Thursday, May 18, 2017

By Staff Reports

California's State Board of Education has voted to close down two Los Angeles charter schools run by a nonprofit being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education and the inspector general of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Some parents and teachers at the schools cried through their testimony Thursday at an emotional hearing, which ended with the board declining to renew the charter petitions for the Celerity Dyad Charter School in South Los Angeles and the Celerity Troika Charter School in Eagle Rock, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Board members said they had lost confidence in the Celerity Educational Group, which manages the schools, and expressed growing concerns about its governance structure and finances, as well as the potential for conflicts of interest.

With more charter schools than any other district in the country, L.A. Unified is considered one of the main battlegrounds for charter advocates and opponents.

The state board's vote Thursday was a departure from its thinking last fall, when it approved two new charter schools operated by the Celerity group, The Times reported. At the time, board members brushed aside questions about the group's operations and did not dwell on the fact that it was under investigation by the LAUSD inspector general.

The board's opinion of Celerity has changed dramatically. In late January, federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and other agencies raided Celerity's offices, as well as the headquarters of a related nonprofit, Celerity Global Development, and the home of its founder, Vielka McFarlane, according to The Times.

With the search warrants remaining under seal, the focus of the federal investigation is unclear, and no one at Celerity has been charged with a crime related to the nonprofit's operations. In response to the raid, Celerity's attorney said the organization and its leaders were free of wrongdoing and would cooperate with the investigations, The Times reported.

The Celerity group runs seven charter schools in Southern California—six in L.A. and one in Compton.

About 1,400 students in kindergarten through eighth grade attend Dyad and Troika and will have to find new schools by the fall, according to state officials. Some may wind up attending the two new schools, Celerity Rolas and Celerity Himalia, that the state board authorized last fall. Both schools are expected to open next year.