Escambia Charter School


For nearly half a decade, Escambia Charter School hired out a group of students to cut roadside grass and weeds during class time for about 32 hours per week.

The privately run high school made about $200,000 by paying the children less than required under a state Department of Transportation contract. Meanwhile, it continued accepting tax money from the state Department of Education to teach the children five hours a day.

Until state prosecutors investigated complaints from teachers at the campus north of Pensacola, the falsifying of attendance records, course schedules and grade reports went unchecked.

Even after pleading no contest to grand theft, the school remains open. No more than 12 percent of its students have ever been able to read at grade level, test scores show…

The student work crews started at Escambia Charter in 1999. Stan Callender, the school's chief executive officer, signed a $250,000 contract with the Transportation Department to tend roadside grass and weeds in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

Callender and Principal Jerome Chisolm devised a plan that called for a group of students to work eight hours per day, Monday through Thursday, for up to 15ƒ|weeks during school hours, according to state investigators.

The contract paid $16.25 for each hour a teen worked. The school, however, gave the students only $10 an hour, prosecutors said.

That meant the school collected about $40,000 a year from the student labor.

The administrators presented the program to charter-board members and county school-district officials as on-the-job training, investigators said.

Each week, however, Escambia sent false attendance records to the school district showing students were in class, investigators found. Report cards falsely showed that the work-crew members completed the courses…

State investigators amassed enough evidence to charge Escambia with one count of organized fraud, a felony, in April 2004.

Thomas said the criminal charge helped him negotiate an end to the student-labor abuses. The road crews were restructured into proper on-the-job training programs. Students attended class the required five hours per day. Grade and attendance reports were no longer falsified.

But Callender, whom state investigators identified as the mastermind of the scheme, remained in charge at the school. Thomas said there was little he could do, because charter governing boards have authority over staff matters…


Anonymous said...

i personally believe that this "work Crew" program could have been a good thing for students in high school! what is a teenager going to do with that kind of money any ways? they blow it of course. but in the long run it teaches young people the responsibility of working hard to earn your money, and how to manage it responsibly. and also this sort of privilege should be offered to excellent, outstanding students. the ones to maintain A and B average grades and don't have disciplinary problems. just saying this type of thing is good for students even if the school takes part of there earned wages. i assure you those wages were put right back into the school for the students benefit. Mr Callender was a smart man and an excellent school president, and he is greatly missed. As for Mr. Chisolm He is one of the most inspirational people in my life. He has taught me very valuable lessons that i still carry to this day. I know if i ever needed anything i could call on him to help, because he is that kind of person and a high school principal who really cares for his students.--------former ECS student and work crew employee

Anonymous said...

The money NEVER made it to the kids or the school.....My son NEVER got paid...and if it did go back to the come there was not enough books for students to bring home and study or even enough books to go around in the classroom for each child. That school is for misfits that do what they want, when they want, and heaven forbid you are a white child in that school, you are discrimitated against....I have seen first hand a black child hit a white child and the white child is expelled from there. I want MY SONS MONEY HE EARNED WORKING THERE.