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Documents indicate that Friends of King CEO didn’t sign contracts with family members

Friends of King Schools has provided contracts showing that CEO Doris Roché-Hicks didn’t sign employment agreements for three of her relatives, apparently clearing her from one set of legal concerns. But discrepancies between different versions of the same documents raise questions about their integrity.

Officials with the public charter-school system did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the variation between copies of contracts and the originals, nor did they confirm that some campus leaders who signed the contracts were authorized by the charter board to do so.

Roché-Hicks employs six relatives at Friends of King’s two schools. Three are considered immediate family; the employment of two of them appears to violate state ethics law.

One law bars the leaders of public agencies from hiring their immediate relatives unless one of several specific exemptions applies. Another law bans any public servant from participating in a financial transaction involving the public agency and an immediate family member.

That second law means that even if the employment of Roché-Hicks’ sister, daughter and son-in-law is allowed, Roché-Hicks would not have been allowed to sign their employment contracts.

The Lens asked for those relatives’ contracts, and it appears that Roché-Hicks avoided that secondary legal entanglement on the contracts provided. The first matter of employing immediate family members remains an open issue.

The Lens’ original request, for copies of those contracts, was submitted the day we published a story about Roché-Hicks’ relatives. Later, The Lens asked to review the originals. State public-records law enables citizens to see originals and request copies.

Not all copies match the originals in various ways, but the signatures are consistent.

The contracts show signatures by the charter board president, the high school principal and the district’s human-resources manager, but their names are not printed below the signature line, as is common on other employment contracts reviewed by The Lens.

Roché-Hicks did not sign any contracts for her relatives, based on the documents provided. However, school officials did not provide copies of employment contracts for the current year.

The Friends of King school board runs Dr. King Charter School in the Lower 9th Ward and Joseph A. Craig Charter School in Treme.

Contracts raise questions

Copies of employment contracts for Roché-Hicks’ relatives, which The Lens requested on Aug. 9 and received Aug. 26, were in some cases different from original contracts for relatives that we reviewed on Sept. 4.

For instance, a copy of the 2012-13 contract for Lawrence Cook III, the brother of Roché-Hicks’ son-in-law, shows that King principal Lindsey Moore signed and wrote by hand a date of July 9, 2012.

But the document provided as the original, inspected and photographed by a reporter, has Moore’s signature and two rubber-stamped dates of Aug. 22, 2011 — nearly a year before the contract would have gone into effect. Cook works as a janitor at Craig school; board officials did not respond to requests for comment on why a principal at one campus would sign the contract for an employee at another.

The same set of double-stamped dates also appears next to Moore’s signature on the contract for Darrin Cook Sr. for the 2011-12 school year. He’s Roché-Hicks’ son-in-law.

The Lens received no response when we asked Friends of King officials to explain which school officials are authorized to sign contracts. Typically, a board must authorize people to sign contracts that bind the board.

Nothing in the law prevents Roché-Hicks from signing the employment contract for her son-in-law’s brother because he isn’t considered her immediate family member.

That’s not the only instance in which copies don’t match originals.

A copy of a 2007-08 employment offer letter for Roché-Hicks’ sister, Iris Roché-Ponson, bears the printed name of Friends of King human resources manager Judy Collins, but Collins didn’t sign the letter. However, Collins’ signature was present on the original offer letter, which the Lens reviewed more than a week later.

Friends of King officials also provided The Lens with what they say were the original 2006-07 contracts for Cook Sr. and Roché-Ponson. Their addresses are blacked out in marker. Board officials did not respond to inquiries asking whether it’s standard practice to mark up original documents.

On another document presented as an original, that of Darrin Cook Sr.’s 2007-08 employment offer letter, his signature has been covered over with Wite-Out.

Mismatched copies and originals, as well as marked-over originals, raise questions about the integrity of the documents provided. It’s a crime to alter public records.

Board attorney Tracie Washington, who serves as the media contact for the board, provided all of the public records. But board president Young is ultimately responsible for all operations of the board.

Because no school official would say who typically signs contracts, The Lens filed another records request and examined 24 randomly selected employment contracts.

Roché-Hicks signed 13, for Craig and King employees.

Moore signed five; on two of those, he penned his signature above Roché-Hicks’ printed name. Moore signed contracts for both King and Craig employees, although Ora Wiley is Craig’s principal.

Friends of King board President Hilda Young signed five contracts for central office, King and Craig employees. On three of those contracts, she signed her name above Roché-Hicks printed name.

