Thursday, April 5, 2018

FL: Shady Charter Avoids Closure

It has been a year and a half since I wrote about Eagle Arts Academy in Palm Beach, and I really thought this scammy operation would be shut down by now. But no-- Florida makes sure that charters just keep on helping themselves to taxpayer money.

First, the backstory.

This guy.
Eagle Arts Academy is the brainchild and personal money trough of Greg Blount. Blount graduated from the University of South Carolina-Columbia in 1991 with a Bachelor of Applied Media Science, Film Production / Fashion Photography. He then moved to New York City to begin a modeling career, signed to the "then-famous" (actually, it looks like they were the ten-years-earlier-famous) agency ZOLI. After a few years of that he went to work for the Peter Glenn Publishing company, and then bought company. He later branched out into becoming an independent producer and a motivational speaker-- that was right after he declared personal bankruptcy in 2010.

Next stop? Obviously that was to open a charter school in Florida. Blount started that journey in 2011.

Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post has been covering this story like a boss, and the story is loaded with special Only In Florida flavor. Blount had managed to pull off two of the more common methods of using a charter school to line your own pockets. First, set up an organization to "support" the school and milk that for money (in this case, EMPPAC, which claims, as one of its success stories, Joel Osteen's niece). Second, if you're a multi-preneur, let all of your various business accounts marinate in the same big bowl. 


Blount hired his own company to produce an arts curriculum, even though Blount had no educational experience or training. He also required students to buy uniforms from his company, which charged  far more than the going price. And he hired a third of his own companies for other consulting work.

And as Jim Pegg, county charter schools monitor for the Palm Beach County School District, told Marra, "Do we like it? No. Is it legal? Yes."

Blount has trouble holding onto staff. He brought in Liz Knowles, an actual educator, to help run the school, but she quickly had enough. Knowles told Marra that the last straw was discovering that Blount had set up a company named after the curriculum they were developing (Artademics). Artademics was paid, but the curriculum didn't appear for months (and there's reason to doubt that it was any good when it appeared). It also turned out that Blount was repaid by the school for a loan that he never gave them -- maybe twice. 

It's not like word didn't get out (check out this parent review on Great Schools).  But apparently Eagle Arts Academy has managed to hang on-- at least until the current crisis.

Last Monday, two principals resigned from the charter. During a board meeting at which folks were discussing what to do about the fact that teachers weren't getting paid. After Blount lied about paying them. Twice. Because the charter barely has any money in the bank. And yet has still been paying money (taxpayer dollars) to Blount's various side businesses. 

There are 60 teachers and staff members at the charter, and they are a bit grumpy at the moment. Jim Pegg, who a year or two ago bemoaned the fact they had no legal recourse for dealing with this charter fraud festival, got to offer this wry observation:

If they don't pay their employees, they are more than likely going to lose their employees.

The charter's five-member board briefly considered getting rid of Blount, but, incredibly, that initiative failed after other board members spoke up in support of Blount as a founder and visionary. This guy must be loaded with twelve kinds of charm.

Both principals walked out of the meeting, along with some staff. The principals later issued a brief note including:

At the end of the day, we felt it was in the best interest of the students, staff and ourselves to make sure everyone had a complete picture before committing to the “hope” that any future funds would be available.  We have both been made aware through published budgets, financial reports and information presented at the Palm Beach County School District Board meeting; that EAA is experiencing a dire financial situation. Neither of us were signers on any of the bank accounts. It is our understanding that payroll has not been met for any employee and we understand that may continue to be the case in the future.  We feel we have no alternative but resign.

Palm Beach County Schools have indicated they will not bail out the charter. They also revealed that lease and vendor payments haven't been paid since September of 2017 (while Blount's company have been getting paid all along). And it appears that enough staff is still working to keep the charter open-- but there's no sign when they will be paid.

Nowhere in any of this do we find the state of Florida stepping up to say, "Hey, now! This is not okay!" Because in Florida, this kind of baloney is okee dokee, and this kind of wasting of taxpayer dollars is somehow not the legislatures problem. We'll see just how much longer Eagle Arts Academy will be allowed to continue.


4 comments:

  1. You know why???? Because YOU only know what is TOLD to you! You dont know the facts and you certainly to Greg or the school. Your a very sad person with no life. Teachers are getting paid this week and again next week. Please get your facts in order. Most of what you said are opinions and half truths. Some of what you said is just flat out a lie. Eagle Arts is still fighting because of our kids. Did you think about the families? The truth is, articles LIKE THIS are ruining the enrollment!!!!!! When children leave, funds decrease! Which then leads into the situation EAA is in!!!!! Incredible how you didnt share that fact! Incredible how you didnt share how disgusting Renaissance has been! BLATANTLY trying to recruit our kids which ADDS to our loss in numbers! Amazing how you dont share to positive aspect and how many lives he changed! How many families he helped in Puerto Rico! Those kids love EAA. YOU SIR HAVE NO HEART! and no morals at all.... i hope the money you are getting paid is worth it.

    -An EAA Mother

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  2. What is disgusting is that our tax dollars are BLATANTLY wasted on this farce of a school. Why any parent would send their child to a school that is lead by a couple who have no formal education is beyond me. You send your child to a school that pays the director but not the teachers??
    A little research on your part will and you will see where the money is spent. Greg's daughter attends a $50K per year boarding school, he and his wife were on a cruise for spring break while the teachers were wondering if they would get a paycheck. Traveling and expensive dinners several nights a week costs (taxpayers) money, folks....this is all on facebook, yet these parents still stand behind them. That is some strong kool-aid.

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  3. I worked at this trainwreck for two months. Blount is about as unqualified as the come, and when the SHTF was more than happy to throw anyone under the bus. I was hired to teach reading only to find NO books or materials in my classroom...literally, there was nothing in my room. Blount also announced to parents that I would be doing before and after school tutoring...but forgot to tell me.
    Parents 'praise' the school for 'improving' their child's grades. But guess what? Most of the grades were inflated because we weren't allowed to give kids bad grades. So your child who got Cs and Ds in the regular public school was now getting As and Bs. His mission was to make sure there were tons of kids at school the day the county made its seat count, then make some lives difficult so the kids would withdraw or get booted out. He screwed new teachers on their pay all the time, paying them as 'subs' when they were the full time teacher. I could go on for hours about this place, but to anyone who believes this guy is a 'visionary', I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you.

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