Emergency Meeting: Thursday, Oct 31, 8:00pm 
For an update of what transpired between Sept 5 and today, please come to the meeting 

Update Thursday, Sept 5:
As you know, we were eagerly awaiting the school board hearing scheduled for yesterday, to publicly thank MDCPS for allowing us the use of their facilities, giving amazing opportunities to hundreds of students for the past eleven years.. and to plead with them to correct the terrible mistake they made, and re allow CHAP into the schools.

Hours before the hearing, we were asked on behalf of the school board, not to come and speak at the hearing, with an assurance that they will come to an amicable agreement with us within two weeks. They said that speaking on the record will only slow the process down.

While the reason for the continuous delay has not been explained; based on expert advice, we decided to show good faith and abide by their request, giving them the two weeks they asked for.

We want to thank from the bottom of our hearts, our attorney, Bob Stok and his entire team at Stok, Kon & Braverman, who are continuously working non stop on behalf of CHAP. We also thank the governors office, Senator Jason Pizzo and so many of you in this amazing community who have been reaching out to help, each in your own way.

In an email last night, Senator Pizzo wrote:
Rabbi... I thank you for NOT attending tonight’s M-D School Board meeting... I’m sure this process has been frustrating for you and the families, but I anticipate you’ll all reach a resolution, shortly.
As always, please feel free to contact me,
Jason


While we impatiently wait for MDCPS to figure themselves out, we are also preparing legal action, in case they don't. They have two weeks from yesterday. Either way, we know everything is from Hashem and ultimately for the best! Please keep CHAP in mind in your prayers, for revealed good.

Student Options:
Wednesdays 1:50-4:15 at Chabad Chayil
Wednesdays 4:30-6:00 at Chabad Chayil
Monday-Thursday (2 or 4 day option) at Ninja Lounge
Student Temporary Option:
For parents that need a daily option urgently, please contact Layah at 786-597-6771. Some of our teachers are able to provide you with a private service at different locations while this gets sorted out.

Building Update:
We are done with zoning, site plan, fire, WASA & Derm; now pushing as hard as we can to move through permitting. They are hopeful to be permit ready in 4 months. If you know anyone that would like to name the campus or a room, or someone who can help in any way, please let us know.

While we know with certainty that this temporary challenge is really from Hashem, with the end result being of tremendous benefit to the community.. this temporary challenge is costing CHAP upwards of an extra $50,000 per month! If you know of any person or foundation that can help CHAP through this crisis, please let us know. You can also participate by joining the Founders or Chai Club.

We appreciate all your help and patience while we overcome this challenge.



Update Friday, Aug 23: 
Senator Jason Pizzo is on it, negotiating on behalf of CHAP. He is confident that the entire issue will be resolved within a week. They are asking that we hold off with calling county officials for the next week. 
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If you are in a position that can help in any way, please reach out to rabbi@chabadchayil.org asap!
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MDCPS has still not rescinded their draconian decision to deny 500 Miami-Dade County children the use of school facilities for CHAP programming (200 now don’t have access to their daily CHAP programming) without reasonable cause.

For the past 11 years, CHAP has been serving hundreds of community children with love and dedication, adhering to, and going well above all school guidelines. 

What Have We Done

  • We reached out to every person we can think of in the school system, to at least open a discussion with us. They've completely ignored multiple letters, emails, voice messages and personal messages.

  • We are evaluating our legal options, as the school system is clearly discriminating against CHAP, as we followed all guidelines and requirements set forth by the school.

  • We are exploring scores of venues to temporarily host CHAP. This task is more daunting than we expected, due to the licensing process and the unexpected expense. We are still looking for more options. 

  • We are in contact with DCF & TCT to help us (slightly) quicken the licensing process of a new location.

  • We signed up to speak at the School Board meeting on Sept 4.

We URGENTLY Need Everyone's Help!

1. We must find a suitable temporary venue in Dade county to host CHAP immediately.

2. We need to get MDCPS to rescind their decision so that we have a viable solution for the remainder of the year.

3. It’s clear that we need to get our own building up asap, to ensure the continued educational excellence of CHAP. It's now a super must!

