State Investigates Charter School Management Group

A Connecticut Board of Education is bringing in a special investigator to comb through operations of Jumoke Academy and its parent organization, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE).

State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor says that investigator will be Hartford attorney Frederick Dorsey of Kainen, Escalera & Mchale, P.C.

The moves come as questions swirl around the background and qualifications Michael Sharpe. Sharpe became the CEO of Jumoke in 2003 and then the CEO of FUSE in 2012.

He was recently terminated when it was revealed he never completed his doctorate studies, although he has gone by “Dr. Sharpe” for years.

Today, Pryor announced new administrative actions to prevent such problems going forward. According to Pryor, the department will now require charter schools and charter management organizations to conduct background checks on all employees.

“We are clarifying that point and that will be effective immediately,” said Pryor.

Beyond Sharpe, there are other serious concerns about FUSE and Jumoke. The commissioner says the unsolved questions include but are not limited to:

  • The relationship between FUSE and Jumoke and "the potentially ambiguous leadership structures of the organizations"
  • Current and former "familial relationships between governing board members and employees
  • Properties and assets that belong to FUSE and Jumoke
  • "The fiscal controls and practices" of the charter management group and the academy

“There are potential issues that we see signs of. That is why we are initiating this investigation,” said Pryor.

According to the commissioner, Dorsey’s investigation will cover the finances, governance and operations or FUSE and Jumoke. It will require interviews, as well as collaboration with the CSDE’s Office of Internal Audit in relation to the audit of Jumoke already being conducted.

There is no exact timeline for the investigation, but Pryor estimates that the first phase alone will “likely require a month.”

“It is important that we have answers within that month long period because the reopening of school is just around the corner.”

Over the course of the investigation, the commissioner will determine whether or not to place Jumoke on probation. If that happens, the Jumoke must file a corrective action plan with the CSDE and interim reports describing the plans implementation.

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