Day care couple bilked city by faking student enrollment records

A married couple who owned four daycare providers in Queens swindled the Department of Education out of more than $35,000 over the last two school years by billing for students who never attended the programs, a city investigation has found.

The couple, Saied and Nareesa Mohammed, allegedly took advantage of 12 students whose parents originally signed them up to receive services from a city-funded Universal Pre-K program that operated out of the “Nareesa’s Day Care” and “Beanstalk” centers.

The parents quickly withdrew from the programs, but the Mohammeds allegedly continued to keep their children’s names on the books at the school by submitting false attendance forms and forging parent signatures at the end of the year. The fraud involved at least 12 students and the couple received about $3,500 per pupil from the education department, according to a report released today by the Office of the Special Investigator.

The fraud spanned from 2009 to June 2011, when a manager in the Early Childhood Development office first lodged a complaint with the Special Commissioner’s office. It began on a smaller scale in 2009, with just two students, but it expanded the next year and eventually raised a red flag.

“These types of schemes tend to expand if it looks like you’re being successful,” said Special Investigations Commissioner Richard Condon. “I guess it’s called greed.”

Condon’s office released a report on a fraud case last month that included similar traits. Although that case was on a much larger scale and include more brazen tactics, both instances involved outside vendors who charged the city for services that weren’t being provided by forging signatures and falsifying documents.

“The Department of Education reported the suspected fraud in June 2011 and immediately stopped making payments,” a department spokeswoman said in a statement. “We did not register students with them last September, and are actively working to recoup the money owed to the Department.”

Condon’s office referred its findings to the Queens County District Attorney for the possibility of criminal prosecution.

Sci Report for 9-18-12 (1)

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

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School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.