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Miami-Dade Schools Chief Alberto Carvalho, K12 Defend Donation To Foundation

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - The online learning platform K12 has offered an explanation for its nearly $1.6 million donation it made to Miami-Dade school Superintendent Alberto Carvalho's non-profit.

This week, the Office of the Inspector General for Miami-Dade County Public Schools launched an investigation into the donation.

A memo from Inspector General Mary Cagle states her office "will begin a review of the transfer of approximately $1.57 million dollars from K12, a virtual instruction provider, to the Foundation for New Education Initiatives, Inc."

The memo states "those funds raised some concerns that OIG believes should be reviewed."

The Foundation for New Education Initiatives was founded by and is chaired by Carvalho.

In a statement from K12, the company said they worked around the clock with Miami-Dade Public School teams to ensure the program was ready for the first day of school.

"This was a historic implementation of public online K-12 education, and we recognize the immense pressure M-DCPS staff - teachers in particular - were under to get it right. As a thank you for the hard work the teachers put in over a number of weeks, including weekends, to help set up their online classes via Class Connect, K12 pledged a $100 donation for every teacher whose virtual classrooms were ready by Sunday night. These funds were to be distributed via the Foundation of New Education Initiatives," according to the statement.

School Board Member Dr. Lubby Navarro and other members, including the chair, said she was concerned the donation was made to appease the district since it was made a day before they voted on whether to keep the troubled system.

"The problem here is the timing and the process of where that contract was still pending a signature. I think that requires review," Navarro said.

Board members eventually voted during the overnight hours a day later to ditch the K12 online platform.

"Even though the M-DCPS Board chose not to continue the initiative, K12 stood by its commitment to teachers and provided a $1.5M donation to be distributed by the Foundation," according to the company's statement.

While the gift cards were supposed to be doled out to teachers who had scheduled online classes before midnight ahead of the first day of school on Monday, Carvalho said that will not be the case.

"I've been unaware of that language and certainly not reflective of, at least my intent, and ultimately the monies that we received which were for all teachers," Carvalho said Monday.

On Friday, while handing out backpacks at Holmes Elementary School, the superintendent addressed the controversy head-on and insisted that he and the foundation did nothing wrong.

Carvalho said the school, like the district, is a comeback story, so it was controversy is 'hurtful'.

"This is one of those schools no one would expect it would succeed as it has for the better part of 12 years. Twelve years where we have eliminated failure in Miami-Dade. Out of those 12 years, the last four we have celebrated zero 'F' schools. And out of those 12 years, the last three this school system is rated an 'A'. That is why, at a personal level, certainly I must say that some of the recent headlines are hurtful. Why wouldn't they be," he said.

"I'm here to tell you, we welcome the scrutiny of any good deed. Why shouldn't we? Particularly a good deed, a gift, an investment, a recognition of the hardest working individuals anywhere in the country - our teachers," he added.

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