Frank Biden and Privatizers Buying Nation’s 11th-Largest School District
(The following is part of a larger investigative piece on donations and other financial public records in various counties concerning members of Mavericks in Education Florida, Charter Schools USA, and Imagine Schools. It first appeared at B-Town Errant.)
When the Palm Beach Post endorsed Chuck E. Shaw for the Palm Beach County School Board’s district 2 seat, they praised the ex-JFK Medical Center Charter School principal for “how well he knows the school district.”
Shaw knows where the dinero is, too, and he found it with Frank Biden, the VP’s younger brother, and Mavericks in Education Florida, a for-profit company fanatic about constructing hundreds of new charter schools.
Mavericks currently operators one charter school in Palm Beach County, but originally the school district was not a fan of the Biden-led company. After Palm Beach County’s department of charter schools determined that Mavericks’ application did not meet financial and other standards, Frank Biden, as Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss pointed out, met with members of the school board and persuaded them to change their minds. In early February 2011, they did.
Word at the time was Biden and Mavericks had promised to donate to various school board members’ campaigns, a tactic they’ve been using since June 16, 2010, when an avalanche of Mavericks-money appeared all at once in Chuck Shaw’s campaign chest and helped him get elected to the school board.
Mavericks’ lawyer and board liaison, Charles Barnett, gave $250.
Lauren Rodberg Hollander, Mavericks’ manager, forked over $50.
Husband Steve Hollander, chief operating officer at Mavericks, seconded with
Adam Hollander, former Palm Beach County Eagle Scout, Ole Miss student, and Lauren Hollander’s son, affirmed with his $50.
Mark Rodberg, Mavericks’ developer, slid $50 toward Shaw.
Eve Rodberg donated $50.
Mavericks’ curriculum director, Bonnie Solinsky, gave Chuck $50.
Mike Rosen, Mavericks’ CPA, CFO, dished out $50.
A past Charter Schools USA employee, former Florida legislator, and current lobbyist for Mavericks, Frank Attkisson chum-n-chump changed $50.
Debbie Schatz, Mavericks’ marketing guru, handed over $50.
And Frank Biden, president (as of Dec. 5, 2011) and lobbyist for Mavericks, spared a hard-earned $50.
In the campaign records, all (except Barnett) list their addresses as 5090 PGA Blvd, Suite 200, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, the home of Steve and Lauren’s Hollander Real Estate. Mavericks also uses the same address for its for-profit Next Generation in Education, LLC, managed by Mark Rodberg.
In August 2010, Mavericks’ Charles Barnett donated another $174.60.
Although Chuck Shaw abstained during the final vote on Mavericks’ charter school, it didn’t look good.
Frank Barbieri, school board chair, voted “aye,” and in September 2011, he was rewarded. The Hollander family and real estate business gave $1,500 toward Barbieri’s upcoming reelection bid. School Property Development, LLC– led by Barnett and Charles Berle–also donated $500, and Berle pitched in another $25o of his corporate cash.
With the first win and new funding, Mavericks, on November 23, 2011, had hoped to send in Frank Biden to woo the school board into allowing three more of their charters to invade the Palm Beach district (even though they are not accredited high schools), but Lisa Rab’s New Times’ published report helped put an end to the buying, at least for now.
Rab, the night before the big shindig, detailed Mavericks’ dismal state report cards and two whistle-blowing lawsuits filed by teachers against the charter operator for not offering legitimate Florida school diplomas.
In a whisper, the school board postponed the vote and on their website crossed out the Mavericks’ meeting agenda.
The board is set to pick a new superintendent on March 1, as the interim leader steps down and the nation’s 11th largest district braces for a $52 million deficit for next year.
Word on the street is that Shaw may land the gig.
Shaw and Barbieri’s terms expire in November 2012, and a few other board seats open in 2014. Keep an eye on the donations to see how far Biden and crew will go in buying out what is left of Florida democracy.