Daughter’s contracting work not fully documented

On disclosures filed with the state Ethics Board, Roché-Hicks wrote that her daughter, Monique Hicks-Cook, was employed on Jan. 7, 2013. Friends of King provided a 2012-13 contract to The Lens with a Jan. 8, 2013 start date. Hicks-Cook works with special-education students at Craig.

However, a memo dated two months before that, on Nov. 27, 2012, obtained by The Lens asks teachers to notify Hicks-Cook before recommending that an in-school suspension be given to a special-needs student.

When The Lens pointed this out to Washington and reiterated its request for all original employment contracts and agreements for relatives, Washington provided a copy of an engagement agreement, dated Aug. 1, 2012, that contracted with Hicks-Cook as a special education consultant. Board President Young, not Roché-Hicks, signed the agreement.

The engagement agreement was for three months; Washington provided no documents to show that Hicks-Cook’s consulting contract was extended, though the in-school suspension memo shows she was involved in decisions at Craig four months after the start date. Informed by email of this lack of documentation, Young did not respond.

Hicks-Cook’s work as a contractor for Friends of King appears to qualify for an exemption to a law that otherwise says she couldn’t work at a school system where her relatives are employed. It makes an exception for people hired “for professional services for an elementary or secondary school.”

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About Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her reporting on charter school transparency and governance. In 2012, she was part of a team that received a National Edward R. Murrow Award for their work following a New Orleans family's recovery after Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Edna Karr Secondary School in Algiers, and she obtained her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. She can be reached at (504) 575-8191.

  • nickelndime

    Somebody is going to get indicted, but who? I am not talking about ethics violations and/or fines. That can be blown off easily in this state. But, can Doris still actually hold a pen? And what about Hilda?

  • nickelndime

    And oh yeah, here’s an analogy 4 u. Doris is to da Lower 9th as wat Kathy is to da Uptown (both of dem come up thru da ranks of da corrupt OPSB). Doris:Lower 9th; Kathy:Uptown. Sooner or later, one of dem is going to NOT be able to hold da pen. Den what?!! Wat is dat called? Survival of da fittest? Or survival of da corruptest?

  • This looks like the same type of people involved in the WHITE PORSCHE COVER UP where a NOPD officer died in a hit and run on the high rise during the the 2013 Essence Fest.

    Could be a lot of scissor cutting, copy and paste of just the signature portion from OLD contracts onto/over NEW contracts and then give a photo copy.

  • Jessica Simpson

    Jessica, you did not find what you are looking for ??? 1) Everything that was done is legal. You should educate yourself on the law, 2) What about the other schools ? Why are you focusing on THIS school ? 3) Everything was done is and was legal. A blind man can see that you are picking on this staff. You should take your poor writing to a school’s newspaper. Who made you a lawyer ? You are setting yourself up for failure. Indicted ??? GIVE ME A BREAK. Maybe, Jessica for harassment Hilda and Doris are very intelligent woman who has been in this business for a long time. Do your research, NickIndime. LOL, AhContraire, why would you compare a murder of a police officer to a school coverage??? SHAME ON YOU !!!.
    Since Jessica is the ONLY black reporter, she was used to attempt to get back at Attorney Tracey Washington. But, you failed again. You should obtain your facts before reporting B.S. Its obvious that you don’t have a life and your mission is to aggravate The Friends of King District. As a parent of the lower nine, we have an excellent leader and school. We are here to STAY. Young girl, you should get a life. What a waste of nothing. I have never read an article from any other online gossip board uploading documents. The proper term of a janitor is a custodian. You should have learned that at Karr. Additionally, we know the person who is setting you up for failure. See you on a weekly basis at King.

