Manuel Alonso-Poch, Would-Be Marine Stadium Savior, Faces Myriad Complaints from Charter School PTSA

Categories: News, Politicks
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Manuel Alonso-Poch
​Manuel Alonso-Poch isn't just one of Miami's best-connected lawyers and a major donor to bigwigs such as Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and his daughter, school board member Raquel Regalado -- he's also been trumpeted lately as the business-savvy savior of the long-threatened Miami Marine Stadium.

So what the heck is going on over at the Academy of Arts & Minds, the Coconut Grove charter school he cofounded in 2003? The academy's Parent Teacher Student Association sent a searing letter last month to Dade officials alleging fraud and malfeasance, including a governing board they say is made up of relatives and lackeys that pays Alonso-Poch inflated rent.

Alonso-Poch says the complaints are hooey: "For a group of misinformed, ignorant parents who don't trust anything to attack my hard work is very offensive."

He started the school from scratch eight years ago with his partner, Ana Renteria, and has built it into an "A" school focused on creative arts. Lately he has earned headlines with a plan to build a marine exhibition center next to the languishing, graffiti-tagged stadium on Virginia Key.

But as Dan Ricker from the Watchdog Report has reported extensively, some parents say they've uncovered troubling practices at the academy, including:

  • a "rubber-stamp" governing board that includes Alonso-Poch's cousin and numerous business associates;
  • a lease that pays Alonso-Poch $86,000 a month for a building worth only $3.4 million;
  • a lucrative food services contract awarded to his own company;
  • tax returns that fudge the school's cash flow.

Alonso-Poch denies the charges and offered to provide Riptide the school's full financial statements. He says his governing board is independent (but admits his cousin holds one seat) and maintains that neither he nor Renteria makes money from the school.

he rent is fair, he says, and the food services contract went through a standard bidding process. "We happened to make the best offer," he says.

What's more, the parents who are complaining don't represent the 450 students at the school, he says. "It's all innuendo and no facts," he says of the letter.

Dade school officials are reviewing the letter. Alonso-Poch says he hasn't heard from investigators yet.

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5 comments
An A&M Parent
An A&M Parent

Thanks, Manny, for helping to prove the parents' point!  The heart of the complaint filed by A&M parents is that Mr. Alonso is exercising control over the charter school's finances and the charter school's employees even though he acts as the landlord and owns the food service provider and is ineligible to serve on the charter school's governing board.   Why, then, would any complaints regarding the charter school's operation have anything to do with his "hard work" or be "offensive" to him?  Why would he claim any responsiblility for a school where he is not on the governing board and is "only" a contractor and landlord?   Mr. Alonso's quotes to the the Miami New Times help illustrate the problem-- Manny seems to think that A&M is "his" school because he helped found it, and he ridicules anyone who dares to question his control.  He also fires anyone who works at the school and criticizes him or asks questions about the school's fnances.    Mr. Alonso was available to talk to the Miami New Times, but he hasn't talked with the parents of students at A&M, including the officers of the PTSA and of the school's booster clubs.  A person who chooses name calling on a website blog instead of talking with the students' parents really shouldn't be in charge of a charter school; such behavior is more typical of a schoolyard bully.  We don't need a bully in charge at A&M, or anywhere else in Miami.  

Anonymoud
Anonymoud

I actually attend A&M and have endured so many problems. I'm actually leaving as a senior now, and to know that many of my principals have left because of him. And not only that, he has scammed children out of money they can't control. It's all a scam to gain more money for himself. 

Scammer
Scammer

This con man gets $86,000 per month from the taxpayers?

Now he wants Miami Mayor Regalado to give him free land or free rent at the Marine Stadium site? Scammer.

Stealing from a school
Stealing from a school

This shyster is getting $86,000 per month rent? For a school.

This needs investigating.

Another crook
Another crook

$86,000 per month? For a building that is really worth $2.5 MILLION or less? Manny Poch is stealing from the taxpayers.

Food service contract?Self-dealing?

Scumbag lawyer.

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