Stringer audits Merrick Academy in Laurelton

By Alex Robinson

City Comptroller Scott Stringer has launched an audit of a Laurelton charter school along with three others.

Merrick Academy’s books are set to be scrutinized as part of a larger audit which will also target Bedford Stuyvesant New Beginnings Charter School, South Bronx Charter for International Cultures and the Arts, as well as Success Academy, a network of charters that is headed by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz.

The Laurelton school, at 136-25 218 St., was previously audited by the state comptroller’s office in 2007. The report made 17 recommendations on how the school could improve controls over its financial management practices. The audit also found that the charter had overpaid a contractor who was helping manage and oversee the school’s operations by more than $14,000.

Robert Washington, an attorney who represents the school, said the scope of the audit was not clear yet, but the charter would be compliant with the probe.

“If the audit reveals anything that would allow the school to provide a better education I’m sure they’re going to implement that,” he said. “We welcome their input.”

Stringer’s office said the schools for his audit were selected based on objective criteria such as geography, size and publicly available financial data.

“Nothing is more important than the education of our kids,” Stringer said. “My office is going to make sure that taxpayer dollars are being used appropriately and that proper controls are in place to ensure that all young New Yorkers are getting the quality education they deserve.”

The audit comes after a new state law mandating the state and city comptrollers to audit charter schools, which receive public funding but operate independently with their own teachers and curriculum.

Another new state law, championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, paved the way for Success Network charter schools in Queens last spring after Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to deny public space for them. The SUNY board of trustees approved an additional four more Success Network schools for Queens, which will likely co-locate public schools.

“Success Academy spends less per student than district schools but has more than double their proficiency rates,” Moskowitz said in a statement in response to Stringer’s audit. “Thus, we are confident that the comptroller will find that we use funds efficiently and appropriately, although we believe his energies would be better spent investigating the use of funds in the failing schools in which 143,000 New York City children are trapped.”

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