Two Houston Charter Schools Face State Probe

Judy Hartnett's picture
Thursday, May 17, 2012

In case you missed the story in the Chronicle Sunday, we reported that the Texas Education Agency is reviewing two Houston charter schools, Varnett and Rhodes, where nepotism and conflicts of interest are commonplace.

At both schools, the founders, who also serve as the superintendents, formed their own private bus companies to do business with their schools. The Varnett superintendent, M. Annette Cluff, also controls a for-profit corporation that rents facilities to her school. Varnett paid Cluff’s two companies a total of $2 million last year.

Varnett's founder and superintendent, M. Annette Cluff (second from left), takes part in a ribbon-cutting to mark a campus expansion in 2006.

Cluff also is among the highest-paid superintendents in Texas, earning a salary of $264,000 this year. Her school serves 1,729 elementary students. By comparison, the principal of Houston’s Lamar High School, which has twice as many students, makes $127,000.

Cluff’s husband, Alsie Cluff Jr., earns $175,166 as the school’s facilities and operations manager, and their daughter, Melissa Cluff, earns nearly $75,000 as the preschool director. Their son used to work at the school, but documents filed with the TEA do not show him on the payroll this year.

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