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State board ends closed Goodyear school's charter

Posted at 4:09 PM, Feb 12, 2018

State charter board officials put an ax in Bradley Creemos Academy's charter Monday, 13 days after its owner Daniel Hughes closed the school down over financial problems. 

Problems, many said were found in past years audits and testimony, that should have prompted immediate action prior to the school year even beginning. Last June, that same board voted to approve the schools charter for an additional 20 years.

"The charter board doesn't look at how charter schools spend their money," said Jim Hall with Arizonans for Charter School Accountability.

Hall says Bradley was in financial ruins as far back as 2016.

He says the school was defaulting on multiple lease contracts for their building and posting a 3.3 million dollar deficit in assets that year. All of it under the board's noses.  

"They actually facilitated it, by not looking at him and asking the question, 'Mr. Hughes how did you spend 1.8 million dollars on administration last year, Mr. Hughes, why'd you form four companies with your wife and then sell almost $600k worth of good and supplies to your school'," said Hall.

Hall says it's that lack of oversight in school spending that allows bad apples like Hughes to thrive.
Along with Bradley's questionable finances, the school was also given an F for its academic performance.

A recent report by the Grand Canyon Institute found 77% of state charter schools spend money without getting competitive bids and even make purchases through companies they already own.

Bradley's owner, Daniel Hughes, is accused of funneling millions of dollars worth of state funds through companies he owned in the years leading up to the closure.

One audit shows Hughes purchased more than $575k in goods and services from four for-profit companies he founded just to sell to Bradley.

Hall says it's difficult to know just how much Hughes may have pocketed. Hughes has since skipped town.

The board acknowledges the writing was on the wall and if they could go back to last June, they would not have approved the schools continuing charter.

And while the board did raise concerns in the past, an investigation by the attorney generals office into the matter didn't begin until the day the school closed.

"The board needs legal findings in order to revoke, we were in the process of obtaining those when they closed their door," said Board President Kathy Senseman.

But that doesn't do anything for the dozens of teachers now looking for new jobs or the more than one hundred students entering new schools halfway through the year.

Senseman says she has great sympathy for those caught in the middle but says only five charter schools in the last 15 years have been accused of such egregious behavior, calling Hughes one of those bad actors.

The board says they are working with state legislators to get additional funding to schools who've absorbed additional students from Bradley, as well as working on a new law that would allow swifter action when school owners are found not to be living up to the schools charter.