When Christopher Clemons sought to open a charter school in Atlanta in 2011, no one suspected that five years later he would be in jail in Colorado and that education officials would be trying to figure out how $600,000 went missing.
Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter Molly Bloom does an excellent job of recounting what happened with Latin Academy Charter School in this article.
Clemons was a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and had an MBA from MIT. He was also head of a program training school leaders for the University of Notre Dame.
With credentials like these, obviously no one thought Clemons would turn out to be more con man than educator. Certainly not his board that included lawyers, a Coca-Cola executive and former government officials. Apparently the board was very interested in test results for students, but ignored school finances.
That is until they hired a new principal in the spring of 2015 who began combing the books. What she found was shocking. Tens of thousands of dollars in cash withdrawals, charges for hotels and airline tickets and huge bills at Atlanta night spots such as Goldrush Showbar and the Cheetah Lounge.
As Bloom says, “He (Clemons) left a cautionary tale for Georgia’s growing charter school movement. Latin Academy, with it’s all-star board and experienced leader, seemed on track to thrive. But behind a facade of apparent success, the school spent millions of tax dollars with little public scrutiny and operated with a lack of public input foreign to many traditi9ona public schools.”
Clemons has been charged with fraud and theft.