A former special-education teacher at Mavericks High in Palm Springs has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit alleging that the charter school is inflating enrollment records and fabricating grades.
Angenora Mechato's suit is the third whistle-blower case to be filed against Mavericks in Education Florida, a for-profit, West Palm Beach-based company that manages eight charter schools in the state. Two former employees at Mavericks High in Homestead made similar allegations last year, and their suits are still pending.
In her legal complaint, Mechato says she began working as a special-ed "lead teacher" and
coordinator at the Palm Springs school when it opened last August. The
school is designed to serve students who would otherwise drop out of
high school; Mavericks claimed that 500 students enrolled last fall. Teenagers attend school four hours a day and spend most of that time in
front of computer screens, studying an online curriculum.
Since the school receives state funding based on the number of students it enrolls, Mechato alleges Mavericks officials inflate the numbers. "The high school does this by falsely reporting students to be enrolled in courses in which they are not actually enrolled," her lawsuit says.
Mavericks even allegedly gives students grades for these imaginary courses. "The high school's students, therefore, do not receive credits and/or grades that reflect their actual course schedules and performances."
In October, Mechato alleges that Mavericks Assistant Principal Tisa Brandon asked her to write 504 plans -- educational plans that describe how a school will accommodate students with learning disabilities. However, Mechato was asked to write the plans without the required meetings or documents "and/or for students who did not even qualify" for such plans, the lawsuit says. Mechato, who is certified by the state to teach special ed, refused.
A month later, Mechato says her bosses asked her to sign off on students' grades for courses she never taught. Some courses, such as intensive reading and intensive math, were not even offered at the school. Mechato refused to sign. In early December, she was fired.
During the time Mechato worked at the Palm Springs Mavericks, the principal was Thomas Lockett, a former pharmaceutical salesman who is not certified to teach in Florida. Brandon, the assistant principal, came to work for Mavericks after she was accused, and cleared, of kissing a former student when she worked at a high school in Kissimmee.
Mavericks in Education Florida manager Lauren Hollander declined to comment on Mechato's allegations, saying she had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit.