Last week's Philadelphia Inquirer had a story entitled "Chester School Has Touters, Doubters," about the Chester Community Charter School
owned by Vahan Gureghian
. Anyone who has lived and worked in Delaware County long enough knows that the reporter missed the story. Chester Community Charter School isn't about educating children, it's about funneling money into the hands of the politically well-connected.
Here are the Delco politicians' longstanding guiding principles when it comes to Chester:
- those blacks have been killing each other for years, and they'll keep killing each other forever, and we don't care as long as their blood doesn't splatter on us, and as long as they keep their violence in Chester
- nobody makes money in Chester unless we say it's OK, and we don't say it's OK unless there's something in it for us
- you can make much more money with charter schools than you can with public education; after all, what's a few low-paying patronage jobs compared to an interest in a profitable and expanding business?
As the Inquirer says, Main Line lawyer and businessman Vahan H. Gureghian has turned Chester Community Charter School into a profitable, expanding business in the heart of the virtually bankrupt school district. Until 1999 Gureghian was a lawyer with the Philadelphia firm of Obermayer Maxwell Rebmann & Hippel
. He was also a part time real estate developer who made a fortune building in Delaware County with the help of certain connections.
His prior interest or experience in education: zilch.
His shame at exploiting the children of Chester: zilch.Michael F.X. Gillin
, well known and loved by all of us who work in the Courthouse, is a lawyer who also is the Registrar of Wills
(just tell that to his "assistants"!), chair of the Newtown Republican Party
(where he has done a fine job; just ask the rank and file on the police force!), and Chairman of the Board of Control of the Chester Public Schools
(because of his vast experience in both education and management!).
Gillin said his favorable treatment of Gureghian's business has not been influenced by past ties with Gureghian. Right. We're stupid, Mike.
- in the spring, George P. Cordes, a lawyer who works for Gillen, represented Gureghian in the purchase of property adjoining the school (hint: one way to reward a helpful politician is to pay his law firm huge legal fees for simple work)
- Gureghian rented office space from Gillin for two years, ending in early 2003, paying a total of $10,350 in rent (that's about $400 per month; sounds like Gureghian just wanted a presence in Media as a launching pad for his eventual takeover of the schools)
- Gureghian's wife, Danielle Gureghian, a lawyer, had a business association with Gillin's firm that she said ended in 2002. She also gave Gillin a $1,000 contribution in 2003. She is now the attorney for the school management company.
- Gureghian has given $115,000 in political contributions since 2000, much of it to Delaware County and state Republicans. Republican House Speaker John Perzel received the most: $20,000 in 2004, and $15,000 in 2002. (That's just the money we know about; wonder how much went to PACs and other untraceable entities?)
- Gureghian's business is also represented in Harrisburg by lobbyist Joseph Loeper, another utterly shameless, disgraced, and still powerful guy, the former Republican majority leader of the Pennsylvania Senate who served six months in federal prison in 2001 for obstructing a tax probe.
In the meantime, the Chester public schools are languishing and the children attending those schools are at the mercy of the greed and ambitions of these people. But Vahan Gureghian and his charming wife Danielle are doing just fine, thank you very much:
- since 1999, Chester Community has paid Gureghian and his company about $10 million in tax dollars to manage the school and about $5 million in rent for use of the school buildings, according to state and federal documents.
- of the 95 charter schools in Pennsylvania reporting to the state, Chester Community is the only one to have spent more on administration than on instruction in 2003-04, state data show
- Chester Community school spent 40 percent of its budget on administration and business expenses, with most going to Gureghian's management fee. Charter schools in Pennsylvania typically spent 16 percent.
How do these people sleep at night? Next time you see Mike Gillin in the hall, ask him, what's your secret, Mike?