Notice of Special Accreditation Investigation August 30, 2013

Dr. Sherwin A. Allen, Board President and Superintendent Excellence 2000, Inc. Children First Academy of Dallas (County District No. 057-811) sherwinallen@aol.com and claudisallen@aol.com Campuses Tiffani Mohammad, Principal Children First of Dallas (057-811-101) 315 E. Wheatland Rd. Dallas, Texas 75241 (214) 371-2545 Charlene McGarder, Principal The Children First Academy – Houston (057-811-102) 7803 E. Little York Houston, Texas 77017 (713) 491-9032 RE: Final Report Special Accreditation Investigation of Children First Academy of Dallas Criminal History Record Review Requirements and Fingerprinting Non-compliance Health, Safety, and Welfare of Students under Chapter 12 of the Texas Education Code

Dear Superintendent Allen: The purpose of this notice is to inform Children First Academy of Dallas (charter school) that the special accreditation investigation report has been finalized by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The TEA received the written response to the August 28, 2013 Preliminary Report and findings on August 30, 2013 by 5:00 PM, as required. The response was reviewed and considered. The Children First Academy agreed with the TEA’s findings with respect to ongoing Fingerprinting non-compliance. The response did not change any of the facts, findings, or conclusions. Therefore, the report is final. The initial complaint was referred for investigation by the TEA's Fingerprinting Audit Unit and the Division of Charter School Administration. This investigation was conducted by the TEA Special Investigations Unit.

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Allegations 1. As of August 27, 2013 5:00 PM, the Children First Academy of Dallas and its Dallas and Houston campuses are not in compliance with the National Criminal History Record Review and fingerprinting requirements under state law. 2. In addition, certain employees of the Dallas campus were informed about an incident of suspected abuse of a child in May of 2013 and failed to file a report with the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) as required by state law. Authority for Investigation The Commissioner of Education determined it necessary to conduct a special accreditation investigation under Texas Education Code (TEC) §39.057(a)(13) due issues related to the health, safety, and welfare of students. Procedures TEA staff conducted investigative activities which included, but were not limited to:     notifications to the school of the fingerprinting requirements and audit gathering of information from a variety of sources interviewing pertinent individuals verifying fingerprinting data

TEA provided an opportunity to the school administration and those involved to respond to the allegations and submit relevant information. TEA provided a full explanation of the procedures and an opportunity to respond to the preliminary findings before TEA finalized the investigation report. The preliminary report continues to be a part of TEA audit working papers. This final report is public information. Requirements [Exhibit 8]  TEC §12.1059 prohibits the employment of any person as a teacher, librarian, educational aide, administrator, or counselor for an open-enrollment charter school unless the person has been approved by the TEA following a review of the person’s national criminal history record information as provided in TEC §22.0832. Public charter schools are subject to conducting background checks on staff, contractors, members of shared services arrangements, substitute teachers, certain volunteers, and others, as outlined in TEC Chapter 22, Subchapter C. Charter school personnel are required to protect the health, safety, and welfare of students enrolled at the school per TEC §12.115 and TEC §12.1162. In compliance with TEC Section §12.120(a), no individuals, including board members, may serve an open-enrollment charter school in any capacity if they have been convicted of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, a felony, an offense listed in TEC §37.007(a), or an offense listed in Article 62.001(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

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 

Texas Family Code (TFC) Chapter 261 and Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §61.1051 govern mandatory child abuse and neglect reporting. The 2012-2013 Annual Fingerprinting Certification and Statement of Compliance To the Administrator Addressed Letter of March 19, 2013 requires superintendents of districts and chief operating officers (COO) of open-enrollment charter schools to certify annually that the school has complied with TEC §22.085. For 2012-2013, the signed Statement of Compliance was due to TEA by April 19, 2013. The signed Statement of Compliance assures TEA that all TEC Chapter 22, Subchapter C, requirements related to fingerprinting and criminal history background reviews have been performed. The Commissioner of Education may impose school accreditation sanctions pursuant to TEC Chapter 39 and TEC Subchapter E for violations of TEC Chapter 22, Subchapter C.

