CEA report mischaracterizes Trailblazers and Stamford academies’ spending

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We write in response to the recent Connecticut Education Association report on charter school management fees, and more specifically about two of the schools mentioned in that report, Trailblazers Academy and Stamford Academy. Throughout that report, there seems to be a misunderstanding of what our schools are, who we serve, what we do, and the costs associated with running our schools.

We don’t charge any charter management fees. The fees referred to in the report are the administrative costs of operating our schools, such as staff time related to accounting, insurance, training, technology, custodial and maintenance, student transportation, data evaluation, and volunteer engagement. And the reason these costs look like they doubled is that the State Department of Education requested that we move the cost of our family advocate program into administrative costs within our accounting system.

Family advocates are our counselors (10 full-time staff between the two schools) who help our high-need students with their significant nonacademic challenges—and shifting that existing expense into administrative costs roughly doubled that line item. (In 2015-16, family advocate services accounted for $792,427 of our $1,523,490 in administrative costs.) But it was just a reclassification of the cost of counseling services we already provided.

Furthermore, the executive director of Domus Kids is not a superintendent of schools. The charter schools that Domus supports are just two of 10 programs he oversees. In our 2015-16 fiscal year, 16 percent of his time (or $54,110) was spent on our two charter schools, and every dollar of compensation related to that work was private money, not state money, as it is every year.

We’re proud of the extensive private support we receive. In 2015-16, we raised $1,535,011 in private donations and grants to leverage the state’s $3,014,000 in per-pupil funding for our two public charter schools. So, by bringing in private dollars, we are actually reducing the taxpayer cost of educating some of the most challenging students in our community. Far from creaming the best students out of the school system, our mission is to serve the most struggling kids who are on the trajectory of dropping out.

Domus is not a “corporate-style charter management organization.” It is a nonprofit that operated programs for homeless and traumatized children for 27 years before opening its first charter school in 1999. All of the work Domus does —in its schools, transitional living program, community centers, anti-gang street outreach, employment-training center, court-diversion program, and after-school programs— serves some of the poorest, most disengaged, and distressed young people in our community.

We welcome anyone to visit www.domuskids.org and review seven years of IRS Form 990s and independently audited financial statements for not only our charter schools but every Domus program.

Rob Minicucci, Board Chair, Domus Kids.
Steve Baker, bBoard Chair, Trailblazers Academy
Noah Lapine, Board Chair, Stamford Academy
Mike Duggan, Domus Kids Inc.

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