, whose salary she subsequently increased…
In June 2008, Ms. Jordan requested that the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team investigate possibilities of fraud and misappropriation of money at FAME. That audit showed a new charter school that was scraping by from loan to loan as its population grew.
FAME’s response dismissed many of the auditors’ concerns, including those about Ms. Alaiwat’s renting an apartment to an employee. It said that she has a history of helping the homeless, the abused and orphans and was being charitable.
It also said that charter school officials were not obligated to abide by state conflict-of-interest laws cited in the audit…
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CHARTER SCHOOL FOUNDER FACES FINANCIAL SCRUTINY, February 6, 2010, The New York Times