The Texas Education Agency charged that a charter school in Houston misspent $5.3 million in federal funds on cruises, first-class air tickets, and other personal expenses for the owners and managers.
“The report found rampant conflicts of interest and numerous questionable expenses involving Varnett superintendent Annette Cluff and her husband, Alsie Cluff Jr. He’s the school facilities and operations manager and serves on the governing board. The News first wrote about the Cluffs and their charter school in 2010.
“The report found the school reimbursed the Cluffs for $1.5 million worth of questionable charges on their personal credit cards. Among the charges: $132,177 on hotels, cruises and travel packages. First-class and business airline tickets worth $22,544. More than $3,000 on tickets to Broadway, Las Vegas and Disney on Ice shows. And $743 for spa services from a luxury hotel called Mandarin Oriental.
“Beyond their six-figure salaries, the Cluffs made money doing business with the nonprofit school they ran, the report found. The Cluffs own a real-estate company that leases space to one Varnett campus for $1 million a year. The Cluffs own a bus company that provides student transportation, at a cost of $980,000 in 2010. That works out to $12.37 per mile driven — far more than what other charter schools paid, the state report found.”
The school enrolls 1,600 students. It was a private school that converted to charter status in 1998. This year, the legislature passed a law barring nepotism in charter schools but the Cluffs were grandfathered in and unaffected.
It is not clear whether any legal action will be taken.