 

What You Can Do

  • Use any influence you may have to help accomplish the above three items.

  • Write a letter to (and call) whomever you think can make a difference. If you can send us a copy, that would be appreciated. 

  • We're open to suggestions.

 

When Did This All Start?

In early 2017 there was an 'anonymous' complaint that a religious program was taking place in the public schools and in March of that year, an inspector for the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) visited us with some questions. We happened to mention it to a friend of ours, Mr. Bob Stok, who graciously offered to speak to them, as an attorney, on our behalf and makes sure all was in order. We were never concerned and glad to cooperate with the investigation, as we adhered to every requirement put forth by school officials, and thought that was the end of the matter and it was all behind us., 

On June 26 of this year, Mr. Stok got a delivery of a 148 page draft report, filled with allegations against us.  We were given two weeks to respond. My father passed away on that day and I wouldn't be able to respond within the timeframe, so they gave us a two week extension.

It turns out the wild allegations in the OIG’s draft report are completely frivolous.

Our attorney submitted a response to all the allegations raised in the OIG’s draft and highlighted how the draft report raises some serious questions about the investigation and its motivations. 

Despite the OIG having not yet issued a report, we were notified this past Thursday afternoon, by CFO Ron Steiger, on behalf of MDCPS, that they will not allow us to continue to use their facilities. MDCPS knew very well that it takes a minimum of 90 days just to get a new facility licensed, but they chose to notify us a single business day before schools starts of the denial of use of their facilities.

We don’t know why the community has to go through this, but we are certain that everything is ultimately from Hashem and for the good, and that we will come out of this only stronger!

 

Additional information on the investigation  

CHAP Background:

Prior to expandinging  to public schools property, Chabad Chayil ran an independent once or twice per week Hebrew School. Some years programing ran out of Hillel Day School and some years out of Chabad Chayil’s facilities. 


Chabad Chayil began CHAP (Community Hebrew Afterschool Program) programming inside the public school in August of 2008 with 7 children. It slowly grew and by the school year’s end there were 27 children. Today CHAP has 200 children in the daily program, and serves approximately 500 on a weekly basis, through its different clubs and afterschool activities. 


Investigation Background:
In March of 2017 CHAP was visited by an inspector for the OIG (Office of Inspector General) who had some questions on how the program is run. We answered all his questions and asked what this was all about. He explained that there was an anonymous complaint and they were just following up, but everything looked fine and we have nothing to worry about.

When mentioning the visit to a friend of ours, Mr. Bob Stok, an attorney, he suggested that he give them a call, to see what was going on. They told him that they can’t confirm or deny any investigation. He told them that should they have any further questions, they should call him as he would be representing CHAP. A few months later they did in fact contact him and asked for CHAP paperwork and another interview. CHAP gladly obliged, opening all their books and made themselves available to answer any questions. 

On June 26, 2019, Mr. Stok received a delivery of a 148 page draft report, filled with a myriad of allegations against CHAP. The following is a synopsis of the claims and the actual facts. 


Claim: Chabad Chayil manipulated the system to get CHAP into the public schools.


Fact: Recognizing the need for a Hebrew after school program, CHAP contacted their school board representative, who advised them that the proper person to speak to was the new principal of the under-construction Aventura Waterways K-8 school, Mr. Luis Bello. He said that it was the principal who was in charge of each school and only the principal who can determine what programs would be beneficial to their student body. CHAP called Mr. Bello and, shortly after, met him in person in his makeshift lawn office, on the lawn of the under construction AWK-8, sometime in 2007. 

Mr. Bello seemed very happy with what he heard and with  the additional cultural and language programming CHAP would provide, he saw the benefit to the community and his school. He graciously agreed to help CHAP file the proper paperwork to get the program going. 



Claim: Chabad Chayil filled out the wrong paperwork—a Temporary Use Agreement—year after year.


Fact: CHAP never asked for a Temporary Use Agreement or any specific agreement. CHAP simply filed the paperwork it was given by Mr. Bello. 

To be fair, Mr. Bello clearly said that this was his first time doing anything like this and he would speak to the Facility Use office to find out what we need to do to  get the program going. It seems it was the Facility Use office who advised Mr. Bello as to which forms to file. 