  • Jessica Simpson

    Kudos to The Friends of King. When people constantly publish lies about you, you are doing something right. Young girl, you are wasting your time with this excellent district. Attorney Washington is not a person to play with. She knows that law and you are setting yourself up for FAILURE. You have been parading to the school on a daily basis looking for something. You remind me of a mouse looking for cheese. Young girl, help the police officers investigate the murders of babies. Maybe go and volunteer in a soup kitchen. Someone is using you, young girl. Let me provide you with a few details about The Friends of King: 1) The only two high school graduating classes received full scholarships. Please write on their success stories. 2) This district received millions of dollars and grants that are being used for tutoring. Report on that, young girl, 3) The mentoring programs have received national recognition,. 4) The dual enrollment programs are great and many many many many more things. As mush as you are at the school, you should know this. Again, why are you concentrating on the FOKS. Someone must have ruffed your feathers. Young girl, you are messing with the wrong people. Dr. Hicks, Hilda Young and Tracey Washington have been in this game longer than you have been on earth. People ask these great women for guidance on a daily basis. These senseless articles reminds me about black on black crime. You are a black reporter (Only Black Reporter) with The Lens and you are making out dog crap on this fine district. I’m pretty sure you have plenty things you should write on. Hey, what about writing on how the staff at MLK gutted the school out after katrina. Or, maybe write on the student who passed away on last year. Young girl, it saddens me that you are going to extreme to sabotage this school and district. You really don’t have a life. Isn’t stalking a crime ? Or you obsessed with the school ? Do you want to work for this great school ? Many people have noted that your behavior is not normal. Again, you are NOT AN ATTORNEY. Stay in your lane. Also, DR. HICKS DOES NOT EMPLOY ANYBODY. THE FRIENDS OF KING DOES THE HIRING. THIS IS GETTING SO COMICAL. Again, its legal for ALL staff members to work there. YOU ARE NOT AN ATTORNEY…….SEEK COUNSEL BEFORE YOU WRITE.

  • Jessica Simpson


  • Jessica Simpson

    All of this writing and the Karr graduate still can’t get a REAL story. LOLLOLLOLLLOLLLOL

  • Jessica Simpson

    Judge Calvin Johnson, as Board President of The Lens, do you read this crap ????

  • Lower Nine

    What a waste of news ???? The Friends of King must be doing something right. Jessica is obsessed with The Friends of King School District. She makes a weekly visit to MLK. Sad…………………………..

  • Lower Nine

    Comparing this story to the murder of a police officer. AhContraire, shame on you. Kudos to The Friends of King. Jessica’s focus is on the FOKS. Who pissed you off from there ? Also, we know who is providing you with this crap. In your spare time, please learn the law.

  • Lower Nine

    Kudos to The Friends of King, Attorney Tracey Washington, The Board, The staff and students. YOU ALL ARE DOING A GREAT JOB !!!!! FALL BACK, JESSICA !!!!

  • nolaanon80

    Ha ha.

  • Jessica Williams

    Hello, Jessica Simpson.

    Can you point out to me, specifically, what was incorrect in the reporting?


  • The comparison is to the COVER UP, not the hit and run.
    The documents appear to have been altered AFTER the fact
    …which can mean a COVER UP.

  • The comparison is to the COVER UP, not the hit and run or murder.
    The documents appear to have been altered AFTER the fact
    …which can mean a COVER UP.

    “The proper term of a janitor is a custodian. “
    So garbage man should be sanitation worker?
    If you are so worried about how one should refer to people’s jobs, what about EBONICS?
    Sounds very contradictory….as well as MISLEADING to the person on how great their job is compared to their job title.

  • Young girl, you are messing with the wrong people. Dr. Hicks, Hilda
    Young and Tracey Washington have been in this game longer than you have
    been on earth. People ask these great women for guidance on a daily
    basis. These senseless articles reminds me about black on black crime.

    And what have these so called great women done for the black community for the last 20-30 years? Before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Public Schools was the worst in the nation and has produced the NOLA you see today where 30% of City Hall needed to take remedial courses ( and the NOPD appeared to be the employer of last resort. (–103454464.html)

    And the DA complained publicly on how slow police reports by the NOPD were done.

    And if you connect the dots with the “employer of last resort” and “30% remedial courses” you may come to the opinion that many were not functionally literate. In other words, perhaps they could not read or write? In other words, could many of these aforementioned be a product of the New Orleans Public Schools and perhaps these GREAT WOMEN?

  • Aconcernedcitizen

    Keep up the great work, Ms Williams!!!! Corruption, coverups, nepotism and wrongdoing is WRONG no matter the “color” that’s doing it. And just because you are an African American journalist does not mean you can not report on issues that happen to be done by other African Americans, good or bad!!!

    Jessica Simpson sounds a whole lot like Tracey Washington to me. She can’t be too intelligent in public law when she refuses to “notice” the public meetings, especially once the Media requested. And her racial comments and calling a reporter “white boy” at a public meeting is outright WRONG! If you, Ms Williams, attended Lusher’s meeting and they did to you what Tracey did the white reporter…..TRACY WOULD BE SCREAMING IN THE MEDIA FOR HER OWN SELF ATTENTION!!!!!

