Bucks County school once tied to Fattah Jr. shutters

 

Columbus Academy, a state-approved private school in Warminster run by a for-profit firm, abruptly closed last week amid bankruptcy proceedings.

The shuttering of the Bucks County school is the latest development in a three-year saga that has included a federal probe of the company's operations and its relationship with Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr., who was once its chief operating officer.

The school, which was previously known as Delaware Valley High School-Bucks, ceased operations Thursday. The school is owned by David T. Shulick, a Bala Cynwyd lawyer, who did not respond to e-mail or phone messages Monday seeking comment.

Callers hear a recorded message informing them that the school has closed and directing parents to contact their home school districts to continue their students' education.

The school enrolled 35 middle and high school students in 2013-14. State records show that the students were sent to Columbus Academy by districts in Bucks and Montgomery Counties because they needed special attention. The home districts paid their students' tuition.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Education said the enrollment in grades 9-12 dropped to 27 students this academic year.

She said on Monday that Columbus Academy had not told the State Board of Private Academic Schools it had closed. Regulations call for such schools to tell the board when they stop operating.

Shulick is listed in a bankruptcy filing as the owner of Academy Holdings Corp., the parent company and successor of a series of firms that have run alternative schools under contracts with school districts.

The company filed to reorganize under Chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court Wednesday.

Fattah, 32, son of Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), is facing federal charges of bank fraud, tax evasion, and stealing government funds.

For several years, Shulick's for-profit company held contracts with the Philadelphia School District to operate a disciplinary school in East Falls and an accelerated high school program in Southwest Philadelphia to help dropouts obtain diplomas.

Federal prosecutors allege that while working with Shulick, Fattah had a hand in bilking the district of money by inflating salaries, making up benefit costs, and reporting nonexistent employees.

Fattah has denied all the charges and said his case is a misguided attempt to strike a blow against his father.

Shulick's firm lost its contracts to operate the two schools in Philadelphia in 2012, and the Reading School District severed its ties with the company the next year.

The Warminster location was the last remaining site in the small network of what were mostly alternative-education schools Shulick's firm operated for at-risk students and those with disciplinary problems.

 


martha.woodall@phillynews.com

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@marwooda