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Audit Ordered For Coconut Grove Charter School

COCONUT GROVE (CBS4) - The Miami-Dade School Board ordered a forensic audit to be conducted on the Arts and Minds Academy charter school in Coconut Grove, where questions have been raised about school funding. A group of angry parents demanded the district to get involved.

The decision, reached Wednesday afternoon, will include a search for misappropriated funds, missing equipment, and possible malfeasance in following state rules set forth for publicly funded charter schools.

The district had already started an investigation into complaints  students were charged illegal fees for required classes. Some parents also claim the school lacks teachers and books, and a failure of the school to conduct required background checks on employees.

"In the last six months, we have had two very experienced, well-liked principals that have left the school and cited issues with management." said Sherri Myers, President of the Parent Teacher Students Association (PTSA) at the school.

At the center of the controversy is Manuel Alonso-Poch.

Alonso-Poch is the schools founder, owns the management company that runs the school, owns the food service company that provides breakfast and lunches to the students, and owns the building, collecting $77,000 a month in rent from taxpayers.

In the last school year, Alonso-Poch received some $6.000 per student in taxpayer dollars.

Some parents have come to Alonso-Poch's defense, citing the school having earned an "A" grade.

"We can't keep moaning and complaining and pointing fingers at the past if we're going to move forward," said parent Monica Munivar.

Detractors, though, say Alonso-Poch runs the school as his own and has stacked the board of directors in his favor, including a cousin, and a good friend who doesn't even live in the country.

No date has been set for completion of the audit. The school continues operating while the investigations are underway.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald reporters Kathleen McGrory and Scott Hiassen contributed material for this report)

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