New Castle News

Schools

August 28, 2013

Our Opinion: Federal charges show need for better oversight

NEW CASTLE — The federal charges against Nicholas Trombetta are nothing less than breathtaking.

Trombetta, the founder of The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, based in Midland, stands accused of basically attaching a financial siphon to the educational program and sucking out $8 million for his personal use.

In a press conference last week, federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh outlined an alleged scheme in which Trombetta created companies that provided services to PA Cyber, while he reaped the financial rewards.

Authorities claim he used the money to purchase a condominium for himself, houses for his mother and girlfriend and an airplane, along with other odds and ends. The case now will proceed to trial and Trombetta will have the opportunity to defend himself, which should prove interesting.

In presenting details of the case to the press, U.S. Attorney David Hickton took pains to stress his department’s investigation wasn’t an attack on cyber or charter schools. Rather, it was aimed at an individual who allegedly took advantage of the system.

Naturally, it is not Hickton’s role to assess the merits of education methods. But it is every citizen’s duty to demand solutions when problems arise. And the charges against Trombetta amount to one more claim of taxpayers being taken to the cleaners by officials abusing their positions.

Unfortunately, that’s nothing new.

And while Hickton may not be interested in questioning the operations of cyber schools in Pennsylvania, we are.

In some circles, advocacy for these institutions is touted as a means of encouraging competition and excellence in education. Perhaps that’s true. But data to date has failed to identify any widespread educational gains tied to charter schools in the commonwealth. We’re still waiting for the excellence.

But more to the point, the case against Trombetta highlights two flaws in Pennsylvania’s handling of these schools: A lack of financial oversight by the commonwealth over these programs and what amounts to an excess of money being turned over to these programs.

While cyber schools essentially receive the same amount of state funding per student as regular schools, they don’t have the same overhead because they don’t have the same buildings and related facilities. This opens the door to the sort of financial schemes federal authorities say Trombetta perpetrated.

Although it may have been elaborate, the system outlined by prosecutors amounted to a money laundering operation with the cyber school.

And although the integrity of individuals in positions of authority serves as a crucial factor in the handling of public funds, a prudent program would come with appropriate oversight, along with checks and balances, to prevent the types of abuses alleged in the Trombetta case.

Pennsylvania does not have that now. But the federal charges should make it happen.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Schools
  • Yauger.jpg Yauger’s Mercer County trial on hold

    A pending criminal trial for the former Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV executive director has been continued again in Mercer County.

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Yauger.jpg Yauger now facing federal charge

    With Mercer County court proceedings pending this week, Cecelia Yauger faces federal prosecution for alleged business credit card misuse.

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • school.jpg New Castle board adopts budget despite uncertainty

    The New Castle school board adopted its 2014-15 budget Monday but may have to re-open it next week. The $5.4 million budget, introduced in May, has no tax increase and will not tap into the fund balance. Taxes remain at 17.72 mills.

    July 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Todora.jpg Board, staff bids farewell to superintendent

    Dr. Mary Todora will retire Monday from the Neshannock school district. “I remember eight and a half years ago when Dr. John Dietz (then-board president) called to tell me I got the job. I was thrilled,” Todora said at her final board meeting.

    June 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rich.jpg Vo-tech administrators get bonuses, no raises

    Lawrence County Career and Technical Center administrators will get one-time bonuses instead of raises next year. The joint operating committee approved one-year agreements that would freeze the salaries of director Leonard A. Rich and the principal, head custodian, cafeteria supervisor and computer technician.

    June 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • FrankAloi.jpg Frank Aloi: 50 years of school spirit in Ellwood City

    Frank Aloi is a true Wolverine. Aloi, who turned 73 Friday, spent the past half-century affiliated with the Ellwood City school district and its sports teams.

    June 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • FrankAloi.JPG Frank Aloi Retiring: Ellwood superintendent leaving amid budget woes

    Frank Aloi is retiring next month as Ellwood City’s superintendent of schools. Aloi, a 50-year district employee and its superintendent for nearly 12, submitted his retirement notice to the board during an executive session prior to Thursday’s meeting. His last day is July 16.

    June 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • school.jpg District mulls building sale options

    The New Castle school district is considering selling its three recently closed buildings through a sealed bid process.

    June 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Perfect.jpg Your Education: Shenango grad never missed a day

    They say nobody’s perfect. But for 13 years, Jenna DiGiammarino certainly was. When Jenna left last night’s commencement ceremonies at Shenango High School, she did so not only with a diploma in hand, but also with a flawless record of attendance dating back to Day One of kindergarten.

    June 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • 03.jpg Photo Gallery, Story: Three New Castle schools close today for good

    Today is bittersweet for New Castle Area School District elementary students and teachers. Three buildings packed with history as longtime learning institutions are closing their doors for good.
     

    June 5, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Poll

The Steelers opened training camp this weekend. How do you see them faring this season?

Super Bowl
Division champs
Wild card team
Missing playoffs for a third straight year
     View Results