November 30, 2011
A Chinatown school that has been mired in allegations has been cleared of at least one of them, but it’s still under scrutiny.
A report released today by the Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon says investigators did not find proof of large-scale theft, which some at the school had alleged. But investigators did unearth some unorthodox financial practices that Condon has reported to the Department of Education, with the advice that the city offer accounting training to parents and administrators at the school.
The DOE’s Office of Special Investigations is still looking into different allegations against Shuang Wen, according to the report.
UPDATE: DOE officials said the SCI report identified five different ways in which school administrators violated department rules and regulations about fund-raising and financial management.
“We are deeply troubled by Commissioner Condon’s findings, which show that standard operating procedures, Chancellor’s regulations, and City Conflicts of Interest Law were repeatedly violated — specifically with regard to financial management of the school,” said DOE spokesman Matthew Mittenthal in a statement.
Mittenthal said the department aimed to conclude its investigations after speaking Ling Ling Chou, Shuang Wen’s former principal who was removed from the school this summer. Chou has “tentatively agreed” to an interview with DOE officials next week and could potentially be reinstated after the investigations are closed, he said.
SCI investigators concluded that the school’s parent association did not violate any rules by voting to transfer $81,000 to SWAN, the nonprofit that helped found the school and administered its after-school program.
Last year, NY1 revealed that the dual-language school was illegally charging families for mandatory Chinese instruction during the after-school program.
What investigators did find, according to the report, were warring factions of parents. The report notes that “a constant stream of complaints” had led to many investigations at the school — as many as nine were were open when Chou was removed.
From the report:
From 1998 until 2008, no one — neither the parents nor anyone from the DOE — complained to SCI about alleged misconduct by the principal at PS 184 or questioned the propriety of the operation of the dual language and after school programs. Starting in 2008, and continuing throughout the course of this investigation, SCI received a constant stream of complaints about the Shuang Wen School. One faction of vocal parents made steady complaints about SWAN — the community based organization which helped found the school — the PA, and Ling ling Chou, the former principal. Another faction countered with other complaints. Chou also reported allegations as she was required to do so. This caused overlapping investigations. Additionally, a federal lawsuit was filed by one faction against the other faction and the DOE. That action is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The full SCI report is below: