American Preparatory Academy

A state school board member is questioning whether family members should be allowed to contract with one another to run charter schools, calling the relationship between a charter-school academy and its management company “not right.”

But the practice of family members running charter schools together is not unique to one school. Charter schools are independently run public schools often started by groups of parents.

Outgoing state school board member Denis Morrill raised the issue at a board meeting this month as the board considered American Preparatory Academy’s request to expand beyond its current plans. The academy pays a charter school management company $986 a year per student to run its two schools, according to the management agreement. The company is owned by sisters of the chairman of the academy’s board.

“I’m not willing to approve and watch expand something that puts another $920 a year in the pocket of the sister of the person who’s asking for the expansion,” Morrill said.

With about 1,140 students enrolled in American Preparatory Academy’s two schools, the for-profit management company, led by Carolyn Sharette, receives more than $1 million a year, she said. Sharette’s brother, Howard Headlee, chairs the American Preparatory board, which hired Sharette’s company. The academy is opening a third campus in the fall with another 720 students.

Sharette, Headlee and their sister Laura Campbell opened the first school together in 2003. Sharette and Campbell worked at the school and later created the charter management company, called American Preparatory Schools Inc…

Joel Coleman, a founder and board member of Monticello Academy charter school, won Morrill’s seat this month. Coleman’s wife had served as director of Monticello until the state Charter School Board ousted her last year after an investigation spurred by complaints from parents about low teacher morale and efforts to block parental involvement in the school’s management, which they said was paralyzed by conflicts of interest.

Kim Coleman is now suing a number of state Charter School Board members and other education officials for more than $5 million for allegedly unlawfully removing her from her post, among other allegations…


Unknown said...

My kids go to the school where they are well prepared for High School. My oldest son scored in the top 10 percent in the nation on the ACT. My daughter is headed for a member of the National Honor Sosiety now at Jordan. I know all of the people you would slander with your comments, including the Coleman's. I think your NEA bias clouds your vision. Get the facts strait. The Headley family is devoted to education and mothers without borders and many other noble causes. Hope you post this, noticed there were no comments.

David Topham

The Perimeter Primate said...

Let me help set things straight for you.

1. I am not slandering anyone. I am posting excerpts of news articles and their links. If you have an issue with the content of this article, you should take it up with the Salt Lake Tribune.

2. You err with your assumption. "NEA bias" does NOT cloud my vision. I am an independent blogger and public school parent who believes in public education. I track these stories because I believe it is an important thing to do.

Congrats on your kids' success. My kids are extremely successful, too (AP scholar awards, scholarships, etc.), and I have NEVER enrolled them in a charter school. Instead of fleeing from the system, I provide support to help strengthen it.

Carolyn Sharette said...

Perimeter Primate - the title of your blog is "Charter School Scandals", so it is not honest for you to say you are not slandering anyone.

Our school was not accused of any wrongdoing, and has not been accused of any wrongdoing. The newspaper only said there were "questions", which was fair. The questions were answered publicly and openly, and no further questions have been asked because it was clear we operate within the law and within all ethics requirements, AND we provide incredible academic results for our students. 96% of our students passed the language arts CRT, 99% parental satisfaction. Over 7,000 students on our waiting lists.

You are the one who elevated the questions to slander by posting the article on a blog with such a provocative, and yes, slanderous, title.

You can say you don't have any bias, but just the title of your blog indicates that you clearly have an agenda, which results in a bias.

I believe all charter school supporters would support your desire to keep your children in the traditional public schools. We believe all should be able to choose the best school for their child. We don't fight to get your child out of the school you choose, and I don't understand why you would fight to tell parents untruths and try to get them to pull their children from charter schools or avoid them. Can't everyone just decide for themselves, without hostility and judgment?

How does that help anyone? How does that help students?

The Perimeter Primate said...

Carolyn Sharette,

Where did I say I don't have a bias?

1. A publicized incident that brings about disgrace or offends the moral sensibilities of society.
2. A person, thing, or circumstance that causes or ought to cause disgrace or outrage.
3. Damage to reputation or character caused by public disclosure of immoral or grossly improper behavior; disgrace.

From my point of view, nepotism tied in with profiting off of public education funding fits into this definition.

I'm not the only one who has this opinion.