Regarding ‘Temporary Use’, Mr. Bello did make CHAP renew our contract several times per year. Each time CHAP had to have a meeting with the principal to determine if they will renew the agreement. CHAP would have welcomed a longer term arrangement but the school kept the arrangement temporary. 

Either way, it was MDCPS who decided which forms to fill out, not CHAP. 



Claims: Chabad Chayil circumvented the system by not filling out an RFP to operate in the public schools. 


Fact: The OIG’s Draft Report was the first time Chabad Chayil are heard anything about placing an RFP. Chabad Chayil met regularly with the principal (multiple times a year), since before the AWK8 school even opened, and not once did he or anyone at any representative say anything about an RFP.

The report attempts to paint a picture of Chabad Chayil deceptively opening an afterschool program, “circumventing” the system, an allegation which is baseless and in conflict with the facts. Chabad Chayil told MDCPS exactly what they wanted to open and the MDCPS told Chabad Chayil exactly how to go about it. The Temporary Use Agreement was not a scheme that Chabad Chayil invented. Chabad Chayil followed the guidance from school officials and was clear and completely upfront about how it would be used for an Hebrew after-school program



Claim: Chabad Chayil was not licensed prior to 2014.


Fact: As far as operating without a licence, we have to assume the report is referring to licensing under DCF.

CHAP is highly rated by all entities who have inspected it since its inception in 2008. Project Rise, The Children's Trust and The Advocacy Network of Disabilities have all monitored our program. Until 2014, many organizations were allowed to operate aftercare programs under children's trust with DCF exemptions. Chabad Chayil actually has a documented DCF exemption! As soon as Chabad Chayil was notified that the Children's Trust wanted all their programs to be fully licensed under DCF, Chabad Chayil applied and received DCF licensing. Chabad Chayil is in full compliance with DCF and have a perfect score with them.



Claim: Chabad Chayil failed DCF’s initial inspection 


Fact: Chabad Chayil never failed a DCF inspection. The inspection the draft report may be referring to was a pre-inspection that was arranged through The Children's Trust, by DCF in Tallahassee, specifically for their programs that had previously operated using DCF exemptions.

It mentions four reasons for Chabad Chayil failing this pre-inspection (it is worth noting, it is a 63 point inspection, of which only four areas needed correcting). The first item that the report says we failed was the fire inspection. It was actually MDCPS that failed the fire safety inspection, reflecting outstanding fire safety violations. Chabad Chayil being housed there, needed it corrected. Chabad Chayil tried to get a copy of a good inspection from the school multiple times, without success. Chabad Chayil finally got their own fire inspection, doing their own fire drills and getting just the classrooms and areas used by Chabad Chayil inspected. The other three items, missing credentials, etc., were all resolved within two weeks when Chabad Chayil passed inspection. In fact, they were not even required yet, as it took place on Aug 12, before the school year started. Chabad Chayil’s annual First Aid and CPR class for CHAP staff, usually takes place the Sunday before school starts. According to the DCF inspector, most organizations fail on their first inspection, and it generally takes much longer than two weeks to get everything corrected. 



Claim: Chabad Chayil violated the Jennifer Lunsford Act, by not background screening its staff. 


Fact: Chabad Chayil did NOT violate the Jessica Lunsford Act and did in fact do background screenings on their staff. If indeed MDCPS principals were supposed to get a copy of background checks, before allowing the programming to proceed that is a question for them. In any case, the school should not be required to ask for it, as that is the entire point of the Jessica Lunsford Act, every organization needs to take responsibility for background screening their staff. 

Being a Children's Trust funded program, Chabad Chayil was inspected several times per year, and compliance with background screenings of staff is one of the items in the inspection. 

In addition to doing a level two background screening on each staff member, Chabad Chayil also conducted interviews, checked with previous employers, checked potential staff social media accounts and only hired staff deemed top quality educators. Chabad Chayil never had an issue with any of their staff. 



Claim: Chabad Chayil staff wore the wrong ID Badges. 