Charter School Assurances [Exhibit 1] 1. According to the 1998 Children First Academy of Dallas’ charter application and subsequent renewals, the Superintendent’s signature certified that the policies adopted by the board includes a statement that the school will operate in accordance with criminal history records under TEC Subchapter C of Chapter 22. 2. According to the charter holder’s contract with the TEA, the charter holder shall adopt and disseminate to all charter school staff and volunteers a policy governing child abuse reports required by TFC Chapter 261. The policy shall require that employees, volunteers or agents of the charter holder or the charter school report child abuse or neglect directly to an appropriate entity. Findings of Fact Complaint 1: TEA Reference No. 2013-05-095 [Exhibit 2] 1. On May 16, 2013, TEA received a complaint alleging that a teacher “assaulted” a student on the school bus on May 15, 2013. The parent reported the incident to DFPS. 2. On May 20, 2013, the parent informed TEA that Superintendent Allen and other administrators of Children First Academy of Dallas had not responded to the bus incident. 3. On May 20, 2013, TEA sent a written notice to Superintendent Allen requiring a written response to the May 16, 2013 complaint. The response was due by May 29, 2013. When the timeline passed, TEA staff attempted to contact the Superintendent by phone and email, but the Superintendent did not respond. 4. On June 3, 2013, Superintendent Allen responded to TEA. Superintendent Allen stated that the "parent did not follow the proper procedure for due process". Superintendent Allen explained, "The campus principal was busy in the awards program and could not discuss the incident with the parent" and “the incident is now under investigation by the school and the Dallas Police Department.” Additionally, “Mr. Swazzo (sic) was placed on administrative leave by the principal pending the outcome of the investigation.”

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5. On June 13, 2013, TEA received additional information confirming that the parent reported the bus incident to the Dallas Police Department and DFPS. TEA verified the reports on August 26, 2013. 6. On June 21, 2013, Superintendent Allen sent a second response to TEA. Superintendent Allen wrote, “I don’t have any new information for you in regard to the Felipe Suazo case.” The Superintendent explained, “The students were loading the bus to be taken home…The monitor had not arrived on the bus yet…Mr. Suazo inadvertently hit [student] on the back of the head.” 7. On July 9, 2013, TEA sent a second written notice to Superintendent Allen requiring a written response to the May 16, 2013 complaint. In addition, TEA required information about the employees of Children First Academy of Dallas for a Fingerprinting Audit to determine if the criminal history record review requirements were followed. The response and information was due to TEA by July 16, 2013. 8. According to TEA Certification records, the name of the teacher involved in the bus incident is Felipe H. Suazo. Mr. Suazo’s Texas Educator Certificate for Generalist (EC4), Bilingual Generalist-Spanish (EC-4), and Bilingual Education Supplemental – Spanish (EC-4) expired in 2006 and 2007. According to TEA Fingerprinting records, Mr. Suazo completed fingerprinting requirements and Mr. Suazo is currently employed at the Dallas campus. 9. There is no indication that upon becoming aware of the bus incident, Superintendent Allen or Principal Tiffani Mohammed reported the incident to DFPS or law enforcement. 10. According to TEA Educator Certification records, Superintendent Allen holds a Texas Educator Certification. His certificates are currently “inactive” due to his failure to submit to fingerprinting and national criminal history background check. Complaint 2: TEA Reference No. 2013-05-122 [Exhibit 3] 11. On May 17, 2013, the agency received a complaint alleging that teachers at the Dallas campus “are taking smoke breaks during class to go behind the school (where the kids are playing at times) to smoke.” In addition, the complaint alleges students witnessed teachers in a fist fight on campus, students were shown R-rated movies in class, and students were unsupervised in the classroom. TEA required the Children First Academy of Dallas to respond to the May 17, 2013 complaint. The response was due to TEA by May 29, 2013. 12. On May 23, 2013, TEA received additional complaints stating that when the 4th grade teacher was absent on May 22, 2013, two 5th graders "watched" the class all day. Therefore, the 4th graders roamed around the halls and some were in class playing video games such as "Grand Theft Auto" and "Call of Duty". The parent indicated that attempts were made to meet with Superintendent Allen, Assistant Superintendent Allen, and Principal Mohammed; however, the attempts were unsuccessful. 13. On May 23, 2013, TEA sent a written notice to Superintendent Allen requiring a response to the May 17, 2013 complaint. The response was due to TEA by May 29,

