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More N.O. schools dump bus company exposed by WWL-TV reports

In the last week, two more charter school boards followed the lead of two other charter networks that had already terminated their contracts with Scholars First.

NEW ORLEANS — Eight of nine New Orleans charter schools that used the school bus company Scholars First have now terminated their contracts with the transportation firm after WWL-TV exposed insurance documents that the state found to be fraudulent.

New Beginnings Schools Foundation and The Einstein Group, charter school organizations that operate a total of six public schools in the city, already severed ties with Scholars First as a result of the WWL-TV investigation.

In the last week, two more charter school boards that run single schools – Success Preparatory Academy and Rooted School – have also terminated their contracts with Scholars First.

All four school boards have hired the same Florida-based company to replace Scholars First for the final month of school – A&S Transportation.

The WWL-TV investigation in March uncovered misrepresentations on insurance certificates that Scholars First had presented to New Beginnings, Einstein and Success Prep as proof that their fleet of buses was insured.

The company that purportedly wrote the insurance policies confirmed to WWL-TV that it hadn’t had any active coverage for Scholars First since January 2018 and that two other policies listed on the documents were inactive policies for other companies, not Scholars First. Also, the insurance agency listed on the forms confirmed it hadn’t sold any policies to Scholars First in at least three years.

Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon responded to the WWL-TV report by opening a fraud investigation and sent Scholars First cease and desist letters declaring the documents fraudulent.

The only school in New Orleans still using Scholars First buses is Foundation Preparatory Charter School at McDonogh 28. The school’s attorney told WWL-TV Wednesday that "there is no change in Foundation Prep's bus service vendor."

When the WWL-TV investigation of Scholars First's insurance came out in mid-March, Foundation Prep and Rooted School said they had confirmed the insurance policies Scholars First had reported to them were active. But on Tuesday, Adrien Maught of Rooted School said Scholars First informed the school on April 12 that it would not continue operations for the Uptown school past last Friday, April 19.

It’s unclear what that means for Scholars First's operations in general. It had contracts this year with several charter schools in Baton Rouge and Gonzales. Scholars First’s attorney, Randy McKee, did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday.

Scholars First is owned by Jeramy Jackson of New Orleans and Melvin Williams of Gonzales. Secretary of State records show Jackson also owns a series of similarly named transportation companies – Safe Scholars, Safe Stop, Safe Turn Transportation – as well as T-shirt printing companies, several in conjunction with Williams.

NOTE: This story was updated Wednesday, April 24, with information from Foundation Preparatory Charter School.

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