  • geomeo

    I always get suspicious about the motivations of “commenters “whenever I am asked to choose sides in a repy forum. It seems like many have an axe to grind ! The “comments”section for this report is riddled with name and finger pointing, threats and personal attacks.
    The way I see the issue:
    The report is written in a non judgmental format.
    Clearly there is a paper and document mix up. If it is intentional or not cannot be answered by the “replies by commenters ” in this report.
    I worked at a multitude of NOPS schools before the storm .
    I met a lot of great educators during that time. One of the kindest, caring and most intelligent individuals was Doris Hicks. I will never forget her.
    There was corruption in the huge antique dinosaur that was NOPS, no one will argue that point ( I was glad to see it go down) but the problems were with contractors and the administrative entities that hired them. Yes ,there were corrupt individual fiefdom schools run by questionable principals who may have been appointed by questionable and oft changing superintendents for various reasons…that is a given. A majority of the educators (actual people who looked daily into the faces of children as opposed to remote number $ crunchers) were great,intelligent people who cared! Doris Hicks, in my opinion, was an outstanding educator with a flawless character.
    All Charter schools should be accountable for their paper work. Charter schools, especially not the Kipp or other “big ” experienced ones that have come to the trough with large system managements in place, are fighting their way through the unbelievable myriad of constantly changing State and Fed. regulations.
    I will not judge this article or its author for the reporting as biased ,as some commenters have pointed fingers ,nor will I judge Friends of King , as some commenters have pointed fingers, as corrupt.
    Real corruption( theft of $ and cheating) can be exposed as evidence when reported by The Lens in its document drops of all charters.
    I support The Lens in its efforts across the board.

  • nickelndime

    So much corruption, so little time, and one staff “educational” reporter (Jessica Williams)! (separate and apart from the group of LENS reporters referred to as the Charter School Reporting Staff). These reporters basically come into a board meeting (mostly unattended by the “public”) and report on the OBVIOUS (generally, missing the hidden agendas and the backroom wheeling and dealing that goes on in advance of the dog-and-pony show). School administrators (now called CEOs) and nonprofit boards have been allowed and encouraged to fine tune their act at great public expense and have (1) Become extremely suave and smooth with an attorney on retainer, or (2) Claim to be innocent and/or ignorant of any wrongdoing and should be excused for any mistakes they might make – now and in the future. It is true that once in a while, one of these reporters (e.g. Marta Jewson) will uncover agressive wrongdoing and/or misspending (e.g. legal fees, board members emailing each other, open meetings violations – Lycee, New Beginnings), but by and large, it would appear that all of these charter schools (RSD, OPSB, Type 2…) are model schools. NOT SO! As for the OPSB and what it was (it is not that much different now – remember $uave and $mooth), there were many principals who came into “being” because OPSB was what it was – CORRUPT. What I said is that some of these individuals are still administrators and/or have become the principals on these nonprofit charter boards. It doesn’t pass the smell test. Is what has been going on only unethical and/or missteps, or is it indictable?

  • Tom Ford

    If anyone had common sense, they can see that this S_ _ t is personal. It saddens that this girl took all of this time to get no where. No, The Ethics Board is not investigating this district. You see, Washington pissed the editor off with The Lens. In my opinion, this is his way of attempting to get back at her. Yep, by using this innocent school. But, Washington is too smart and I hope a lawsuit will be filed soon against this crap of news. Since Jessica was the only black reporter, she was used. This girl visited King School on almost a daily basis. Yes, I agree that this behavior is not normal at all. I don’t think Jessica knew what her mission was. She never reported anything about the relatives with ReNew and other schools. Maybe, because this is a white charter school. Jessica was used to attempt to defame this school. She writes these stories and post them like they are going to hit CNN. Child, if you keep writing like this, your career will be with The Lens. I’m pretty sure Jessica will be sent again to the school by a supervisor. Sometimes you have to be smart enough to make wise decisions.
    I commend The Friends of King School District and their board for an outstanding job. This district is built on a solid foundation that can’t be broken at all. Jessica can run to the school daily, but you will never get anywhere. I suggest that you place your energy on positive things and your future. Writing crap like this will hurt you in the long haul. Additionally, we all know the person who tried to provide you with dog crap. Jessica, you play with fire and you can get burn. The leaders with The Friends of King is too smart for you. It saddens me that you attempt to visit their homes and track them down on their vacations. This behavior is a sign of a stalker. Do you want a job with The Friends of King ? Are you fascinated with Attorney Tracey Washington ? This is not normal behavior of a young girl. I really feel sorry for you. You are young and have been used. Please use your own mind and move on to REAL NEWS. You have made a d_ _m fool of yourself.

  • Tia Love

    wowterrible, please obtain your facts before you start posting. Everything you have stated are LIES… FOKS for LIFE…..WE ARE HERE TO STAY.