K12 Inc Florida Investigation Might Kill Maine Deal

The relationship between K12 Inc and the state of Maine could end before it begins thanks to the recently released findings of an investigation into the company by the state of Florida. K12 is seeking the license to operate a full-time virtual charter school in Maine – and some expect its pitch to come to nothing after the Florida report that shows the company employing teachers who were not properly licensed in the subjects they taught.

The draft report which was made public by the Florida Department of Education’s Inspector General this week claims that the company assigned at least three teachers to classrooms even though the instructors lacked the state-mandated qualifications during the 2010-11 academic year.

In addition, the company provided inaccurate student rosters to officials in Seminole County school district. The complaints lodged by Seminole were instrumental in kicking off the initial investigation.

K12, the nation’s largest online education company, and the school district each criticized the draft report in letters sent to the inspector general, who may still make changes before releasing the final report. Seminole County Public Schools expressed concern that investigators had limited the investigation to the 2010-11 school year and to Seminole County. “If a statewide provider was utilizing a certain staffing practice, it is reasonable to expect that evidence of that practice may be found in other counties where that provider operates,” the school board’s response asserts.

The board also disagreed with the conclusion that there was no evidence of uncertified teachers being used, naming three teachers as alleged examples to the contrary.

In a statement, K12 took issue with Seminole officials taking their concerns directly to the Florida Board of Education instead of with the vendor. According to the statement by the company, doing so could have saved both the company and the state a lot of money and time by avoiding the subsequent investigation.

The Florida investigation unfolded after Seminole County Public Schools obtained internal K12 Inc. emails that suggested the company was using improperly qualified teachers.

In one email from February 2011, a K12 manager, Samantha Gilormini, asked certified teachers to file paperwork claiming they taught students they may never have had contact with. “So if you see your name next to a student that might not be yours it’s because you were qualified to teach that subject and we needed to put your name there,” Gilormini wrote. One teacher, Amy Capelle, balked at signing the form and pointed out that only seven of the 112 students listed on her form were actually hers. She alleged that a supervisor later signed the form on her behalf and without her knowledge.

The Inspector General’s Office report also quotes a number of former teachers who refused to sign off on student rosters filled with names of students that they have never taught.