Donation to Miami-Dade superintendent Carvalho’s foundation under investigation

Company behind virtual school platform donated $1.5 million

A donation made to the nonprofit foundation run by Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is under investigation. Carvalho didn't address that as he held a virtual meeting with medical experts Thursday to work on reopening classrooms amid the coronavirus pandemic.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A formal investigation is underway into a donation made to the foundation run by Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

That donation was from the company that won the no-bid contract for the virtual school platform that was scrapped last week after a tumultuous start to the new school year.

The county inspector general notified the school board of the probe into the $1.57 million donation by K12 Inc., which amounts to about a tenth of the $15 million contract.

That contract was suspended after the failed start of the online school year.

Carvalho insists the donation to the nonprofit Foundation for New Education Initiatives, Inc., which he chairs, was legal.

He said the donation was for teachers and that each one would get a $100 gift card.

The inspector general notified the school board of the probe into the $1.57 million donation by K12 Inc. to New Education Initiatives, Inc., which Superintendent Alberto Carvalho chairs. K12 is the company behind the online learning platform that the district dropped after a rough start to the school year.

Ann de las Pozas, executive director of the foundation, released a statement through the school district that read:

“We welcome the Office of the Inspector General’s review of a contribution for the direct and sole benefit of teachers, whose hard work and dedication during these trying times could not be ignored. We have complete confidence in the OIG’s leadership and objectivity and will fully cooperate in this matter.”

On its website, the foundation outlines that it “supports the educational initiatives of Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS). Together we are working to provide our students with world-class educational opportunities, but we cannot achieve our goals alone.”

During Monday’s school board meeting, chair Perla Tabares Hantman brought up the issue. She’s the vice-chair of the foundation and wanted to know how the money would be distributed.

“You know I’ve been concerned about this,” she said.

Carvalho responded: “This is not being processed as payroll. It does not require collective bargaining, and since the very beginning, it is a recognition slash donation.”

The superintendent has said the foundation would keep the money despite dumping K12 and what could have been a $15 million contract but was never signed.

“I always say sometimes it is not what it is, it’s what it looks like," school board vice-chair Steve Gallon said. "And the $1.5 million being received from a vendor that at the time had a pending contract for $15.3 million on the table, that will raise some questions.”

Meanwhile, Carvalho and school board members spoke with a medical task force Thursday to help determine how to move forward with reopening physical classrooms.

Information from the two-hour virtual meeting will be used to craft a plan to get students back into the schools, which Carvalho says includes — with some exceptions — bringing back teachers.

Gallon said the return to school amid the coronavirus pandemic is also the top priority of the school board, with the investigation of the K12 donation being handled by the inspector general.

“Presently, our focus remains on the provision of a safe, secure, and healthy learning environment upon our students' physical return to school,” Gallon said. “Though concerning to me and members of the board, this matter is now in the hands and under the investigation of the Office of the Inspector General.”

See a copy of the memo from the inspector general below:

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.