PA Cyber leader defends child's plan

Board president who resigned calls state probe 'overkill'

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The longtime president of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School board, who resigned Thursday against the backdrop of an internal investigation into his daughter's education, said Friday that he and his wife did nothing that any parent couldn't do for their child.

"Our daughter is a very bright child. She was taking high school courses in the fourth grade," said Dave Jaskiewicz, who joined the PA Cyber board around six years ago and was its president for most of that time. In order to continue to advance her education, his wife had to ask the school to go beyond normal course offerings, he said.

He added that last week the family decided that the daughter would leave PA Cyber for another online charter school, and with that he resigned from the board.

"If we were happy with the environment, we would still be at PA Cyber," he said, declining to elaborate.

The school recently hired the Philadelphia law firm Conrad O'Brien to investigate a complaint, referred to it by the state Department of Education.

The complaint, according to a summary written by Conrad O'Brien, accused Mr. Jaskiewicz's wife, Cynde Frederick, of directing that their daughter's transcript be altered, and of writing a gifted individual education plan that called for "enrollment in numerous college-level courses to be paid and funded by PA Cyber."

The attorneys told PA Cyber employees to preserve records related to school spending on the daughter's education through Johns Hopkins University, La Roche College, Robert Morris University, the University of Nevada, Reno, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Jaskiewicz said that his wife handled talks with the school over their daughter's gifted plan.

"PA Cyber highly publicized its support for gifted students like my daughter," he said. "As a parent, we can request anything. ... The school's the one who OK'd all of this."

He added that the family didn't get everything they wanted.

PA Cyber had a program under which it paid tuition for students who simultaneously enrolled in colleges from 2005 through 2008.

From 2008 on, the National Network for Digital Schools, which manages PA Cyber, launched an Advanced Placement Alternatives Program, according to PA Cyber spokeswoman Christina Zarek. The program pays colleges as much as $600 per class in tuition when PA Cyber students take college courses. "Hundreds of students benefited from the program," she wrote.

Mr. Jaskiewicz said he did not know whether PA Cyber or NNDS paid his daughter's college tuition.

He said he first heard complaints about his daughter's education in July. He said that in a board executive session, someone whom he would not name threatened to "go after" his family.

"They had to look into the allegation. Sure. That makes sense," Mr. Jaskiewicz said. He said the school's retention of a Philadelphia-area law firm to investigate the complaint was "overkill."

A Department of Education spokesman would not comment on, confirm or deny any complaint or investigation.

PA Cyber founder Nick Trombetta, who left the school in June of 2012, was indicted in August. He has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts related to alleged diversion of nearly $1 million in school money for personal uses through management companies.

Since then, said Mr. Jaskiewicz, "I've lost weight. I don't sleep. ... I'm trying to do the right thing. I'm trying to see this through and look out for the students, the families and the state."

education - state

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord. First Published October 11, 2013 8:00 PM


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