The Washington Post

Second overseer named for companies involved in Options charter school case

A lawsuit alleges senior officials concocted an elaborate contracting scam that led to improper payments of more than $3 million since 2012 at the Options Public Charter School for at-risk youths. (Marlon Correa/The Washington Post)

A D.C. Superior Court judge appointed a receiver Friday to oversee two for-profit companies that are led by the former managers of Options Public Charter School, who have been accused of creating an elaborate contracting scheme to divert millions of dollars from the school.

The former managers, who deny any wrongdoing, are among the defendants in a civil complaint that the District’s attorney general filed this month.

The receiver is Joe Bruno, president of Building Hope, a nonprofit organization that provides business services and loans to charter schools. Bruno will be responsible for taking control of the two companies’ finances and preserving their assets while the civil lawsuit proceeds.

Although no one has been criminally charged in the case, investigators have been interviewing people, and a grand jury is expected to convene as early as next week, according to several people familiar with the case.

The future of Options remains uncertain. The D.C. Public Charter School Board said last week that it would vote on Oct. 16 about whether to take a first step toward closing the school because of financial mismanagement.

Josh Kern, who was appointed by the court to oversee Options, sent a letter this week asking the charter board not to take any such action until he can assess the school’s operations. “It is imperative that I be able to provide the staff a sense of security about their employment at Options,” Kern wrote.

A spokeswoman for the charter board said the board is taking the request “seriously” and “will need to hear from the receiver before it decides how to proceed on Options.”

Emma Brown writes about national education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.



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