Former Paris Academy employee defends school amid investigation

Published: Jul. 12, 2018 at 7:23 PM EDT
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(7/12/2018) - The investigation into the now-closed Paris Academy online charter school continues, but one of its former workers is now defending the school.

Paris Academy, which is based in Saginaw Township, is under investigation for possible fraud. Michigan State Police detectives are investigating whether the school inflated enrollment figures to collect more state funding.

The school officially closed on June 21, putting about 33 employees out of work. One of them is Josh, the former information technology specialist who did not want to use his last name.

"My job has been knowing things that I don't want to know," he said.

Josh said he started working at the online charter school in February. He was hired by Nancy Paris, who started the kindergarten through 12th grade charter two years ago.

Josh said the school had at least 800 students from across the state.

"I never saw any person enroll a student that didn't specifically come to us and request to be enrolled, as far as I am aware," he said.

The Genesee School District, which authorized the school, is now going through a dissolution of the charter. A recent letter lays out more than a dozen claims against the Paris Academy, including inaccurate enrollment numbers on count days.

Michigan public and charter schools receive state funding based on the number of students enrolled. The specific enrollment figure to determine funding is based on counts taken in the fall and spring.

The Genesee School District also brought up issues with testing irregularities and altering documents.

"I can't say anything about things that happened before I got there, but, while I was there I did not see any evidence of this," Josh said.

He provided documents that show past audits of the school by the Genesee Intermediate School District, which includes comments such as "great job." The most recent audit was signed in March, which appeared to show no issues.

Officials at the intermediate school district could not verify the authenticity of the documents on Thursday.

"It really feels strange to me that those audits would exist and say what they say, and now a few months later I don't think there is a better example of 180," Josh said.

Nancy Paris and her attorney could not be reached for comment Thursday to discuss the ongoing investigation.