UPDATE: Let’s assume Board of Education member the Rev. Ken Moales and his mother Peggy run efficient Bridgeport daycare operations called Kingdom’s Little Ones Academy and Kingdom’s Little Ones Daycare, properties run as subsidiaries of Moales’ church, Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. Let’s assume they do everything in accordance with regulations of the Board of Education that acts as a fiduciary for the state-funded School Readiness Program. Let’s assume they have a tight understanding of rules and regulations of the Connecticut Department of Education that issues grants to the daycares (through the school board) that provide a service on behalf of working parents. Let’s assume they do everything right. The larger question is, why would a Board of Education member be entitled to receive a taxpayer subsidy for daycare facilities he operates financed by the very school board he helps to set policy?
As evidenced by a series of documents transmitted between state and local education officials, Moales’ day care facilities have run astray of state regulations. While Moales served as chairman of the Board of Education last year (he is no longer chairman), an audit conducted by the Connecticut State Department of Education determined the daycare facilities were “overpaid by approximately $75,114” for 27 ineligible daycare slots. The audit also recommended “the Program Manager monitor these sites in the 2013-2014 fiscal year to ensure that school readiness funds are being used appropriately.”
Moales was an unwavering supporter of former Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas who was in charge of the school system when the audit determined Moales’ daycare facilities had overcharged the state. Vallas appealed the audit decision through Marlene Siegel, chief financial officer of Bridgeport Public Schools, according to a letter by Harriet Feldlaufer, director of the state’s Division of Early Care and Education, dated January 27, 2014. Siegel, in fact, had advised Chief Operating Officer Peggy Moales in a letter dated September 26, 201, “We understand that you intend to present this matter to your Board of Directors and we ask that the process be expedited, so that we can report to the CSDE (Connecticut State Department of Education) the agreed upon payment plan by Tuesday, October 1.” Ken Moales, according to the Kingdom’s Little Ones website, serves as chief executive officer. Website here.
Vallas through Siegel issued an appeal designed to benefit Moales’ daycare facilities. The appeal was denied. In the January 27 letter, Feldlaufer advised, “the committee affirms the refund due. Kingdom’s Little Ones must repay $75,114.”
As chronicled by Jonathan Pelto, who hosts the What Wait blog, and the Connecticut Post, Moales faces a host of financial issues that includes foreclosure actions against a number of his church properties, most of them tax exempt. Moales has pooh-poohed the financial challenges as a result of a predatory lender, claiming all is fine even though his daycare facility was behind on city taxes by more than $7,000 last year, according to a CT Post story.
Adding political flavor to the Moales story is he serves as treasurer of Mayor Bill Finch’s reelection campaign.
Moales’ daycare facilities received taxpayer subsidies before he was elected to the school board, but larger questions emerge: is he leveraging his public position on the school board to wire more taxpayer funds that benefit him? Why put yourself in that position? He’s also not a guy, in light of his personal financial issues and overbilling of the state for uncertified daycare slots, who builds public confidence in his financial acumen. Why stay on as Finch’s campaign treasurer? Also, why would Finch want him to remain as campaign treasurer? Seems like way more trouble than it’s worth.
(Update: learned Monday afternoon that Moales is no longer treasurer of Finch campaign. Change was made a few days ago. Finch campaign fundraiser Marissa Gross Donnelly is the new treasurer.)
And what action will the current school board take in light of this latest Moales news? The school board is scheduled to meet tonight (Monday) at 6:30 at the Aquaculture School, 60 St. Stephens Road.
Letter signed by Harriet Feldlaufer, director of the state program.
Tina Peloso- Ulreich, Director
Early Childhood Programs
Bridgeport Public Schools
948 Main Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604
Dear Ms. Peloso-Ulreich:
On January 14, 2014, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) convened a meeting of the Appeals Committee to consider the October 1, 2013, appeal from Marlene Siegel, CFO of Bridgeport Public Schools. The appeal was made on behalf of the Bridgeport Superintendent of schools regarding the refund of School Readiness funds associated with Kingdom’s Little Ones.
Staff from the Office of Early Childhood and CSDE’s Office of Internal Audit conducted a review of School Readiness claims submitted by Kingdom’s Little Ones. Based upon that review, it was determined that 27 children were ineligible for reimbursement. Those students were claimed in error for four months, at a rate of $695.50 per student. Therefore, the total refund due is (27 x 695.5 x 4) = $75,114.
The committee affirms the refund due. Kingdom’s Little Ones must repay $75,114.
In light of hardship around timing of the refund, CSDE will recover the full amount through a reduction to Bridgeport’s monthly School Readiness grant for the remainder of the fiscal year. That allows for the $75,114 to be spread out over five months–February, March, April, May, and June. In each of the first four months, CSDE will reduce the total payment to Bridgeport by $15,000. In the month of June, the reduction will be $15,114.
The Bridgeport Public Schools may work with Kingdom’s Little Ones to determine how they wish to coordinate the adjustments at the local level.