|Fernando Zulueta, president of Academica, gets a drink at the bar in Cain at The Cove, an exclusive beach club in the Bahamas' Atlantis resort. Academica held a leadership retreat for principals of several charter schools there. MIAMI HERALD PHOTO|
Last month I wrote about Florida's great charter school profiteers, Rep. Erik Fresen, his sister Maggie, and brother-in-law, Fernando Zulueta who runs Academica Charter Schools, one of the largest charter chains in the country.
Today, Bob Sikes at Scathing Purple Musings re-posts a story which he credits to columnist Mary McGrory from the Miami Herald, "Academica Charter Schools Under Federal Investigation." Actually, Sikes got it wrong. The great Washington Post Reporter Mary McGrory has been dead for 10 years. The piece on Academica was written by Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald staff writer Kathleen McGrory. Regardless, it's a good, solid news piece about the Education Department’s Inspector General Office audit of the South Miami-based Academica Corp. as part of a broader examination of school management companies nationwide. The story implicates the powerful Zulueta family as well as Fresen.
The auditors found that three of the schools in the network — Mater Academy, Mater High and Mater East — entered into leases with development companies tied to the Zulueta family. Two of the leases were executed while Zulueta sat on the Mater board. In addition, Mater Academy hired an architectural firm from 2007 through 2012 that employs Fernando Zulueta’s brother-in-law, state Rep. Erik Fresen, the report said.
“We identified four related-party transactions, two of which indicated, at a minimum, the appearance of conflicts of interest between Mater Academy and its CMO [charter-management company],” the auditors wrote. Fresen declined to comment Friday.But when I went to the Herald's site to look for McGrory's original piece, it was no longer there. Nor were there any links to it in any of the search engines. Was it scrubbed? Why? Did clout-heavy Rep. Fresen make a phone call? I wondered.
To find out, I called the Herald's news room and asked them what happened. I was told by Herald Editor Jeff Kleinman that the paper had "jumped the gun" and that the story was pulled because it was "incomplete" and would reappear in tomorrow's paper. Strange! Usually if a story is incomplete (which every news story is), you run a follow-up. You don't scrub the story and all the search engines.
But okay. I'll look tomorrow to see if and how McGrory's piece been rewritten and find out what "jumped the gun" means.