The Grade Blog

Friday, Apr 25 2014 09:30 PM

KHSD investigating unauthorized use of resources

BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

The Kern High School District is investigating allegations that without the district's knowledge or consent, some of its special education employees used district vans and other resources to operate a private, for-profit business on the side.

"We would like to know more about the company and how much of the district's resources were used," said KHSD spokesman John Teves.

He declined to say which employees were under investigation or identify the company. However, when asked the employment status of two educators in KHSD's Alternative Instructional Methods, or AIM, Program, Teves confirmed that AIM team leader Jeannie Jorgensen and AIM teacher Anthony Acevedo are on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

Contacted at home, Jorgensen declined an interview request. Acevedo could not be reached for comment.

In a statement released this week, KHSD said it is looking into a company that operated an after-school program for special education students through a contract with the Kern Regional Center, a private, nonprofit agency that provides services to the disabled.

Kern Regional Center identified the company as Alternative Vocational Program, or AVP, but did not name the vendor's owners.

The center said the relationship with AVP was discontinued not long after the center was made aware of "concerns" in February.

"We take seriously any expressed concerns regarding the individuals served through KRC and initiated an investigation into the history, services and community partnerships associated with this vendor," Kern Regional Center CEO Duane Law wrote in an email Friday.

As part of that process, Law added, the agency communicated with the California Department of Developmental Services, a division of the state that helps pay for the center's services; and met with "other community members engaged with the principals of AVP."

The company told Kern Regional Center on March 25 that it would discontinue services, and the center in turn notified students and their families.

The state currently pays Kern Regional Center more than $143 million to provide wide-ranging, cradle-to-grave services for the disabled, according to the developmental services department. The agency's annual funding is based on the number of people it serves each year.

In the statement released this week, KHSD said the for-profit company being operated on the side "used district facilities and vehicles in order to operate its business without providing any compensation or reimbursement to the district for the use of its property and without obtaining any approval from the district's board of trustees.

"Further, the district is investigating the conduct of some individuals who were employed by the company while simultaneously working for the district.

"The district's investigation also includes examining the administrative oversight that led to these alleged improper practices, as well as the use of district property by a for-profit company without any proper documentation, board approval or payment to the district."

KHSD will "take decisive and corrective action to hold culpable parties accountable for their conduct. Furthermore, the district is exploring the legal remedies available to obtain compensation for any inappropriate use of its facilities and vehicles," the statement continued.

The case involves employees from KHSD's AIM Program, which provides special education programs for disabled students with behavior problems. Students range from high school freshmen to adults up to 22 years old.

Patrick Blake, KHSD special education manager, did not respond to calls requesting an interview.

AIM provides transportation to and from classes at the Vista West High School campus with a fleet of 17 vans. It has six teachers and about 40 other specially trained staff members.

Staff writer Lauren Foreman contributed to this story.

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