FBI raid another scandal for charter school company
BATON ROUGE- Wednesday evening's FBI raid on a charter school in East Baton Rouge is the latest item in a list of scandals involving the organization that holds the charter for the Kenilworth Science and Technology School.
Pelican Educational Foundation runs the school and has ties to a family from Turkey. The organization lost its school in New Orleans amid allegations of sexual misconduct among students that prompted a state investigation on campuses in the Crescent City and in Baton Rouge. It has also faced lawsuits and allegations from teachers about bad learning environments.
"It was an atmosphere where there was a double standard," one former teacher told WBRZ News 2 in an investigation into the school in EBR. Former teachers were not happy with how things were handled when they spoke with a station reporter two years ago.
No one was ever charged in the sex allegations a school spokesperson pointed out Wednesday as federal investigators moved through the campus collecting items, putting them in boxes and then loading them into a van.
"We will continue to cooperate" with the FBI, Mike Lambert, the spokesman said. But, he would not comment further.
"We're simply not in a position to say anything else right now," he added.
The school receives about $5,000,000 in local, state, and federal tax money. In 2012, the Pelican group was accused of improperly handling money by the Legislative Auditor. A report found about $8600 was improperly used to buy gifts for students who scored high on LEAP tests.
But, Lambert believes the school is doing its job. He said student performance has increased to a C and that more than half of the students at Kenilworth are at or above grade level. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved Pelican and Kenilworth to continue to operate for about six more years.
About the same time as allegations and lawsuits began dealing with Pelican charter schools, a BESE member took an improper trip on behalf of another Turkish organization. Linda Johnson, who is no longer on BESE, was fined for breaking the law by the ethics board. She got an all expenses paid trip to Turkey.
Kenilworth Science and Technology School will be open Thursday.
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