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2013. The complaint contained allegations pertaining to suspected child abuse and neglect; therefore, TEA included the March 6, 2013 To the Administrator Addressed letter sent from the Commissioner of Education regarding "Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting and Requirements" for school districts and open-enrollment charter schools. 14. On June 3, 2013, Superintendent Allen sent a response to TEA via email. Superintendent Allen wrote, "The due process procedures for complaints at The Children First Academy is to submit any concerns in writing to: 1. The Principal, 2. The Superintendent, and 3. The School Board. I am very willing to set an appointment to meet...to discuss any issues..." 15. On June 12, 2013, TEA sent a second notice to Superintendent Allen stating that the June 3, 2013 response was insufficient and did not address the allegations raised in the May 17, 2013 complaint. Therefore, TEA required the response by June 17, 2013. As of the date of this letter, TEA has not received the required response. 16. On review of the documentation, there is no indication that upon becoming aware of the alleged incidents described in the May 17, 2013 complaints, Superintendent Allen reported suspected child abuse or neglect to DFPS or law enforcement. Fingerprinting Audit [Exhibits 5, 6, and 7]

17. Superintendent Allen returned the signed Statement of Compliance to TEA on April 18, 2013, as required by the March 19, 2013 Annual Fingerprinting Certification and Statement of Compliance notice to school administrators. 18. During June 2013, TEA Fingerprinting Unit began an audit of all employees at the Children First Academy of Dallas. 19. On July 30, 2013, Superintendent Allen sent the school’s employee roster to TEA. 20. On July 31, 2013, TEA's FP Audit identified sixteen (16) employees of Children First Academy of Dallas were not fingerprinted. Eleven (11) of the forty-four employees at the Houston campus were not fingerprinted. Five (5) of the sixty employees at the Dallas campus were not fingerprinted. 21. On August 1, 2013, TEA sent a written notice to Superintendent Allen requiring Children First Academy of Dallas to achieve compliance with the criminal history background checks by August 23, 2013. The notice listed the following 16 employees who have not completed the required national criminal history background check: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) Sherwin Allen Sherwin Allen, Jr. Annette Crawford James Freeman Shelathia Green Superintendent Coach Aide School Bus Maintenance Bus Driver

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6) Shwanda Green 7) Brittany Jackson 8) Omega Johnson 9) Veronica LeBlanc 10) Sharon Mouton 11) Tonya Nelson 12) Herbert Newton 13) Tinile O'Neil 14) Jasmine Sadler 15) Dezirae Spain 16) Trena Spencer

Teacher Teacher Assistant Custodian Bus Driver Cook Secretary Night Security Teacher Cook Teacher Teacher Assistant

22. TEA's Fingerprinting Audit Unit immediately began working with the Dallas and Houston campus staff to assist them in achieving full compliance. 23. On August 16, 2013, the Children First Academy of Dallas continued to be noncompliant and the 16 identified employees still had not been fingerprinted. 24. On August, 21, 2013, two of the 16 employees submitted to fingerprinting. Sherwin Allen, Jr. Herbert Newton Fingerprinted on August 20, 2013 Fingerprint Complete

25. On August 27, 2013, the TEA Fingerprinting Unit analyzed the Fingerprinting records each employees who had not been fingerprinted. The results show the following: a. Superintendent Allen holds certification for All-Level and Secondary Music and AllLevel Administrator. His certificates are currently on “Inactive” status due to noncompliance with fingerprinting requirements. b. Shwanda Green holds certification as an Educational Secretary II and an Educational Aide II. Currently, her certificates are in “Inactive” status due to noncompliance with fingerprinting requirements. c. Four new employees were recently uploaded (entered) in the Fingerprinting system; however, the new employees have not completed fingerprinting requirements as of August 27, 2013: Cynthia Denise Scott Certified as an Educational Aide I Sheree Montre Tompkins Debra Ann Steward Carol Ann McKinney 26. As of 5 PM on August 27, 2013, there are 17 employees who have not submitted to fingerprinting. 27. On August 30, 2013, the Children First Academy of Dallas agreed, in writing, that it continues to be in non-compliance with Fingerprinting requirements.

