CHAP Background:

Prior to expanding to public schools property, Chabad Chayil ran an independent once or twice per week Hebrew School. Some years programming 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. 

 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


According to their website, MDCPS only provides snacks for FEE BASED after school programs -   

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.