Philly Charter School Doubles as Nightclub, Possible Embezzlement Ring

31 Mar

Those of you familiar with Field Negro know he is based in Philly. I imagine he’ll have a few kind words on this one…

As for Club Damani at Harambee in the Philly Fun Guide

This is a link to the Philly Fun Guide

School said to double as nightclub to be investigated

School district officials will visit the Harambee Institute Charter School today to find out firsthand about allegations that the West Philadelphia school has been selling alcohol on weekends.

“We are going to seriously look at the charges and do what we have to do up to closing the school, if we have to,” Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman said yesterday.

Earlier in the day City Controller Alan Butkovitz accused Harambee of running a school by day but a nightclub after hours. The school was “found to be operating a nightclub and serving alcohol illegally” on weekends, he said. Harambee Charter is on 66th Street near Media.

But Butkovitz focused his news conference yesterday on his findings that a woman working as Harambee’s chief financial officer, Rhonda Sharif, was – at the same time – employed in a similar capacity at two other charter schools: the Math, Civics and Sciences Charter, at Broad and Spring Garden streets, and the Khepera Charter School, on Carpenter Lane, near Cresheim Street, in Mount Airy.

Butkovitz said that Sharif first worked for Harambee in 2003, at a salary of $33,046.

In 2008, Sharif made $183,108 from all three schools, and had put in for having worked 463 days, the controller said.

In addition, a construction company owned by Sharif’s husband, “Str8-Hand Construction Inc.,” received an estimated $7.5 million in maintenance contracts at the same three schools where Sharif worked.

No one answered the phone at Harambee yesterday. The school published an open letter on its Web site calling media reports a “misrepresentation” and “a very one-sided and unbalanced view of what charter schools represent. ”

Butkovitz said that he was prompted to investigate financial operations at several charter schools following the federal probe of Philadelphia Academy Charter School, in Northeast Philadelphia. The school’s founder, Brien Gardiner, committed suicide in May 2008 before his trial.

Benjamin Rayer, the district’s official in charge of charter and Renaissance schools, said last night that he will visit Harambee today. He said the school’s CEO told him that the building operated a banquet hall for weddings and birthdays. A Web site touts the facility as the Damani Banquet Hall.

“There has been a liquor license assigned to the property since 1936, to what at the time was the Overbrook Italian-American Democratic Club,” said Stacey Witalec, spokeswoman for the state Liquor Control Board. But the license, transferred to the Harambee Institute Corp. in 2002, expired Oct. 31, 2008, Witalec said.Harambee School was incorporated on Aug. 8, 1997, and received $14.7 million in public funds in 2005-2007.

Now – the Nightclub thing is an issue of propriety more than anything else, as theoretically the building is either owned by, or leased by the Charter School and not the School District. The Liquor license issue is serious, but these guys can’t be the first operators in Philly to have issues with the liquor board…

That double and triple billing, and the inside contracts though…

If true, is criminal.


Posted by on March 31, 2010 in Great American Rip-Off


Tags: , , , , , , ,

6 responses to “Philly Charter School Doubles as Nightclub, Possible Embezzlement Ring

  1. Philadelphia Night Out

    April 16, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    No wait, a criminal in Philly? I never thought…


  2. Constructive Feedback

    April 17, 2010 at 6:23 AM

    We can tell what BET Uncut’s political interests are by looking at what he posts.

    If he is not attacking Republicans, Conservatives and Corporations then he is focused upon threats to the Government Operated Schools Industrial Complex that Charter Schools represent.

    The schools in Anacostia serve alcohol at night as well. BET Uncut needs to look at all of the 40 oz bottles of Colt 45 and Old English that are discarded in the school yards.


    • btx3

      April 17, 2010 at 10:20 AM

      Since you have never been out of the Trailer Park down there in Bubbaland in Georgia…

      You know this, how?


  3. po

    August 22, 2010 at 12:38 AM

    This is the same things Stephen McCray and wife Melonka Renaldo McCray did with their school SoCal Academy of Arts and Sciences (SCAAS) in Los Angeles off Vermont before it was closed down. Records that they asked TO BE DESTROYED were retained and will prove that they were both paid excessive sums of money and employed relatives including a sister, mother, sons daughter and even personal friends and that Stephen McCray received AT LEAST $8,000 PER MONTH and sometimes even more and he only appeared or did work with for the school maybe 3 times during its entire existence. why has this been shunned and ignored? why are they getting away with this? additionally, the state of the art recording studio ($30k+), tons of computer, instruments, books, sporting goods and kitchen supplies (industrial freezer and industrial fridge valued at $5k a PIECE) were carted off to their home at 4119 charlene drive, los angeles, ca 90043 when the school was closed. despicable!
    Mr McCray is still principal within Lawndale school district and he retires in about 2 years.



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