Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Updated: Florida Gets Acquainted With Ohio's Master of Charter School Disaster

Posted By on Wed, Dec 28, 2011 at 11:01 AM

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The tale of Mark Thimmig is a reminder that not all Ohioans who depart for Florida leave in search of fruity drinks and leathery skin. Some simply seek new marks for their scam.

From 2001 to 2005, Thimmig was the CEO of White Hat Management, the outfit that runs one of the country’s largest for-profit charter school factories. White Hat’s local outlets took up residence in strip malls and boasted the academic rigor of a Mr. Hero franchise.

A 2007 Scene article titled “Education at Its Worst” detailed White Hat’s dubious academic record as well as its slimy financial dealings. Reports estimate that White Hat pocketed 96 percent of the money it received from the state. Such a move would signal an exemplary exercise in maximizing profit margins, except that the money had been earmarked for educating kids.

For years, White Hat stonewalled 10 Hope Academies and Life Skills Centers in Cleveland and Akron who wanted to know where their money had gone. On Friday, a Franklin County Common Pleas judge finally ruled that the schools are entitled to White Hat's financial records. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the schools are still operating under a contract with the company. White Hat is owned by Akron businessman David Brennan, a Republican Party donor and proponent of expanding charter schools in Ohio, the Dispatch reports.

Meanwhile, since vacating White Hat’s top post, Thimmig has reemerged in Florida, where he co-founded Mavericks in Education in 2007. According to reports by the Broward Palm Beach New Times, the group opened four charter schools, holding up as their model Thimmig’s previous employer, White Hat, as the “next generation in education.”

Alas, round 2 at the helm didn’t go so well either.

In 2009, Thimmig left the group after internal disagreements and later sued Mavericks for dough he said he was owed for loans made to them. Co-founder Mark Rodberg and Mavericks manager Lauren Hollander answered back with allegations — shocking allegations, mind you — that Thimmig screwed around with the schools’ budgets and “[misused] federal and state grant funds.” Same song, different state.

According to the Florida paper, Thimmig is currently running an automotive business in Canada, where he’s likely charging five-year-olds $100 an hour to play with a broken socket wrench.

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