You ask, "Can't everyone just decide for themselves, without hostility and judgment?"

Sure, but what's wrong with them finding my blog where they will only end up reading a Salt Lake Tribune article about the school?

By the way, you need to fix the typo on this web page.

It's "Executive" not "Excutive."

Unknown said...

I have to agree with Carolyn.
Defining the word you chose doesn't make it any less bias! In every definition it talks about "disgrace" and "immorality". Who was disgraced over questions that were answered (with great answers) in a public setting? What immoral actions did they commit? Being related?

I recently enrolled my kids in American Preperatory Academy because we didn't have the same experience you had with your school.
I'm really grateful there are people like Caroly Sharette that are not content to sit by and let children take the gamble as to whether or not they can suceed with the learning style offered in public schools. Why critize people for offering options?

Sister Sumsion said...

Nepotism. Hmmm. According to , nepotism is the "practice of appointing relatives and friends in one's organization to positions for which outsiders might be better qualified. Despite its negative connotations, nepotism (if applied sensibly) is an important and positive practice in the startup and formative years of a firm where complete trust and willingness to work hard (for little or no immediate reward) are critical for its survival."

After having spent two out of the last three weeks watching Carolyn and Laura up close at work in their enterprise, I would have a very difficult time recognizing what they are doing in their schools as anything resembling scandalous in the sense of "bring[ing] about disgrace or offend[ing] the moral sensibilities of society," even if they are deriving financial profit from their activities. The parents who consider it a blessing to have been able to choose to send their children to their schools and the teachers who have chosen to expend their efforts within their system might have opinions worth noticing.

And when did deriving profit from successfully providing a much-needed and valued service (as evidenced by these schools' students' impressive academic achievements and their waiting list in the thousands) become scandalous in America? An immigrant myself, I thought I came here for those very kinds of opportunities.

Ah, that every educational system could care enough about the educational progress of its students as to fund and promote only those ideas and methodologies that produce true academic excellence in a significant majority of its clientele....

Cate Long said...

I think the question is how does this payment benefit taxpayers or students:

the for-profit management company, led by Carolyn Sharette, receives more than $1 million a year, she said. Sharette’s brother, Howard Headlee, chairs the American Preparatory board

There are excellent public schools and I never seen such a high administrative cost for such a small number of students. It would be good to see some comparable.

Anonymous said...

The public school system is broken. We fight socialist health care, but not socialist education. Who is this wretched harlot who attacks the Headee's? The Headlee's are saving education in Utah. This babbling idiot named Sharon Higgins has a blog and believes she is making a difference. You make no difference. Anyone with a brain can see through your vulgar lies. Maybe YOU should have gone to a charter school. You could have used the IQ points. But I digress from stating how obviously puerile and ironically unschooled the author of this "article" really is, and focus on spreading my message. The public school system is socialism, it's broken, and only Howard Stephenson holds the answer.

The Perimeter Primate said...

Dear Readers,

Anonymous above is quite confused. The authors of the article posted on this page are Lisa Schencker and Rosemary Winters of the Salt Lake Tribune. Duh.

BTW, the reference must be to Howard Stevenson, a Utah State Senator.

Yours truly,
The "wretched harlot"

Anonymous said...

I just love how you believe that taking something out of context in a quote and replacing key information with some ellipsis can somehow pass as truth. If people want to know what is actually going on, they should not limit their research to some simpleminded Blogspot moron. And it's "Stephenson" you hypocrite. If you are going to correct the spelling on the school's website, then you might want to check your own spelling.

Sommer S. said...

*It's "Executive" not "Excutive."*

Wow. If that's not desperate & laughably petty ... I just may need to check with my five year old on the newest ways to behave like a child.

I am incredibly grateful to be as lucky as I am. Being able to provide, through this charter school, the educational needs of my two very different children. My oldest, "left behind" graduating 1st grade just a bit behind. Second, concerningly behind. Pushed off to 3rd... Clueless, ashamed, embarrased, without a shred of confidence. Every school day, pretending to have a clue what was going on.
What torture for a young person.
my five year old. With one year in preschool, graduated reading at a first to second grade level. Her teachers pushed for her to skip kindergarten, even as a young "spring baby".