Fact: Chabad Chayil staff wore ID’s (that identifies them as CHAP staff) that the principal asked they wear,.  If there is a different ID that the school wanted Chabad Chayil staff to wear, they just had to mention it. 



Claim: There's a disconnect between MDCPS administration 


Fact: That is not Chabad Chayil’s concern and certainly can’t be held against them.



Claim: Chabad Chayil missed the word ‘religion’ in their non-discrimination statement on our website.


Fact: That was an oversight. And was immediately upon notification fixed (the text was likely borrowed from somewhere else). 

Despite the word mistakenly missing, no one was ever discriminated against based on their religion or anything else for that matter. 

The irony that a religious organization is frivolously being singled out for investigation because the word “religion” was missing from their non-discrimination statement seems to be completely lost on the OIG’s office.



Claim: AWK8 principal, Mr. Louis Bello mentioned that on several occasions he informed Chabad Chayil about classrooms being left in a messy condition or a wrapper left on the floor. 


Fact: Whenever there were concerns raised by Mr. Bello they were addressed and satisfactorily resolved  immediately. Chabad Chayil always followed it up with a staff meeting and did everything they can to ensure that there would be no issue in the future.

It’s important to note that no teacher likes to have any afterschool program or any other program besides their own in their classroom. That's very understandable, as they like to leave their classrooms all ready for the next day. 

It’s also important to note that after a full day of school, after school hours are the most difficult in a child’s day. Notwithstanding that, AWK8 staff would often say how they would prefer our afterschool program than any of the other after school activities, including the schools own aftercare. It should also be noted that many of the children we are servicing have special needs and many children would enroll in our program after they were withdrawn from AWK8 aftercare due to behavior infractions. We have a team of teachers who are professionals, with years of experience in special education.

As per request of Mr. Bello, despite the fee waiver and although we did not receive clean classrooms, Chabad Chayil paid the school for a custodian for three or four hours daily. 

Although we did not serve snacks inside the class, and only hired exceptional staff, Chabad Chayil always took responsibility for any of Mr. Bellos claims and did whatever they could to rectify them. Chabad Chayil made a point of showing appreciation to host teachers with care packages and if a pencil or something else went missing, it was always replaced with several more. 

Chabad Chayil directors would often inspect the rooms personally to make sure that classrooms were left better than they were received. 

Chabad Chayil also hired two of Mr. Bello’s teachers as support staff, to assure all school rules were being strictly adhered to. 


Claim: Chabad Chayil had a certain individual who works for MDCPS aggressively advocate on their behalf. 


Fact: Sometimes Chabad Chayil would place a call or send an email to the principal or the district offices with no response for days. Chabad Chayil would then call the school board member whose district this school belongs, to see if he can help. From what we understood this was what he was specifically elected to do - help the community. 



Claim: Rabbi Kievman is a liar, since when asked how Chabad Chayil was funded, RK mentioned The Children's Trust as funding a large part of it. The OIG says they investigated it and discovered that Chabad Chayil was not funded by TCT prior to 2014.


Fact: Rabbi Kievman did NOT lie. Chabad Chayil was funded and inspected by the Children’s Trust, though it wasn’t under the name Chabad Chayil. Until December of 2013 Chabad Chayil operated as a subcontractor of a school in North Miami Beach called Neytz Hachochma. While Chabad Chayil was not the primary contractor until December of 2013 the Children's Trust  inspected Chabad Chayil and funded its program as a subcontractor for several years before that. So Chabad Chayil was absolutely funded and inspected by TCT. 



Claim: (and perhaps the most preposterous one in the draft report!) Chabad Chayil defrauded the school of $1.3 million, by filling out a school fee waiver and not paying MDCPS proper rent, which would add up to $1.3 million. 


Fact: The way the OIG’s office calculates rental fees are very mysterious. In a conversation with Mr. Scott Sapperstein, the then principal at VABHOE, at the start of the Chabad Chayil program at VABHOE, he explained that he was exploring other after school options that would pay the school $5 per child per month. Chabad Chayil agreed to pay the school the same amount and did so every month. So they may be referring to an agreement Chabad Chayil made with AWK8 principal, Mr. Louis Bello, when they requested to use the classrooms five days per week instead of two. Mr. Bello agreed to sign the Facility Use Fee Waiver, only if Chabad Chayil agreed to not charge for the program (he stated that otherwise the rental fees would be $75 an hour per classroom—it’s unclear whether that is even legal arbitrarily without proper process, etc.) we agreed to not charge for any programs we did inside the school. 

