Butkovitz releases investigative findings on Harambee Charter School
City Controller Alan Butkovitz last week released his investigative findings of three charter schools, one of which –Harambee Institute Charter School -- was found to be operating a nightclub and serving alcohol illegally.
All three charter schools investigated by the City Controller shared the same Chief Financial Officer as a full-time employee simultaneously for an extended period of time.
Rhonda Sharif, who is currently employed as a Business Manager at Math, Civics and Sciences Charter School and Harambee's CFO under a management contract, was employed by these two schools as well as the CFO at Khepera Charter School, simultaneously.
At a press conference last week, Butkovitz said, "According to the Charter School law, an employee in an administration position at one charter school cannot receive compensation from other charter schools, either directly or from another management services company."
In 2008, Sharif earned a total of $183,108 as an employee of all three schools and for having worked 463 days. The year before she earned $175,375 as an employee of all three schools and having worked 624 days.
In addition to Sharif's salaries and pension payments, the Controller's investigation found that Sharif was reimbursed $101,587 for unspecified credit card expenses in 2008 from Harambee. While the CFO at Harambee, two payments were made to the Princess Royal Hotel and Convention Center in Ocean City, MD, totaling $52,694 for staff retreats for two separate years.
Along with expenses and reimbursements at the schools associated with Sharif, the Controller's investigation found that a company operated by Rhonda Sharif's husband - Str8-Hand Construction, Inc.,- was the recipient of an estimated $7.5 million in construction and maintenance contracts from the same three schools where she was employed as the CFO and/or Business Manager. For two of the years these contracts were awarded, her relationship with the president of this company was not disclosed in IRS documents.
"These findings raise very troubling questions and serious concerns about oversight and financial accountability," said Butkovitz. "These are abusive practices and not in the best interest of taxpayers."
"Charter schools provide parents with education choice and a quality alternative for thousands of Philadelphia school students," said Butkovitz.
The schools included in the Controller's investigation are three of 13 schools that are part of a more –in-depth investigation that is expected to be released within two weeks.
To view last week's press conference, please visit the Controller's website at www.philadelphiacontroller.org to learn about the Controller's investigation.
Harambee Institute Charter responds to City Controller findings
"This communication goes out to inform you of the most recent misrepresentation of charter schools in our community. The charter school movement has been under attack since it's inception, and unfortunately those who continuously attempt to impede the progress have close proximity to media microphones. This creates a very one-sided and unbalanced view of what charter schools represent. This "negative imaging" can be an extremely dangerous weapon because it creates a perception of what is going on, regardless of how accurate it is. Perceptions then becomes people's reality and the media are extremely crafty at exploiting that fact...
The Harambee family is a resilient group we will meet adversity once again and come out on top."
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