South Florida charter school in deplorable conditions, parents say

Paramount Charter School under investigation for misappropriating funds

SUNRISE, Fla. – Charter schools, which are privately run but taxpayer financed, have gained in popularity, but public oversight of those schools is almost non-existent

Parents who have children at one charter school in South Florida said the school has become a nightmare.

"It's just disgusting. It smells like urine throughout the hallway," Senieca Malcolm said.

Malcolm is talking about Paramount Charter School for elementary school children in Sunrise.

"It's not clean, it has cuss words on the walls, rat holes on the walls, the paints are peeled off, broken water fountain -- I can go on for days," Malcolm said.  

Malcolm, whose daughter is in the fourth grade at the school, said she obtained a concerning photo from an employee of the school who wanted people to know the conditions.

"The classroom reeked of a dead rodent. They had to evacuate the classroom for the day," Malcolm said. "The buses stopped running out of nowhere for three months, probably more."

There's also no playground for recess at the school.  

"They didn't have any real activities. They were playing in the parking lot," the mother said.

According to the website of the nonprofit, Great Schools, the academic performance at the charter school is less than half that of the state average.

Yet, the charter school has received more than $1.5 million in taxpayers' dollars this school year alone to operate.

"We don't see where our money is going. We don't see what the funding is being spent on," Malcolm said.  

In fact, the school's bank account was frozen back in March after allegations of misappropriations of funds by a pair of sisters running the school, Maia Williams, and former board chairwoman Jimika Williams Mason.

The investigation continues as does complaints from unpaid vendors and teachers.

While the investigation continues, tax dollars continue to go to the school.

"They're working on faith and guess what? I am, too," principal Corey Montgomery said in March.  

But Montgomery was in no mood this week to talk to Local 10 News.  

"Not today," he told Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman.

Parents told Norman that they think the school should be closed for good.

"I really want to see the school shut down," Malcolm said. "Paramount does not deserve to be a school and does not deserve to be educating people's children at all."

Norman spoke with a new board member at the school, Katrina Touchstone, who said the school is getting back on its feet and downplayed complaints that Norman has received from parents.