Charter commission probes $11,500 in unexplained payments at Ammon school

The Idaho Public Charter School Commission has asked Ammon-based Monticello Montessori Charter School for documentation supporting nearly $11,500 in unexplained payments and purchases.

Commission director Jenn Thompson outlined the request in a letter obtained by Idaho Education News Thursday, which updated Monticello’s administrator and trustees on the commission’s ongoing investigation into various issues at the school.

Thompson’s request stems from four credit card purchases totaling $9,316.07 from October to December 2020, and $2,176.16 in “reimbursements” to employees in July.

Thompson flagged 36 reimbursements issued by the school “without explanation” from July to December. “This is more frequent use of reimbursements than the IPCSC typically sees,” she wrote.

Erica Kemery

Thompson notified Monticello administrator Erica Kemery and trustees of the commission’s investigation into issues at the school last month, including an allegation that board members were receiving monetary benefits through contracts held by the school.

The commission currently has “no reason to believe” that’s happening, Thompson wrote, but the investigation is ongoing. Prior documentation provided by the school did not include financial reports for January, February or March 2021. Thompson requested those reports, along with statements clarifying the four credit card purchases from October to December and contracts with four companies doing business with the school.

Thompson also updated school leaders on the broader investigation. Commission staff found issues with a grievance policy they determined does not allow complaints to reach Monticello trustees,  other “general operational concerns” and issues with a school-run preschool operating without the commission’s consent.

It’s still unclear how the preschool’s teacher is being paid, Thompson wrote. Other issues with the preschool revolve around reported expenditures and revenues — or the lack thereof. A July budget at the preschool reflected no revenue, despite $30,000 in reported expenditures. A December budget reported $14,000 in revenue, with no reported expenditures.

“If federal or state funds have been used to support an unauthorized enterprise, such action may be investigated as a misuse of public funds,” Thompson wrote of the preschool, before requesting evidence that it has been dissolved “as an enterprise” at the school.

Thompson also updated the school on other issues “warranting feedback,” including:

  • Kemery’s claim at an April 15 board meeting that she has not received a formal job description from trustees. “This is concerning,” Thompson wrote, “as leadership evaluations, reflecting an administrator’s success at performing the duties of his/her position, have been filed every year.”
  • Concerns about the school’s cooperation with a special education investigation involving the State Department of Education, which “appear” to have been resolved. Still, Thompson requested further followup on the school’s progress “resolving this issue.”
  • The school’s budget and expenditures “do not appear” to contain health insurance benefits for full-time employees, Thompson wrote.
  • Lease agreements for student facilities at the school “may not be up to date” in the commission’s files.
  • A reduction to the school board’s director of insurance policy from $4,800 in July to $0 in December. This is a “necessary policy for the protection of the governing board,” Thompson wrote.

Thompson provided a list of requested documents for review from the school, including lease agreement or statements of attestation for loans on facilities, proof of an acting directors and officers insurance policy and information on health benefits provided to full-time employees.

Click here to read Thompson’s latest letter to the school.

Monticello board chair Ken Glodo did not respond to a request for comment on the investigation. Kemery declined to comment on the matter Tuesday.

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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