Former charter school CEO cuts plea deal, must pay back money

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- The former CEO of a West Valley charter school was in court Wednesday.

The CEO of the now-shuttered Discovery Creemos Academy, Daniel Hughes, was convicted. He allegedly fled the Valley, following the sudden closure of his charter school.

FOX 10's reports in the wake of the Discovery Creemos Academy's sudden closure quickly zeroed in on the spending habits of Hughes. Now, a plea deal breathes new life into the issue of transparency and oversight of charter schools in Arizona.

Teachers and parents both scrambling in late January, when an email abruptly announced the sudden closure of the charter school. An investigation by FOX 10 later discovered that Hughes moved his family out of their million dollar home just days earlier, and tried to disappear.

Now, the CEO on the run came face to face with his future. The Arizona Attorney General's office announced that Hughes conspired to falsify student profiles, designed to inflate enrollment in order get more money from the Department of Education. A look at the schools expense report from 2016 showed Hughes paid his own administration 43% of the school's budget, well above normal.

The plea agreement shows that Hughes will have to payback at least $2.5 million to the Department of Education. Two issues, however, remain, including oversight, which the State Board has requested more help with regulation.

Another issue is transparency. In the budget shadows of the RedforED walkout, GOP legislators pushed through a small amendment that allows charter schools more privacy with their budgets