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Online school fires leaders, counsel

September 20, 2012
By MATTHEW WHITE - Special to the Herald-Star , The Herald-Star

MIDLAND - A Pennsylvania-based online charter school with ties to Calcutta fired much of its top leadership and legal counsel in a move that might be related to an FBI investigation into its finances.

The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School board fired its director, finance director, personnel director, compliance officer and a longtime lawyer after a lengthy meeting Monday evening.

School spokeswoman Jill Valentine told the Beaver County Times she could not say why the officials were released or how they will be replaced, but did confirm that Andrew Oberg, the school's director; Scott Antoline, school finance director; Nancy Yanyanin, school personnel director; and Judy Shopp, compliance officer, were fired by an unanimous vote of the board of directors.

Also dismissed was the Green Tree-based law firm Barry & Worner, which has served as the school's longtime legal counsel.

According to a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "The purge leaves in place school CEO Michael Conti and just one of the four directors who used to report to him. It eliminates one of the two law firms the school leaned on for its legal work."

According to reports, in July officials from the FBI, IRS's Criminal Investigations division and the U.S. Department of Education's Office of the Inspector General Investigation Services conducted searches at several locations in Pennsylvania and Ohio, including the cyber charter school and the National Network of Digital Schools in Beaver, which manages PA Cyber.

The target of the investigation is not clear, although federal officials previously said the school was not a target while collecting financial records involving past and current vendor agreement contracts.

According to its Web site, the school was formed in 2000, under the leadership of Nick Trombetta, who served as superintendent of the Midland Borough School District at the time. Trombetta resigned from his position as CEO of the school at the end of June and was replaced on an interim basis by Conti.

Trombetta founded both the NNDS and the Avanti Management Group in Calcutta, a for-profit consulting service that was served with federal subpoenas as part of the investigation.

According to the Post-Gazette, the school has a total of 10,284 students with around 900 more in the application process, and last year the school graduated nearly 1,300 seniors in what it billed at the largest graduating class in the state.

Pennsylvania Cyber School is a public school that does most of its teaching online and is open to students throughout the state. When a student enrolls, his or her home school is compelled to pay tuition at a similar rate to what it pays per students in its own district.

The board's next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Oct 15 at the school.

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