What American Preparatory Academy offers my children is, my 9 year old, a chance to not just succeed buy to excel! My 5 year old, the chance to blossom socially at her pace in addition to being challenged. Her gift, recognized & her potential nourished.

Again, my gratitude extended to a staff that does not care who I am, Because it's just not a factor when it comes to the dedication they have for the success of two little girls.

Anonymous said...

I find it very interesting that someone who is interested in one particular part of a charter school is attacked, especially anonymously (can we say cyber-bully) by parents and administrators of the cause. It's easy to respond to these comments online.

To be completely honest, this is not the first question concerning family that this charter school has had. They had to push a bill through congress that would allow charter schools to employ family members and there is a special section in the application which addresses this issue and how future charter schools will handle it.

This does not say that the charter school does not do a good job of educating youngsters who fit into the program. There are some that don't fit into the program and my extensive research into this type of program and others has warranted some interesting results.

I believe the "over 7000 kids" on the waiting list causes them to be a little cocky. There are almost as many unsatisfied customers as there are satisfied customers in this system. Not all from American Preparatory Academy, but of their basic techniques in general.

This school simply creates another box in which to place children and it leaves children behind in the system, too. Inconsistent monitoring and overlooking basic skills can cause any school to fail in this regard.

Having worked in public schools, private schools and charter schools, I have seen success and failure in all places based on any number of factors. And while the direct instruction school American Preparatory Academy does an excellent job with the program, it is only developmentally appropriate for young children through approximately the age of 8. The choice of language arts program, possibly a question. It seems that they use full programs only part of the time and rearrange pieces of programs as they see fit. Most schools do this - and in some places it works. With their reading and writing program, it seems to lack a little and leaves some definite comprehension and reasoning gaps. Although this creates good testing results, children have a lack of understanding as to why the solution is the way it is.

I get that bringing to light a company's faults can hurt those that have bought it, but that the owner of the for profit company and previous director of the academy would condone bullying online and not even respond says enough about that person for me. Those tactics are underhanded and at best, show that their adults are not able to separate the emotion from the information. For her to also attack the writer of the blog to say that they were happy she chose public school, indicating that her nature would somehow be defunct in a charter school, is also shocking and illustrates the type of person she is.

All this being said - no one questioned the educational ability of the school. They posted an article that brought to light the ethics and moral compass of who is in charge of the school and how they may be spending our public funds. Public schools and other non-profits are required to report financials because they use public funds and must be held accountable to the people who's money they use. We have a right to know if "family business" is sucking public funds from other places. Ironically, by having all things monitored and controlled by a for-profit company, the Headlee's have managed to bypass the public scrutiny. A for-proft company has no obligation to report its financials. Although these questions were answered publicly and supposedly all fears were allayed, the situation leaves me wondering two things:

1 - Based on the attacks here on this one blog, I have to wonder why they attack opposers so fiercely. Which leads to

2 - Are they hiding something behind that for profit company?

Craig Peterson said...

@ Anonymous from 8-11-12
After reading your comments on this blog I had to respond and point out some inaccurate information and illogical connections you made. I will preface my comments by stating that I have worked for APA for four years and I know Carolyn Sharette well. She is a person of the highest integrity and she works constantly to provide strong schools for students who attend APA schools. It shocks me when I see someone who I consider an innovator in public education to be demonized by the public.

I agree that the comments left by an anonymous poster were childish and correctly labeled as bullying. Your comment claiming that the “director of the academy would condone bullying online and not even respond” is absurd. The fact that Carolyn does not check back on this post often enough to denounce others comments does not mean that she condones them. I’m sure you and any reader can see the erroneous assumption that a lack of comments indicates agreement. Let me add that Carolyn did not attack the blogger by saying she is happy she chose a public school. Allow me to quote her “I believe all charter school supporters would support your desire to keep your children in the traditional public schools. We believe all should be able to choose the best school for their child.” She is clearly stating that choice in education, what charter schools ultimately provide, is a fundamental right and she is glad the blogger can exercise that.

