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State: Roosevelt charter school must separate jobs

State University of New York trustees have approved a new five-year operating permit for Roosevelt Children's Academy Charter School, but have told the board chairman and treasurer they must give up either their positions or school consulting fees.

In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the trustees' Charter School Committee agreed with SUNY staffers that the 536-student school provided high-quality instruction and deserved renewal of its charter. But trustees also stipulated that the school's chairman, Robert Francis, and treasurer, Philip Leconte, could not remain on the board while also accepting more than $140,000 combined in annual fees.

Francis is paid $5,000 a month to oversee the school's land purchases, rezonings and construction. Leconte receives $40 an hour for fiscal and accounting services. The school had noted that the payments were far less than the $487,750 a year formerly awarded a private management firm.

Wednesday, Leconte said board members planned to discuss SUNY's decision next week. "We're going to do what's best for the kids - that's all I can tell you so far," he added.

Francis and his attorney did not return calls seeking comment.

In their critique, SUNY staffers noted that Francis received fees over three years, and was slated to continue getting payments until a planned new high school was built. That project has not yet begun, and is expected to require several years to complete.

A staff report concluded that, on balance, "the conflict of interest is too great for the dual relationship not to be remedied."

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