The Texas Education Agency has assigned a monitor to the Burnham Wood Charter School District as a sanction for many problems the state previously found, including school leaders who misused public funds on some business deals and campuses not properly serving at-risk students.The charter district's Superintendent Iris Burnham did not return phone calls this week, but in an email she said the district is contesting the education agency's decision to assign a monitor...A state audit report released earlier this year showed that the district, which runs three charter schools in El Paso [see * below], misused public funds on some property transactions, which allegedly resulted in private benefits for Burnham, who is also the president of the district's board of directors.
The board breached its fiduciary duty when in September 2006 it approved using $1.2 million in revenue bonds to buy property on the West Side from Burnham for Howard Burnham Elementary, a charter school named for the superintendent's late husband, according to the state audit.Education agency investigators concluded the purchase price far exceeded the property value...Rebeca Perez, a former textbook administrator at the district who has claimed she was fired for raising concerns to school administrators and to the state education agency, said there should be harsher punishments against the charter district's leaders for misusing public funds.TEA officials have not said whether the agency reported any of its findings to law enforcement authorities..."Based on the audit, there's a lot of factual information that tells us there are violations of criminal activity," Perez said. "(Iris Burnham) basically is paying herself from the money entrusted to her. The citizens of El Paso should be concerned because this is taxpayer money."...The more than two-year state investigation into the district held its accreditation status in limbo for three school years, but the education agency has since accredited the district...The agency will reassess Burnham Wood's accreditation status if problems at the school are not resolved."I wish to express my concerns and caution the board regarding the lack of governance oversight that has resulted in these findings," Scott wrote. "I strongly urge the board to take swift and decisive action to address the many continuing deficiencies identified for the school."
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Burnham Wood Charter School District (three schools)
“Problems bring TEA monitor for Burnham Wood Charter School District.” El Paso Times (TX), 7/21/2012
The three schools of the Burnham Wood Charter School District are the Howard Burnham Elementary School, the Da Vinci School for Science & the Arts, and Vista del Futuro. They are operated by the El Paso Education Initiative, Inc. and are also known as Burnham Wood Schools or the Burnham Wood Family of Fine Schools.