"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, February 27, 2010

White Hat Not Renewed in Florida

David Brennan and his White Hat charter management company recently had a charter oversight board decide not to renew one of their schools in Florida, and the shenanigans of the Life Skills Center East are truly shocking. You can check off a laundry list of violations the school has racked up, including, but not limited to, accusations of financial mismanagement, failing to education English language learners (only 1 in 72 received a diploma), and the governing board's lack of due diligence in selecting Brennan's management company. This isn't the first closure for one of White Hat's Life Skills Centers - White Hat had their Life Skills Lakeland (just miles from the Center East location) charter pulled, and they billed the oversight board for $500,000 as they exited from the school. It's not about profits, it's all about the kids, right?

Oh - and 97% of all school funding at both schools went to White Hat, and we're not entirely sure how that money was spent.

We do know, however, that White Hat's President and CEO Quintin Messer, a Broad Resident, gave $250 of his personal money to Banksters for Education Reform back in early 2009 (oops, I mean Democrats for Education Reform). Sure - $250 won't buy you a politician, but it sure shows how the for-profit hucksters know how to pick their allies.

Anyways, here are the juicy bits about White Hat's latest failure. Is the kind of crap DFER and their wealthy funders are willing to turn a blind eye to in their quest to privatize education?

From News Chief's Kara Phelps (Winter Haven, FL)

The Charter Committee took issue with several aspects of Life Skills Center East's budget. The school received about $1.8 million from the school district during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 years. It paid the company hired to manage its operations, the Ohio-based White Hat Management Company, 97 percent of the funds.

The committee expressed concern that the school does not keep sufficiently records with details of how that money is spent. They said Life Skills East did not provide them reports on salaries, benefits, supplies, purchased services, capital outlay and other important information.

The Charter Committee said Life Skills East provided a cost report showing that 39 percent of its budget was spent on the classroom in the 2007-08 school year; in 2008-09, money spent on the classroom declined to 27 percent.


In March 2009, the School Board voted to end its contract with Life Skills Center Lakeland for some of the same reasons, among others.

Life Skills Lakeland received $2.1 million from the school district during its four years of existence. It, too, paid 97 percent of those funds to White Hat Management. When the charter school closed last year, no funds reverted to the school district, and the management company also billed the school's governing board for another $500,000.


  1. Anonymous5:00 PM

    Is that picture for real? "White Hat Life Skills Centers"?! This reads like an Onion article. It's depressing. Thank you for introducing us to such absurdity. My anger often turns into some kind of productivity after reading posts like this. Perhaps another op-ed to my local paper. All I know is, I love how you keep on them. How can we make them go away? How do we save public education?

  2. Anonymous6:37 PM

    The picture is real - yeah, it really looks like something from the Onion. Unfortunately, the way they've handled the education of their students is no laughing matter.

    White Hat's website even has pictures of students wearing a similar hat - kind of creepy, if you ask me.

    I'm glad the depression/anger/absurdity translates into some form of action. You can always chat up friends about the significant concerns of charters, particularly the EMO/CMO variety.

    I don't know how we make them go away. I do know they need to be regulated. Sadly, there's very little talk of serious regulation. These privatized versions of public school claim they can self-police themselves and claim that bad charter schools are closed, but that's obviously not the case. Political pressure might be able to get something done, but too many politicians seem to be completely smashed off the charter school kool aid.

  3. Anonymous9:42 PM

    This is part of the trend in Florida to misuse education stats for political reasons. Florida education needs a watchdog. Politicians claim to care, but scapegoat teachers and principals, using unethical and inaccurate stats. Please paste this link into your browser. Please click on the link above to visit "Public Education, from a Florida teacher's point of view." Thanks.