A Sister Under Fire

By Body of Christ News

Eighteen years ago, Dr. Carolyn Jones opened the Challenges, Choices and Images school near Colfax and Alton “to move kids out of thinking they are nothing and believing they are capable of doing anything.”

As CCI grew, they moved to the Lowry Community College campus and then to the old Samsonite building located at 11200 East 45th Avenue in Montbello. The school’s student body was 95% African American with children coming from Denver, Aurora and even Golden to attend.

CCI’s staff specialized in working with children who had past difficulties finding academic success in traditional schools, particularly middle and high school.
The curriculum was designed with purpose to help kids regain lost academic skills and bring them up to par so that they would graduate high school and go on to college.

“Isn’t that what we want them to do?” Dr. Jones asked in a recent interview with Body of Christ News. In 2008, there were 33 graduating seniors and over $149,000 in scholarships awarded to them. All but one graduate planned to attend college, and that one exception was going to cosmetology school. This was standard performance for CCI, including the completion of a post-secondary degree for most graduates.

The school became a home and family to “hard to place” children in need of additional help and support to achieve the success they and their parents desperately desired.

“We became moms and dads and grandparents to those kids. And when they misbehaved, we were the first ones in their rear end. But we were also the first ones to give them some love and listen to what was really going on in their lives,” recalls Dr. Jones.

CCI’s Afro-centric staff relied on ancient African principles and used varied methods to teach the children life skills in addition to academics. The seniors would go on the annual Historically Black College and University Tour every spring break. They would spend their time visiting different colleges and meeting college presidents, professors and counselors.

The CCI students were recognized and commended for their behavior and manners. Many were even offered “on the spot” acceptance and scholarships to attend the schools. There were regular “family dinner” nights where the children learned how to use utensils properly and carry on conversations with adults confidently and intelligently.

It was about more than education, it was about, “How do you live your life in a productive manner?” Dr. Jones explains.   In early 2007, CCI was able to move into the Samsonite building as a result of receiving $25,000,000 in tax exempt bonds from the Colorado Education and Cultural Facilities Authority.

Challenges, Choices and Images became a charter school and was able to add a gymnasium, wet and dry science labs, a music lab, a computer game lab and technology labs in each of its classroom pods. They increased their student body by over 100%. All of this was the result of e x t e n s i v e scrutiny by bankers, the Colorado Department of Education, accountants and lawyers who looked at all facets of CCI’s business practices before granting the bond. Dr. Jones and the CCI board were overjoyed at how greatly the funding would allow them to bless the community they served.

It seemed the schools mission to teach by example, to search for meaning through exploration, to find purpose in life, to ask and answer meaningful questions, and to develop character values that will enable young people to live principled lives would come to fruition on a greater scale than ever before.

Less than a year later, the tide of abundant support for CCI from DPS changed. In early 2008 DPS released a statement via the local news that CCI had “chronic” problems and there would be no contract renewal. When Dr. Jones called to DPS to request information because no letter or statement had been sent to the school, she spoke to two board members who advised that the concern was about declining CSAP scores for CCI students.

The statement confused Jones because the CSAP scores had gone up although the student body had increased substantially. CCI opened its doors at their new facility with 750 students, very near their 800 student capacity, versus just of 300 students the previous year. Dr. Jones and the staff redoubled efforts to work on the material evaluated by the tests. When Dr. Jones sought further clarification, she was advised that the issue was now about hiring “criminals” as school staff.

This information was released to the local news agencies and reported in print and live broadcast. The media reported that the “criminals” worked with children, which was completely false. The primary targets for the allegations were the Assistant Principal, a night janitor and day laborers.

Although the procedures set forth by DPS were followed, the presumption and depiction of wrongdoing on Dr. Jones’ part stood. The information discovered by the media was not available when pulling a criminal record with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and a majority of the charges were dropped without prosecution.

The Assistant Principal had, in fact, been arrested several times, but had not been charged in most cases and where he was charged he was convicted of a misdemeanor requiring payment of a fine. He was not required to disclose these incidents on his job application because they were not felonies.

The night janitor was the family member of a school employee who worked at night with no access to children or sensitive information. And the day laborers were not hired by CCI or any of the school’s representatives. They were hired as a part of the construction projects managed by the building owner’s representative to move furnishings and perform short term heavy work contributing to the outstanding 13 week finish on all planned projects to prepare the school for the children.

The situation escalated further when DPS accused CCI of comingling and mismanaging state funds. There was a commercial loan made by the school to the day care center in the amount of $500,000. Jones and her sister signed for the loan to allow the day care to stay open by covering operating costs.

This was also reported in multiple news stories; but the stories excluded the fact that DPS recanted after discovering the details behind the loan that verified that all legal requirements had been followed.

“All these charges of embezzling, comingling and all those kinds of things. None of those have been substantiated; but they were out there in the community,” Dr. Jones laments.

In an effort to clear things up and save the school, Dr. Jones resigned as CCI’s principal after DPS school board representative Kevin Patters advised her that the school would be closed if she refused to leave her position.

Neither CCI nor Dr. Jones ever received anything in writing from the school board or DPS stating that their investigations found any kind of impropriety on the part of any of the CCI administrators. Oscar Joseph, who had been the assistant principal, stepped into Dr. Jones’ role and began working with DPS to ensure that the school could renew its contract.

