RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Controversy over Richmond's charter school tonight. A former board member is accused of acting as a "mole"- passing on confidential information to Richmond's school Superintendent.
Seven former board members for the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts are calling for an investigation tonight. The members released the contents of a large Freedom of Information Act request- which includes dozens of emails between a former board member and Richmond school superintendent Yvonne Brandon.
The Richmond charter school opened a year and a half ago. It's part of the school system but also has autonomy and its own board. An original former member of the board says- from the beginning members had a feeling information was being leaked, so they filed a FOIA request for dozens of emails.
The emails all begin the same way. "Hey Dr. Brandon, check this out!"
"Take a look at this Dr. Brandon."
"Dear Dr. Brandon, have a look at this mess."
Over time- formality fades.
"Check this out Dr. B."
They're all emails from former Patrick Henry board member Reginald Malone- while he served- sent from a private email account to Richmond school Superintendent Dr. Yvonne Brandon.
Former board member Marjorie Bertolino says the emails reveal a questionable relationship between Malone and the superintendent. "Oh, it was just devastating. I have to say personally when I read those emails I couldn't believe it was real."
In the emails Malone passes along to Brandon- internal discussions, even draft contracts for hiring a principal or for leasing the school's building on Semmes Avenue.
In the emails Dr. Brandon thanks Malone for the messages. At one point writing: "Thanks, I do not know how I became the villain."
"Significant activities were shared inappropriately, unethically," said Bertolino. "Some of it could have effected our fund raising and also contract negotiations."
Bertolino says the emails show a lack of support for the Patrick Henry charter school. "Under cutting and undermining what we believe is a wonderful program and a good asset a positive asset to the city school system. It's been an uphill battle the entire way. And so, we couldn't understand. This is a Richmond public school. Why we were not receiving better support from the entire board and administration."
Reginald Malone says he has nothing to hide. He says he was sought by Patrick Henry board members to be on this board and says quote, "I vowed from the beginning to hold that board's feet to the fire. This is a public entity and they use public funds."
A spokesperson for Richmond Public schools issued a statement this afternoon: "Reginald (Reggie) Malone sent emails to the Superintendent, Richmond Public School Board members, and other school officials in his capacity as both a current and former member of the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts (PHSSA) Board. Mr. Malone also served as Vice President of the PHSSA Board. The Superintendent, who is responsible for all Richmond City schools including PHSSA, did not solicit the emails nor did she respond beyond basic courtesies. Per the mandate of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), these emails are official documents that cannot be deleted by the Superintendent or others who receive them. The Superintendent and RPS staff have spent innumerable human and fiscal resources in support of the operational and instructional activities of PHSSA. The Richmond City School Board and Superintendent remain committed to the achievement of all RPS students, including those attending PHSSA." -Felicia Cosby RPS
Here's a link to the emails: