Few school supplies but a lavish party: At charter school, teachers saw a clash between scarcity and extravagance
The longer she worked for Celerity Dyad Charter School in South Los Angeles, the more Tien Le wondered where the public money the school received was going.
She taught in a portable classroom on an asphalt lot — not unheard of in this city of tight squeezes and little green space, but her students also had no library, cafeteria or gymnasium. The school didn’t provide most supplies, Le said, so when her sixth-graders needed books, or an extra pencil and paper, she spent her own money to buy them.
Months into her first year at Dyad, Le and her colleagues were invited by the organization that managed the school to a holiday party at a large house on a winding street in Hollywood. She parked in a lot rented for the occasion and took a shuttle to the house with other teachers and staff. Inside, there were two open bars, casino tables for poker and blackjack, and a karaoke room. At evening’s end, a limousine ferried guests back to their cars.
“I remember being really confused that night,” Le said. “When I asked for basic supplies, I couldn’t get those things, yet you have money for this expensive party? I know at big corporations and for-profit places these parties are normal, but for a public school it was not normal.”
Le, 29, is now a PhD candidate at USC. She quit Celerity after two years, in 2012. But she was not alone in her concerns about Celerity Educational Group’s finances. Last week, federal agents with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security raided Celerity’s headquarters, confiscating computer equipment and records.
The focus of their investigation remains unclear. The search warrants are under seal. But the inspector general for the Los Angeles Unified School District has been looking into allegations of fraud and financial mismanagement by the charter school organization, a probe that L.A. Unified officials say is ongoing.
As part of its review, the district has scrutinized the schools’ founder, Vielka McFarlane, whose salary at one point exceeded that of the superintendent of L.A. Unified. It has also raised questions about Celerity Global Development, a newer entity run by McFarlane that has significant financial and operational power over Celerity Educational Group.
L.A. Unified’s general counsel has said that the federal investigation is focused not on the performance of Celerity’s schools, but on the Celerity organization that manages them, as Few school supplies but a lavish party: At charter school, teachers saw a clash between scarcity and extravagance - LA Times: