Former Khepera Charter administrator files whistle-blower suit

The former chief administrative officer at Khepera Charter School in North Philadelphia has filed a whistle-blower suit in federal court alleging he was wrongfully dismissed for speaking out about financial and management practices at the school.

Mukasa Afrika filed his complaint Oct. 7 against Khepera and its board of trustees, chief financial officer, and lawyer.

Afrika, who had held a variety of positions at the K-8 charter since 2006, was promoted to chief administrative officer in July 2014. His annual contract was not renewed for the 2016-17 academic year.

Located at 926 W. Sedgley Ave., Khepera is an African-centered school that has about 370 students.

Afrika alleges that Khepera's board chairman, Richard Isaac, "unilaterally made the decision" to terminate him in retaliation for reporting concerns about the school's governance and finances to the Philadelphia School District's charter school office and other government agencies.

Officials from Khepera, including Isaac, did not respond to requests for comment.

In the suit, Afrika says that starting in 2015, he repeatedly expressed concerns to Khepera's board of trustees about practices - including unilateral decisions by Isaac - he feared could cause the school to lose its charter.

Among other things, Afrika alleged the school was not making timely payments to the state teachers' retirement system, was failing to submit annual audits to the district charter office, and was not filing required financial reports with the state Department of Education.

He also said the board had violated provisions of the state's Sunshine Act by hiring people and firms without voting during public meetings.

After Afrika had sent several communications to the board outlining his concerns about how business was being conducted, he said board members complained in March that they found his continued reporting "agitating." The board warned him to stop or his conduct would be deemed "insubordination, and dealt with accordingly."

The suit alleged that Khepera officials' attempts to prevent Afrika from speaking out and reporting his concerns to government officials violated his right to free speech. It also contends his dismissal was improper and violated Pennsylvania's whistle-blower law, which protects employees who report suspected violations from retaliation.

martha.woodall@phillynews.com 215-854-2789 @marwooda

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