It’s worth noting that there is no MDCPS rule against third party entities, such as Chabad Chayil, charging for programs utilizing school property for free.

There was a nominal one time fee of $100 (now $120) which included registration, books and all supplies, to avoid parents having the hassle of  shopping for another whole list of school supplies. This was something that parents could decline.  

It’s important to note that no child was ever turned away because of their lack of ability to pay, even the minimal $39 snack fee. We always accepted any child, even if they never paid or donated a single cent. Although the cost of teachers and of running the program amounted to a hefty sum, we never charged for any of the programs taking place inside the school. It’s also important to note that 1) As per principal rules, the snacks were not served inside of MDCPS classrooms 2) The snack fee has been dropped over a year ago, since it's been raised (for the first time) as a concern through this investigation


  • Our rationale was that Public school is also free, yet it charges for books and meals

https://newsroom.ocde.us/the-20-fees-public-schools-can-legally-charge/


Claim: Chabad Chayil charged for Story Hour at AWK8 


Fact: Story hour did not take place at AWK8. Mr. Bello did not allow it to, since school teachers needed their rooms until 3:00 to prepare for class (Story Hour was until 3:00). We believe he even hand wrote it on the application that we can’t use the facility until after 3:00.



Claim: Chabad Chayil charged a $130 monthly fee for transportation. 


Fact: That is true. Chabad Chayil charged $130 monthly for pick-up from other schools (discounted for siblings and transported children regardless of their ability to pay). We don’t recall any stipulation that Chabad Chayil can’t charge for transportation. In the past Chabad Chayil worked with VIP & Marias Transportation (Chabad Chayil has also negotiated with other companies) and they all charged more. But the real problem was that the vendors were not very reliable. Chabad Chayil finally decided to do transportation themselves and also save parents money. The $130 asking fee wasn’t only equal or less than what parents were paying before, but most importantly, it was reliable. 

In any case, it’s also a charge that Chabad Chayil did not enforce and that Chabad Chayil rarely collected. 

In this case as well, it’s important to note that Chabad Chayil sent a copy of their registration form with the entire price breakdown to MDCPS CFO, Mr. Ron Steiger, over a year ago, asking if there was anything they should change and requesting his approval. Although Chabad Chayil never received  a written approval, they didn’t receive any suggestions or requests for changes.



Claim: Chabad Chayil paid nothing for use of the school property.


Fact: In addition to application fees (which Mr. bello made Chabad Chayil fill out several times per year), Chabad Chayil paid the salary of a custodian at AWK8 and a monthly fee per student at VABHOE, equal to what they would receive from other after school programs. Chabad Chayil also supported the school with purchasing banner ads, calendar ads, family funday sponsorships and staff breakfasts. 

Chabad Chayil also carried a two million dollar insurance policy for each school we had programs in. 


Bottom Line: Whomever wrote this report was either incompetent in their investigative skills or completely biased. 1) It is 148 pages repeating the same thing over and over again. 2) Whenever there is something nice to say, eg “the OIG interviewed others who did not at all feel pressured"... it’s in a small footnote on the bottom, turning it from an honest report, to a prosecution.  3) They left out critical information that Chabad Chayil supplied them with, just to make their case. 

For example, they missed out that as per request of the principal Chabad Chayil paid the salary of a custodian at AWK-8. Or that Chabad Chayil paid VABHOE a monthly fee per student, to make up for what the school would have made if they would have been in their own program. Or that Chabad Chayil has been paying MDCPS since this investigation. Or that at the request of the principal Chabad Chayil paid for ads, staff breakfasts and arranged for staff league t-shirts and anything else requested of them. 

It also fails to mention the programs Chabad Chayil had at Krop, ATM & FIU MAST where Chabad Chayil didn’t charge any book fee, snacks or for anything.  

 

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