MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Office of the Inspector General for Miami-Dade County Public Schools has launched an investigation into Superintendent Alberto Carvalho's nonprofit following a donation from K12, the much-maligned online learning platform axed by the district.
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 is a nonprofit chaired by Alberto Carvalho.
"It is the OIG's mission to provide oversight and transparency crucial to the operations of the District and the Board for the benefit of the public," Cagle wrote in the memo.
"I just don't want to send the wrong message to the community saying that 'hey, you can wave in the air a couple million dollars to appease a 4th largest school district in the country and all things will go down quietly," School Board Member Dr. Lubby Navarro said Monday.
She and other members, including the school board chair, voiced concern about a near $1.6 million donation from K12. It was made a day ahead of a vote whether to keep the troubled online system. Board members eventually voted during the overnight hours a day later to ditch the K12 online platform.
"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.
There were also questions surrounding the intent of the funds.
According to CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald, the money donated by K12 was supposed to be doled out in $100 gift cards to qualifying teachers who scheduled their online class sessions by midnight before the Monday, August 31, which was the first day of school.
"I've been unaware of that language and certainly not reflective of, at least my intent, and ultimately the monies that we received which was for all teachers," Carvalho said Monday.
"We welcome the Office of the Inspector General's (OIG) review of a contribution for the direct and sole benefit of teachers, whose hard work and dedication during these trying times could not be ignored. We have complete confidence in the OIG's leadership and objectivity and will fully cooperate in this matter," Foundation Executive Director Ann de las Pozas said.
There was no mention of the investigation during a meeting Thursday between Miami-Dade County school officials and health care workers to create a plan to safely get students back into their classrooms.
"There is no replacement for the interaction between a student and teacher," said Carvalho during Thursday's health check, as the district moves toward reopening schools for in-class learning.
The key to that happening is declining COVID infection rates, lower hospitalizations, a quicker turnaround of test results and more contact tracers.
On Wednesday, teachers set a bare minimum of what they wanted to see to ensure safe classrooms including 6-feet distancing, face mask enforcement, hand washing stations, and filtration and ventilation.
The district says all schools will have that and more by next Friday.
"We have replaced over 43-thousand air filters in our buildings," said MDCPS Chief of Staff, Jaime Torrens.
"It's the minimal you have to have," said FIU Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Aileen Marti.
School buses will also have specific rules for riders.
"To ensure the safety of our students on buses, face coverings will be required, kids one to a seat. The buses will have sanitizing during morning and afternoon routes."
Superintendent Carvalho has not commented on the Inspector General's investigation.
School Board Vice Chair Steve Gallon says his focus is on the safe, healthy return of students to the classrooms.
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