Paramount Charter School deemed nightmare by parents

Children attended school with rats, obscene graffiti on walls

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

LAUDERHILL, Fla. - The holes in the dirt-smeared walls have been filled, but some of the obscene graffiti remains.

There are curse words and vulgar drawings, including one that says "F--- Kindergarten," a nasty remnant from what parents say was a nightmare school: the Paramount Charter School in Lauderhill.

"Most wouldn’t believe it until you actually see it," Seneica Malcolm said.

Malcolm told Local 10 News of the horrid conditions inside the school months ago.

"Rat holes in the walls, dead rats. It reeked of urine through the hallways. …. The lunches were terrible. Kids complained about them all year. No transportation. Everything was terrible," she said. 

One of the most bizarre and disturbing things about the school – which received more than $4 million in taxpayers' dollars to operate – was the graffiti, which Malcolm said none of the teachers or administration at the school bothered to clean off.

"There was profanity all over the walls,"  said Malcolm, who several months ago provided Local 10 News with a photo taken inside the school of a dead rat. "I made suggestions they should paint over it. That’s not something you would want to walk into the school in the morning to see or have your children seeing. Nothing was ever done. It was unbelievable."

Local 10 was never allowed inside the school – until now.

After this past school year, Paramount finally shut its doors for good, leaving behind massive debts after the school’s president, Jimika Mason Williams, was accused of misappropriating funds and the school’s bank account was frozen.

Remaining board members and the school's principal managed to keep the school in operation through the end of the year, but the financial problems led to bus service being cut, delays in teachers being paid and cuts in the school's cleaning service.

Broward County Public Schools was notified of the allegations, and sources close to the school say an investigation was begun that is being conducted by the Florida Department of Education.

Though privately owned charter schools are funded through taxpayers’ dollars, they go virtually unregulated, making debacles like Paramount possible.

The good news is that a new charter school company – the Championship Academy of Distinction – is moving into the building.

"The state of the building was a little shocking," Championship’s marketing manager, Brittany Dotson, said. 

Championship, which operates two well-performing schools in Davie and Hollywood, is completely renovating the building. One challenge for the new renters of the building is instilling trust in Paramount parents, who are disgusted at what their children endured during the previous school year.

"They were very angry and upset about the conditions that their students were going to school in," said Dotson. "We're letting them know we're completely different."

Malcolm said she wishes Championship the best but said she’s intent on returning her child to a traditional public school.

"I'm on a mission to make sure my child has the best education from here on out," she said. "I'm going to make it my duty to do research. With the charter schools, I don't think that's the route I want to take. I prefer to have her in the public school system so if anything was to ever occur like that, I would know it would be taken care of."

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