Classroom Technology

Head of Colorado’s Largest Cyber Charter Resigns

By Benjamin Herold — February 28, 2018 2 min read
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The leader of Colorado’s largest online charter school resigned following an internal investigation, the latest chapter in the ongoing turmoil at the 3,800-student GOAL Academy.

The investigation into Richard Mestas was over a “personnel matter” and did not yield any allegations or evidence of criminal conduct, financial improprieties, or violation’s of the school’s charter contract, said Dustin Sparks, a lawyer representing the school.

Details as to the nature of the investigation and its findings are confidential and “protected by attorney-client privilege,” Sparks said.

GOAL Academy was the subject of an award-winning 2016 Education Week investigation that found evidence of widespread financial mismanagement and academic failure. GOAL’s founder and former CEO, Ken Crowell, helped steer more than $5 million in taxpayer money for the school to his own for-profit management company. A program called “FAST and Furious” allowed students to gain a year’s worth of credit for a week’s worth of work. And while students were expected to work mostly online, at their own pace, Education Week found that just 1 in 4 students logged in to the school’s learning software on a typical day.

Crowell resigned in 2015, and the school subsequently severed all ties with his management company, the Summit Education Group.

The Rocky Mountain Digital Academy—a second online charter founded by Crowell and operated by Summit, that made extensive use of GOAL’s curriculum, drop-in centers, record-keeping systems, and more—has also since closed.

And Sparks said the school’s FAST program has been eliminated.

Mestas has been involved with GOAL Academy since its founding a decade ago. He served as the school’s chief academic officer under Crowell. He was named acting executive director in July 2016. After being named the sole finalist for the permanent job, Mestas was made permanent CEO last February.

Mestas did not respond to a request for comment.

Nor did GOAL Academy’s authorizer, Colorado’s Falcon District 49, which has earned around $1 million in administrative and oversight fees from the school.

Sparks said GOAL’s board expects to appoint an new interim director within two weeks, then begin a search for a long-term permanent director.

The school’s six executive officers—for strategy and innovation, business operations, learning and engagement, finances, human resources, and information technology—will run the school in the meantime.

None were implicated or involved in the board’s internal investigation of Mestas, according to Sparks.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.