I would love a link or some references to your “extensive research” on direct instruction as a methodology to teach students. If it matches the expansive “project follow through” (the largest scale research project on education done by the US government from 1968 to 1977 that evaluated over 20,000 student using nine different methods of instruction, including direct instruction, in several criteria) then it would be important to read. In the results of “project follow through” Direct Instruction more than outperformed all other methods, it blew them out of the water, not only in measures of basic skill acquisition (Metropolitan Achievement Test, Wide Range Achievement Test) but even self esteem (Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory). I would be curious to read your “interesting results” because these results are the foundation of our method to teaching and to our amazing test scores (we are not cocky about them, just anxious to share with other schools, including public, how we are getting such great academic results).

When Carolyn mentions the long waiting list I do not believe she is being “cocky.” For me this is a huge indicator of our ultimate accountability, parents. Opponents to the charter movement often complain about Charter School accountability (though we are very accountable to the state in yearly performance). It is clear that if parents in such large numbers want to enroll their children in our school than we are doing things. If we were unsuccessful or if our programs were not teaching children effectively then parents would not be literally lined up to get into our school. You say there are just as many unsatisfied customers. Where did you get that data? With an approval rate of 99% I question if that statement is valid. Also, the school does not overlook basic skills. A hallmark of an APA classroom and of strong direct instruction is that students must master basic skills in order to move forward. A school that does not monitor basic schools does fail as many of our schools, traditional public and charter have proven). APA is anything but a failing school as Carolyn pointed out. I assume by your comments that you have never toured an APA school or visited an APA classroom. Please take the time and many of your opinions will change. Until you have done this I do not know how you can continue to comment about what Carolyn or anyone at the school is doing with public funds.

Anonymous said...

I have been a teacher in two schools associated with APA. Never again will I work for them. I find Carolyn extremely defensive on any news site where she leaves comments. Since she has a degree in nursing, she really needs to teach a classroom of 30 students with all the rules and regulations she puts on her teachers. She has a very high turn over rate with her staff which speaks volumes. APA scores in Draper are very high,, but APA scores in West Valley are close to the bottom. Demographics has a lot to do with how a school performs on tests.

I believe that parents should have a choice where to send their children. I feel like there is a division between the charter and public schools. We could all learn from each other and make the best schools available to educate our children.

Carolyn Sharette said...

I always appreciate the opportunity to clarify information about our schools. It is a wonderful thing that parents are allowed to choose the best educational "fit" for their child, and we are so pleased to be able to offer just one more option to help families succeed in their quest to educate their children. We recognize we are not the "only way" and we are not the best fit for everyone. I respect those parents who find our school is not the best fit for their child and I sincerely hope they find a better match and have a great experience with their child's education.

Our staff turnover is quite low, and we have several teachers who have been with us since the beginning (10 years). In Utah it is a little tricky because moms often wish to stay home with babies and as many of our elementary teachers are young women (as is the case in most Utah schools), we do find that we lose some to family pursuits. But I believe the poster was referring to teachers who leave because they don't like our school or don't like teaching at our school, and I can't think of any that have left for that reason unless we have invited them to leave due to their inability to meet our teaching expectations.

I will admit that we have a rigorous staff training program and if teachers cannot make the needed progress toward excellence we need to see, we don't retain that teacher, and in that way our turnover probably is higher than other schools. We are committed to having excellent teachers in front of our students and not all teachers can "get there".

Our West Valley scores are higher than the surrounding schools that we draw from, but lower than our Draper campus. We are excited about the progress we have made in West Valley with our students, but we are not even close to being where we want to be - with all our students performing at the proficient and above level, regardless of where they live. We are in year 2 of our 2nd West Valley School and year 4 of our 1st West Valley school, and we are pleased with the forward movement we are making, but not satisfied and we agree much more progress is needed before we can say we have succeeded there. Thank you for this opportunity to share regarding our schools. Carolyn Sharette, Executive Director

Anonymous said...

Hats off to Higgins! The comments left here are a testament to the fact that you have made a difference. I applaud you.

Anonymous said...

As I said previously, Carolyn is very defensive. She needs to teach in a classroom and do ALL the things she requires her teachers to do. But what can you expect when you have a degree in nursing and not education? Good luck!

Anonymous said...

To Whom It May Concern,

In many ways charter schools can be institutions that greatly profit student education. However when grossly abused they prove debilitating for both children and teachers. The following list is certainly intended to condemn any one individual but shed light on some troubling practices that that warrant considerable investigation.