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Conclusion Violations: TEC §12.1059; §12.115; §12.1162; TEC Chapter 22, Subchapter C; TFC §261; and 19 TAC §100.1021(a)(3). Children First Academy of Dallas is in violation of statutory requirements related to criminal background checks for individuals, including the superintendent/board president, who serve on the charter school board or who hold positions associated with the charter school that are subject to such statutory requirements. The violation is ongoing, and the school's administration is repeatedly non-responsive to TEA requests and assistance. Therefore, the circumstances at Children First Academy of Dallas present a danger to the health, safety, and/or welfare of the students. Children First Academy of Dallas staff failed to notify local law enforcement and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services of possible instances of child abuse and neglect. Corrective Actions The following corrective actions are required: 1. All employees who have not submitted to fingerprinting must have appointments scheduled for fingerprinting by September 4, 2013. TEA requires documentation of scheduled appointments by 5 PM September 4, 2013. 2. All employees are fingerprinted by September 15, 2013. For any employees unable to complete the fingerprinting, a written justification and a rescheduled appointment date must be submitted to TEA. 3. All employees who have not completed the fingerprinting process must not be near or in the presence of students on school property or facilities used by the school. 4. The charter school’s governing board must review and revise, as needed board policies and administrative regulations and procedures addressing criminal history record review requirements and child abuse or neglect reporting requirements. The governing board shall discuss and adopt the policies and procedures at the next regularly scheduled board meeting as an action item. 5. The charter school’s governing board must disseminate policies and procedures and train all employees on criminal history record review requirements and child abuse reporting requirements. The charter school must provide employee signatures of participation in the training and receipt of policies to TEA. This action must be completed no later than September 30, 2013. 6. The charter school must review the criminal history records of all employees. The charter school must apply the required criteria and standards and make decisions for the employment of individuals and the assignment of individuals in certain roles in accordance with applicable laws and rules. This action must be completed no later than September 30, 2013. Sanctions Recommendations Under TAC §100.1025, the Commissioner of Education may temporarily withhold state funds, suspend the authority of an open-enrollment charter school to operate in its entirety or at one or more locations, and/or take any other reasonable action the commissioner determines

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necessary to protect the health, safety, or welfare of students enrolled at the school based on evidence that conditions at the school present a danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the students. Suspension of Operations This investigation report recommends that the Commissioner of Education initiate proceedings to suspend the operations of Children First Academy of Dallas and its Dallas and Houston campuses if all employees have not scheduled appointments for fingerprinting by September 4, 2013. Accreditation Sanction Additionally, this investigation report recommends that the Commissioner of Education appoint a Management Team to the Children First Academy of Dallas and its campuses to direct the charter school’s governing board to complete the targeted corrective actions. Confidentiality Any confidential information, including information protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) must be transmitted in a secure manner. If information will be submitted by email, please contact the Investigations Unit to access the TEA encrypted email service. Documents submitted to TEA will not be returned. If you have any questions, I can be reached directly at 512.463.9342 or emi.johnson@tea.state.tx.us. Respectfully,

Emi Johnson, Director of Special Investigations
CFE, CGAP, PHR,

cc: Michael Williams, Commissioner of Education Lizzette González Reynolds Chief Deputy Commissioner, TEA Alice McAfee, Director Accreditation Enforcement Office, TEA Doug Phillips, Director Educator Certification Investigations, TEA Eric Marin, Assistant Counsel Legal Services, TEA