Concerned about Haitian youth winding up in the criminal justice system, Pastor Caleb Deliard was inspired to create something to help young people find the right path: a private school called Odyssey Academy.
"I believe that the pathway to success in life is through education," said Deliard, pastor of Victory of Grace Church in Fort Lauderdale and president of the Broward League of Evangelical Pastors.
But, it turns out, he needed a bit of an education himself when it came to Yudit Silva, the woman he said was going to be principal of Odyssey Academy in Tamarac.
Silva had signed an affidavit to help Odyssey get a city permit so it can open, as planned, in September.
And her husband had signed on as a director of the corporation that would own the school.
But a few days after the NBC 6 Investigators showed Deliard an audit of a charter school Silva once led, Pathways Academy Charter School in Lauderdale Lakes, Deliard said he decided to sever ties with Silva.
“Knowing that, I believe that opened my eyes to make sure these things don’t happen to Odyssey Academy,” Deliard said.
The “things” he’s referring to: Under Silva’s leadership, Pathways Academy was found to have falsified teacher’s signatures, misspent money, failed to pay bills and federal payroll taxes, and overstated enrollment figures, receiving nearly $50,000 in overpayments from state funds, according to an audit by the Broward School District.
Citing "financial mismanagement" and violations of law, the school board voted in April 2016 to revoke Pathways’ charter – a decision upheld in January by a state administrative judge after the school appealed. The school ultimately voluntarily relinquished its charter and converted to a private school, which is now closed.
Andrew Ramjit was a Pathways administrator for about two months in 2015 before he quit and reported the abuses to the state.
"Funds were being misused, things weren’t in place for the teachers. It was pandemonium in the school every single day," Ramjit told the NBC 6 Investigators. "Bills weren’t being paid. There was an IRS lien on the school."
Public records and the school’s audit confirmed those allegations and more.
The IRS has filed more than $82,000 in liens against the company that ran the school, Silva of South Florida Inc., claiming it did not properly report or pay payroll taxes, such as amounts withheld from employees’ paychecks and the employer’s portion of social security and Medicare taxes.
Earlier this year, the school was evicted from its Lauderdale Lakes site and Silva of South Florida Inc. was ordered to pay $48,000 in back rent, but it has not done so, according to court records. The state judge who upheld the school’s charter revocation said Silva was president of that company during the relevant time period.
The company and Silva are also being sued for $19,000 by a leasing company that claims they failed to pay all that was owed for computer equipment. Neither the company nor Silva has filed an answer to that complaint.
Asked if the same people who ran Pathways should run another school, Ramjit said, "Absolutely not. I wouldn’t send my children to their school."
Ramjit said children’s education should be the top priority of a school but with Pathways “it was all about the money.”
NBC 6 attempted to reach Silva by calling and messaging phones listed for her and her associates and for a lawyer who represented Pathways in the fight against charter revocation, but no calls or texts were returned. Nor did anyone answer several knocks on the door of Silva’s home, which also serves at the corporate address for Silva of South Florida, Inc.