1. Grades are changed when the administration believes teachers have not awarded high enough grades.

2. APA has lost a considerable number of students at both their Draper and West Valley in 10th grade-there are currently only 19 at Draper. Not sure where this mystery 7000 wait list is coming in.

3. Teachers are strongly encouraged to come in on weekends when they are not compensated.

4. Teachers are paid at rates similar to public school districts but expected to work at least 2 weeks more.

5. There is no due process for being let go as a teacher.

6. If you are a single teacher insurance is free-if you have a family it is upwards of 1000 dollars a month-roughly half the income of working teachers

7. There is a camera in every classroom

8. Students are punished if they speak Spanish.

9. The turnover rate for teachers is extraordinarily high-in some cases 90% of departments lose faculty each year.

10. Teachers are responsible for work equipment and must pay for anything they break.

JF said...

@ Anonymous

Currently working at APA I find it a total misrepresentation by you. You are obviously a disgruntled former employee who may not have had success and was not invited back. Working in the classroom as a DI teacher is definitely much different than a traditional school. But the support and coaching staff that is available to you, at the drop of a pin, is incredible. It makes teaching a breeze knowing that I can have help whenever I need it. The cameras are there for the protection of both student and teacher, not sure why that is a bad thing? Unless of course you are doing things you should not be. I work with many people who have been there for years, some as much as 12, so not sure where your turnover rate is coming from. I am usually encouraged not to come in on weekends, but maybe that is because I get my work done and do not need to put in weekend hours, most certainly they would never be in the school. I take some things home, like grading and such. I have even been told to go home, the opposite of being encouraged to stay.

It sounds like DI was not the right method for you, and that is OK. And sometimes that is the case for the students as well. Not all parents like the method, but our stats speak for themselves, it works. So they can choose to go somewhere else. but when you have several hundred students and a few dozen leave that is not excessive.
So I is you, Not Carolyn, who has displayed the defensive trait in this blog. She should defend her school, especially when it is incorrectly accused of wrongdoing or scandal. It is you who is being defensive, from obviously not being accepted or asked to continue your employment. If you are not looking for a place that genuinely cares for each child, pushes them to reach their highest potential, treats their staff with respect and gives them all the support they need (sometimes you just have to ask)then you are in the wrong place. But let's be mature about it and maybe see that you might be the problem, not them.

Anonymous said...

Dear JF,

I welcome your perspective and believe you are correct about DI-but I never said anything about DI. Also, I still very much work at APA.

David Sharette said...

Anonymous (not sure which "Anonymous" as there seems to be many people who don't want to be up front about their online discussions),

Disclaimer: I work at the school AND I am related to Carolyn. I am what is wrong with this world I guess (don't consider my qualifications of course, just call it nepotism and shun it. And don't consider the thousands of volunteer hours I put in the last 12 years).

Response to your 10 items:

1. This doesn't affect any state rankings so why is it a concern? I don't know how often this happens, but the teacher and administrator both have the student's best interest in mind. The grades are a representation of the student's progress and they are FOR the student and his/her parent. The administrator wouldn't do this to make the school look good since no one looks at grades to rate the performance of the school.

2. There was a 70-80% retention rate among students moving from 9th-10th grade last year at our West Valley 2 and Draper 2 schools (the only schools with 10th grade). Among all of the grades at all schools it was in the high 80's last year. Some High Schoolers have left Draper due to the fact that we have been unable to build a High School facility. But the 10th grade at West Valley is completely full, and the Draper school only has 19 because we literally can't fit any more in the building - we are busting at the seams.

3. Of course you don't mean all the time, but only when there are special events requiring your presence? If you feel like your work schedule is too strenuous then maybe you could find a job that isn't as strenuous. But don't think you'll find that in other fields. In my previous banking life I worked on Saturdays and late nights all the time.

4. Again, if you can get a better job elsewhere, why do you work here? The pros must outweigh the cons.

5. That's obviously just not true we have very specific criteria that we follow. You may be just saying this because you don't agree with our process, but that doesn't mean that there ISN'T one?

6. It's closer to $500/month no need to exaggerate. But again if you can get better benefits elsewhere...

7. No argument. We only do this because the parents demand it. Parents know this when they sign up and they like it.

8. Punished is an inflammatory word. We are trying to prepare our students for the American work place which requires fluency in English.

