A.T. Jones Academy in danger of shutting down; parents allege financial mismanagement by board

TAMPA - Describing Dino Scanio as angry could almost be an understatement.  Scanio is among dozens of parents and faculty members who are accusing governing board members at A.T. Jones Academy of mismanaging funds and violating State Charter laws and Sunshine laws.

At Thursday night's school board meeting, Scanio and parents repeatedly questioned the board treasurer Bob Morrison about finances.  Morrison was the only board member to show up.

Parents said the school has a budget deficit of more than $100,000--a number Morrison contested.  He claims the debt is $64,000 but has no documentation to back up the numbers.

"It is a hot mess," said Scanio.  "It all comes down to a board who couldn't balance a check book correctly."

Parents and faculty members attended the meeting to find out whether or not the school was financial stable enough to open its doors this school year.  It is a question that went without an answer.

With the school starting is less than five weeks, most parents are trying figure out if they should roll the dice and hope the school gets finances to open or to put their kids into another school.

"Oh my God!  I have 39 days to find a school for my son," said Virginia Ruppert.

Ruppert, like most other parents, wants her child to stay within the charter school system.  But, these schools hold a lottery in March for spots.  Those that are not pulled in the lottery then go on a waiting list.

Scanio said the board knew they were in trouble financially and failed to try and secure state help.

Morrison said this money mess occurred because the school continued footing the bill for families who failed to pay for after school care and lunches.

Parents told ABC Action News they were told an Angel Donor came forward to help with finances.  As of tonight, the donor has not surfaced.

However, even if the school got the necessary money to stay up and running, there are few faculty members left.  Many faculty quit when the board terminated their health insurance twice without telling the teachers. 

"We would go to the doctor and come back with big bills," said Monnie So, a teacher.

Still, money was being taken out of teacher's paycheck for health insurance--money the teachers have never gotten back.

Morrison told the teachers the money is in the bank and would cut them a check Friday.  Then, minutes later, he told the teachers he floated the money from an escrow account to pay for other bills.

"We, the board, apologize for not communicating this," said Morrison.

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