Dr. Jones continued to participate in maintaining academic programs until Joseph called her to advise that he’d received information that she would be arrested if she came on school property as a result of an indictment against her. Jones obtained an attorney who found the indictment to be nonexistent.

They met with DPS Superintendent Michael Bennet and a representative from Hamlin Capital Management – the bond holder, to discuss the situation. Bennet advised that the case had been referred to the District Attorney’s office for further review.

After the meeting, Dr. Jones’ attorney called the DA’s office for information and was told there was no case. There has never been any charge made by the DA or the Attorney General stating that CCI did anything wrong. Dr. Jones still doesn’t go to the school stating, “They have never come up with any charges of what I have done wrong, but they continually say that if I go up there they will arrest me.”

“It seems strange to me that you go through all of this scrutiny to get bonds, $24,000,000 worth of bonds, and as African American we don’t get chances to get that kind of money very often. They are not going to give that kind of money to an organization that they do not feel is viable,” Dr. Jones continues. “It just breaks your heart because the kids were doing so well. The kids were just in tears over their school.”

What Jones finds most ironic is that Oscar Joseph came to CCI with a great resume and high endorsements, but he turned on her completely when the false allegations started flying. He did away with the CCI board without any of them consenting or stepping down. Joseph even changed the name of the school to Amandla Charter Academy. Under his leadership, the school voluntarily terminated its charter contract with the district, effectively severing the district and the current school leaders from any financial liabilities incurred by CCI.

Amandla is now a contract school which means they are a tuition-free independent school that is not operated by the school district. The school’s operator signs a contract with the Board of Education to provide an educational program. Contract schools are not under charter school law.

Amandla officials plan to submit an application to become a charter school before the contract runs out. When asked to speculate on the motivation behind DPS, Joseph and the investors allowing Jones and the board to be ousted, Dr. Jones can only say that the land where the school sits is valuable and could bring a far greater return to investors by being parsed out to multiple commercial entities.

The same thing has recently occurred in Washington D.C. Jones and her sister have an active lawsuit in which attorneys are trying to determine what all of this means and what really happened. The daycare center has had to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy and Jones and her sister as well as community investors who put up $180,000 to help the center stay afloat are left with nothing but the credit issues that remain. The bankers who negotiated and executed the loan for the center have now told Jones and the other investors that they hold the liability for all loans.

Worst of all, parents are disillusioned and confused. One parent gets a call from Social Services in response to any complaints made about the school. Parents who have concerns are afraid to voice them because they expect retaliation from the current administration. Because many of the students and parents at the school are familiar with Social Services due to negative past experiences, there is a strong aversion to any activity that may bring on attention or contact by the organization.

Dr. Jones has been forced to walk away from a dream and the family she built at CCI only to leave them in the hands of people she believes are out for anything but the best interest of the students.   Information in this article was taken from multiple published sources in addition to an interview with Dr. Carolyn Jones.

All mentioned names and entities have been disclosed in previously publish or broadcast media stories. For a list of bibliographic sources, please contact BOCN.

2 Responses to “A Sister Under Fire”

  1. Heaven Says:

    As a Christian I am disgusted that this was chosen to be the front page story! Why and how is this Christian news? How is this motivating and empowering the Christian community?

    Dr. Jones carries on as if she has been ill-charged and ill-accused, as if she is some sort of victim. She is NOT 100% innocent in any of this. There is no mention during this interview of how CCI had terrible CSAP scores, but miraculously the 3rd Grade CSAP scores went from severly underperforming to 100% proficient. I know first hand how this happened! Using PPR dollars to fund the revenue generating ECE/Child Care program is illegal– you can slice it and dice it within the legal confines and shake out a “not quilty” verdict, but wrong is wrong.

    I hate to see a “sistah” down, but her fall is do to stolen curriculum concepts and ideas, flat out cheating on the CSAP, poor school accountability planning, hiring unqualified teachers, charging parent “fees” to pick up student report cards, humiliating students publically before their peers to get them to “act right” (in the spirit of “community” of course), and having a drug abusing crackhead as a VP. I won’t even go into the “ghetto” front office staff and their severe lack of professionalism.

    I don’t down Dr. Jones motives were initially pure– to educate hard to serve students. But don’t think for one miniute she wasn’t interested in turning CCI into some sort of cash cow enterprise for herself, her personal fame and name.

    I am disgusted that she has even brought the new adminstration into the discussion. That person, Oscar Joseph was hired to do a job– don’t shoot the messenger.

    As Christians we are so quick to judge, to jump on the band wagon– you must know ALL of the facts before you parade this as front page worthy news.

    James 3:18 states, “Peacemakers who sow peace raise a harvest of righteousness”. Dr. Jones was not 100% righteous, honest or peaceful. God bless her.

  2. joslyn w Says:

    this is a cry out!!!
    how can we get Dr.jones back in the CCI .
    it sucks how hard she tried to better the live of low income families but some one managed to brake her down.
    is the any body out the that can help get J.E.(carolyn jones) back into CCI this is a current senior of CCI not amandla

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