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Pa. Cyber Charter School board head resigns amid scrutiny

| Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, 3:21 p.m.

The former president of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School's board of trustees said he resigned Thursday because his daughter no longer attends the school, not because he is being investigated by the state Department of Education.

“I just felt there was no reason for me to stay on there. It was time to move on,” David W. Jaskiewicz, 57, of Marshall said, noting he was one of three parents of PA Cyber students appointed to the nine-member board six years ago.

Jaskiewicz, an optometrist, said he and his wife, Cynde Frederick, pulled their daughter out of PA Cyber this week and enrolled her in the Franklin Park-based PA Distance Learning Charter School. Calista Frederick-Jaskiewicz, 17, a senior, went to the Midland-based PA Cyber for 11 years.

“We thought she could be better served elsewhere,” Jaskiewicz said on Friday, citing problems that included the school's handling of his daughter's transcripts.

Those records are at the heart of a Department of Education probe and related internal investigation by PA Cyber, officials say. The investigations began when someone made an anonymous complaint to the Department of Education, which declined to comment.

Conrad O'Brien, a Philadelphia law firm handling the internal investigation, sent notices to PA Cyber employees that directed them not to destroy records related to Frederick-Jaskiewicz.

Citing allegations being investigated by the Department of Education, the law firm's so-called document preservation notice states that the teenager's parents “requested and/or directed that the transcript of their daughter … be altered and/or manipulated.”

Jaskiewicz said his wife kept “meticulous records” of their daughter's grades over the years. The school's records did not match, based on transcripts. Among other problems, Jaskiewicz said the records did not calculate a difference between an A-plus grade or an A-minus but considered them all A grades, affecting his daughter's grade-point average.

“We wanted the records to reflect the grades she received, that's all. We weren't asking them to massage or manipulate anything,” Jaskiewicz said, adding PA Cyber officials agreed with problems they pointed out and made changes.

PA Cyber spokeswoman Christina Zarek said, “That's a determination for the Pennsylvania Department of Education to make.”

A profile of Frederick-Jaskiewicz posted Oct. 3 on PA Cyber's website said she has accumulated more than 60 college credits. Her father said they were obtained through a PA Cyber program called Advanced Placement Alternatives that is co-administered by the Rochester-based National Network of Digital Schools, which provides management services for the charter school. The program allows students to take courses and earn college credits from 37 colleges and universities.

Zarek said participating students can receive scholarships through NNDS to take the courses. Families have to pay extra to get the college credits.

Jaskiewicz announced his resignation in a one-sentence email to other school board members.

“Everyone was sort of taken aback by the resignation,” Zarek said.

Trustees approved the resignation and picked former Center Area School District Superintendent Edward Elder to head the board. Elder did not return a call. His son, Mark, is director of operations at NNDS.

A permanent replacement for Jaskiewicz must be appointed within 30 days, Zarek said.

It's the latest controversy to surround the cyber school, NNDS and related entities founded by Nick Trombetta, 58, of East Liverpool, Ohio.

Trombetta is awaiting trial on an 11-count indictment that accuses him of using the companies to pocket at least $1 million in tax money paid to the charter school. His sister, Elaine Trombetta Neill, 56, of Center admitted this week in federal court that she helped her brother hide money he siphoned.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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