Feds charge Pa. cyber-charter school founder

The founders propose to open next fall on or near the university campus with 225 students in grades six, seven and eight, expanding to a 625-student middle/high school by 2018. SUNO administrator and State Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, is on the application team. "A blended school is something new and we truly look forward to providing the opportunities," said SUNO Vice Chancellor Gloria Moultrie, adding that it would make New Orleans "a part of what's happening globally." Connections Academy, owned by Pearson, runs a Louisiana virtual charter school based in Baton Rouge and would partner with SUNO and TMCF in running the school. The review team said Connections Academy "is widely regarded as a leader."Connections would hire the school's principal but a local charter board would hire the rest of the staff.
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With more than 11,000 students, PA Cyber is by far the largest of the state's 16 such schools. Hickton refused to be drawn into the debate over whether cyber-schools which receive money from public school districts harm bricks-and-mortar public schools, as some critics claim. Whatever their merits, the purpose of charter schools "was never to be to line the pockets of the people that run them," Hickton said. A spokeswoman for PA Cyber and NNDS issued statements saying the charges vindicated their claims to be victims, not participants, in the scheme. Trombetta's accountant, Neal Prence, also is charged, but Hickton wouldn't comment on the extent of his alleged involvement in the overall scheme. Prence, 58, of Koppel, is charged with conspiring with to help Trombetta avoid income taxes, including by filing false tax returns.
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