Charter school CEO who shuttered schools, filed for bankruptcy still doing business under schools name
The owner of an Orlando-based charter school chain that filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last spring after abruptly shuttering three schools — including one in Duval County — is apparently still doing business under the same company name.
Despite court records that show Acclaim Academy of Florida is millions of dollars in debt, its CEO Dennis Mope recently tried to strike a deal for more than a 1,400 GPS tracking units under the business name while touting the company’s “excellent credit” as collateral.
Acclaim Academy, a private, not-for-profit business, operated military-themed charter schools in Duval, Orange and Osceola counties. By May, schools in all three counties closed.
The same month, Acclaim filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to ultimately liquidate the company.
Yet, as recently as November, email records show Mope tried to broker a deal with a Midwest retailer amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and services for the charter company. He also requested 30 days to pay for the order.
In a series of email exchanges between Mope and web-based tracking technology company, FleetFinderGPS.com, he discusses entering into a two-year agreement for about 1,400 GPS trackers to be used with equipment including portable classrooms, trailers and semi-trucks.
“We budget for two years in our school district,” he wrote in an email to the tracking company, in which he used an Acclaim Academy email address and signature.
After company officials informed him that he’d be required to make a 30 percent deposit to receive the order, Mope stated that he could not get approval from charter’s board to pay the money.
“Don’t know if that is going to be an issue,” he wrote. “It shouldn’t be [sic] we have excellent credit on every level…”
For Tom Fox, head of the Chicago-based manufacturing company Connected Telematics which supplies FleetFinderGPS.com, there were red flags in the proposal. “Why would a guy want 30-day terms when he’s insistent he was going to pay two years in advance?” he said. “If you’re that liberal with your money, why do you need 30 days to make a payment? It was a huge red flag.”
As of now, Acclaim Academy of Florida is still listed as active with the state.
A local phone number listed below Mope’s email signature goes to an answering service for the school’s administrative offices.
According to Fox, the shipping address Mope provided — 300 Park Ave., Orange Park — matches a hotel listing for Rodeway Inn and Conference Center, the Clay County hotel known as a haven for drug dealers and prostitution.
Acclaim closed its schools in Duval and Orange counties with little notice and just weeks to go before the end of the school year. Osceola’s school district took over the Acclaim charter in its county months before, and it ultimately closed, too.
Records from the Florida Department of Education show the academies in both Duval and Osceola received failing grades —in Osceola, the school received two consecutive F’s from the state. Scores for a third school in Orange County were not available from the department.
The company’s bankruptcy case filed May 20 is pending, but court records list more than 100 companies and individuals as creditors, including Duval County Public Schools and charter school finance companies Charter School Capital Inc. and Charter Asset Management Fund. It’s possible, Acclaim could eventually face claims from state and federal entities, too.
The claims filed against the charter company, so far, amount to more than $3 million, court documents show.
Mope also has a school brokerage company still listed as active in Windmere called “Schools for Sale” along with a school consulting firm and several now-defunct education-related businesses listed at the same address.
When contacted by the Times-Union about his potential purchase from FleetFinderGPS.com, Mope first said he had no idea what the reporter was referring to. When pressed further about the email exchange, Mope said he had no comment.
As of Tuesday, FleetFinderGPS.com was still in communication with Mope, but Fox said he is concerned about moving forward with the order.
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