Bill Phillis in Ohio sent out this message. 

Cyber charters have a very poor record, both academically and financially.

The former head of the now-closed virtual charter school Akron Digital Academy misused $167,753 of school money through a shell vendor, according to a state audit released Tuesday.

“This is a very serious abuse of taxpayer dollars and we will seek to recover every penny,” Ohio Auditor Keith Faber said in a news release. “Abuse of public trust has a rippling effect on communities and will not be tolerated by my office.”

The school, burdened with financial problems relating to improperly tracking enrollment, quietly closed in June 2018. At the time, it was housed at 133 Merriman Road, the former home of Temple Israel owned by the Akron Hebrew Congregation, which moved to Bath in 2011.

From December 18, 2009 to February 8, 2013, the school issued payments totaling $167,753 to a vendor known as Individual Development and Education Achievement Services (IDEAS), supposedly for professional development services, according to the news release issued by the state auditor’s office. IDEAS would send invoices directly to Lashawn Terrell who signed them, signifying receipt of services.

On July 1, 2013, the state auditor’s Special Investigations Unit received a complaint alleging embezzlement. Auditors examined the bank activity of Terrell and the owner of IDEAS, Danielle Lumpkin, the news release said.

They identified 78 withdrawals totaling $137,575 issued from the IDEAS checking accounts that corresponded to deposits totaling $65,735 and $71,840 in Lumpkin and Terrell’s personal bank accounts.

Additionally, auditors found $30,160 in expenditures issued from the IDEAS checking accounts comprised of checks issued to Lumpkin for cash and debit card activity in merchant stores for personal purchases, the news release said.

Auditor Faber issued a finding for recovery for $167,753 against Lumpkin and Terrell.

The school closed last year after repayments to the state involving not properly tracking enrollment became too much of a burden on the virtual charter school’s budget, the school said at the time. .

The school’s monthly payments on the $2.8 million the state said it owed created a negative financial outlook through the next school year, said Linda Daugherty, the schoool’s former executive director said at the time. .

Akron Digital Academy was founded in 2002 by former Akron Education Association President Neil Quirk. The new school was meant to provide an alternative for Akron Public Schoolsstudents who were leaving for other charter schools and wanted more digital learning. It served students in grades 6-12.

Akron Public Schools was the sponsor until 2013, when Superintendent David James proposed closing the school for a range of issues. The school continually posted low academic scores. And enrollment had dipped to about 600 students as competition crept in from other charter schools, which were springing up in Akron.

James served on Akron Digital Academy’s board of directors at the time. The other board members blocked his attempt to close the school. And the district severed ties with the academy a month later by dropping its sponsorship agreement.