Calling the charges filed on Monday against the owner of Newpoint Education Partners, Marcus May, and one of May’s vendors the “tip of the iceberg,” County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh has asked for a federal investigation of School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas and his administration regarding whether they covered up the scandal.
“The whistleblower was sending emails and calling the school district office and saying, ‘Look they’re cheating, they’re cheating.’ And they got money from the state, the governor comes and gives them a check,” he said on “Pensacola Speaks” yesterday. “The whistleblower had been calling and emailing for a year with student safety issues, financial irregularity issues, grade tampering issues and the superintendent and his staff purposely did not tell the school board.”
Bergosh served on the Escambia County School Board when the alleged improprieties were uncovered. The whistleblower first contacted him in March 2015. When Thomas appeared uninterested in doing anything, Bergosh and the whistleblower contacted Inweekly.
The former school board member said that at least three district employees told him that Superintendent Thomas ordered them not to inform the school board of the complaints.
“They were told, ‘Do not tell the school board.’ They were admonished when they tried to put it in the report,” Bergosh said.
“Why was student safety jeopardized for a year? Why were these financial irregularities allowed to continue for a year? Meanwhile every quarter, the board was receiving reports that frankly were not accurate. In fact, let’s just call them what they were, they were bogus. We were being told everything’s fine, nothing to see here. The place was falling apart, student safety was jeopardized, financial irregularities were taking place and all the while we were left in the dark on purpose.”
Bergosh said that when he told school superintendent that he was taking the whistleblower’s complaints to State Attorney Bill Eddins, Thomas got “mad as a snake.”
He said, “He came out from behind his desk, he wanted to come after me. He was so upset; I could see the veins popping out of his neck. He told me, ‘Don’t do it, you’re making a mistake. We haven’t done anything; this is all Newpoint.’”
Bergosh replied, “You know what? No, I’m going. I’m going on Monday; I’m going to testify. You want to come, you go ahead, but I’m going.’ He did not want me talking about it, didn’t want me doing anything.”
Bergosh is concerned that Thomas and the district administration have misled the state attorney’s office as to their lack of oversight of the Newpoint charter schools.
“I went to the state attorney, I went under oath, and I told the truth, and I’m just disappointed. I think the state attorney’s been misled frankly,” he said.
“When you deconstruct a massive train wreck, you’ve got to go back and look at all the things that caused it,” said Bergosh. “You’ve got employees that work for the superintendent that tried to do the right thing and tell the board, and they were told not to. You’ve got an investigator that used to work for the state attorney’s office and now works for the school district. He was allowed to conduct the investigation. How can that ever be legitimized?”
He added, “I think the feds need to come in, they need to bust this wide open and get to the bottom of everything. Today is a good start, Rick. Today is a good start. There’s a lot more meat on this turkey leg, I can tell you that.”