The state Board of Education today asked a circuit court to order Valerie Tatum, former head of the failed Covenant Keepers charter school, to produce records it’s been seeking or hold her in contempt of court.
The filing said Tatum had failed to produce records for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years and information necessary to access IRS records to see if taxes have been paid.
Exhibits attached to the complaint indicate Tatum is now represented by John W. Hall and he has told the Board that she has supplied all records she has.
Tatum was superintendent of the charter school in Southwest Little Rock. The school’s operating agent was a nonprofit, City of Fire, whose board chair was Tatum’s husband, Tyron. The school was plagued over the years by financial and educational issues, but the state board allowed it to keep operating in May 2017. Tatum left her job in September 2018. Problems continued and June 30, the school went out of business. After Tatum left, but before the school served notice in January of plans not to continue its state charter, the Education Department said Tatum took furniture and money from the school accounts without authorization.
It’s been trying without success to get an explanation, today’s filing says. A substitute operator of the school, Friendship Aspire, said it couldn’t continue without $188,000 Tatum had withdrawn from the school accounts. When the school closed, Friendship took on some of the students at another location in Little Rock that had been financed by the Walton Family Foundation.
Tatum received business establishment backing to make an unsuccessful race for City Board in 2018 against incumbent Director Ken Richardson. Her race was marred by questions about her residency eligibility and by campaign finance discrepancies. She has declined to talk about these various issues. To date there’s been no action on the criminal front related to the missing money. UPDATE: Her attorney tells me that Tatum says she took no money and has made an accounting to the state.
The state Board’s request today says Tatum had produced some records, but not all needed to meet rules and complete an audit of the school operation.