9. Our highest turnover EVER for staff was 27%.

10. That is false we have very specific policies regarding this if you have questions you can come talk to me.

David Sharette

Anonymous said...

My boys started attending American Preparatory last year during 3rd grade. I have been so impressed with the school. They used to come home and say how boring school was and that their favorite times of the school day were lunch and recess.

It is amazing how American Prep. has changed their attitudes. They come home now and talk about how much they are learning. There is a lot more work involved but it's definitely worth it as parents. My boys are doing things in 4th grade that my wife and I didn't do until 7th grade.

I know Laura Campbell and her family and they are as good of people as you'll ever find! They are in it for the kids and for the betterment of education. If you talk with her, it is all about the kids. In fact, I know she once took in a child who was struggling with family/school life to live with her family for some time. Seeing her and her family work with kids is the main reason I put my boys on the waiting list/lottery.

Thank you American Prep. for all you do. It's true, like some of you have mentioned above, this school is not for every child. Your child will not succeed at American Prep if you're not willing to work with them every night. Their daily reading fluency is magical. The facts my kids know because of this program is priceless! Thank you again for your amazing contribution to our community and to our children!!!


Glad I left Utah said...

David Sharette is now a candidate for the State School Board in Utah. Oh what a tangled web these unethical charter school operators and legislators weave in Utah.
For a state that claims to be so pious, conflicts of interest and ethical lapses are commonplace.
But then, this is also a state that claims to love its children SO much that it crams them into overcrowded schools and refuses to fund PUBLIC schools properly (though oddly enough, Utah charter schools and their cream of the [mostly white] crop students have adequate funding given the services they don't have to provide, and are able to limit their enrollment, unlike PUBLIC schools, which must take ALL kids).

Eric Earley said...

I used to live in Utah. I'm now a Nevada attorney and face educating my children in a state consistently ranked in the worst 10 in the nation in test scores. see

It is Interesting that Utah is ranked 13th or 14th best. see also

Interesting also that Utah ranks dead last in spending per pupil.
see and Utah has 22.5 kids per classroom which is second to last.

The previous comment offended my sense of fair play -- "this is a state that claims to love its children SO much that it crams them into overcrowded schools and refuses to fund PUBLIC schools properly". Probably an UEA member.

Let's set the record straight: Utah ranks in the top five for how much of its total budget is devoted to education.

That's a lot of love, even by UEA standards. The apparent contradiction result from a few additional facts: Utah has the very highest number of children per-capita. See family size rankings:

Utah's family makeup is pretty unique too:

Utah has the highest number of married-couple households (61%), the highest percentage of "stay at home moms" (incidentally, the lowest number of stay at home dad's -- very traditional):

But this makes for a very unique situation where the culture creates the problem (highest tax revenue per family spent toward education, bigest families, lowest per-pupil spending) and fixes it! Rankings are 13th in Nation for scores.

So again, from the neighboring state of Nevada, I'm fortunate that, with our poor ranking, my middle son was just accepted into the Las Vegas branch of American Preparatory Academy. I saw your blog and I'm not offended by it and I have no problem with your bias: I appreciate it. We all have biases (none of us are totally empty vessels -- at least you are not after reading what just wrote). With that said, I am obviously a proponent of competition and the belief that people should be paid for their services. I can't imagine the UEA or NEA would disagree with this main point: They are always asking for raises to teacher pay. Utah starting salary: $33,081 Average: $49,393 this is far from the worst, its in the lower third.

But just as teachers like to be paid, creativity should be rewarded. School choice accomplishes this by rewarding success and firing failures. It also typically leaves more funds in the system for those who don't exercise their choice: So no one should be complaining about those of us who are pro-choice. It is a little ironic that teachers are not pro-choice. With that said, if the management company is owned by related people, I'm fine with that if it is disclosed and the work product is good. I care most about the work product and the results. It's about the kids, not the conflict of interests. If everything were just about the conflicts of interest, teacher's unions would be the worst offenders -- because we all know that unions fight for workers, not consumers. And the work product typically falters as a result. If our public ed was a car company, they would have gone bankrupt long ago.