Inquirer Editorial: Probe turns heads toward School District

Posted: March 04, 2012

A federal fraud investigation that seems to have almost inadvertently put the son of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) under the FBI's microscope may be more important for its revelations about a company with a lucrative contract with the Philadelphia School District.

The office and home of Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr. were searched Wednesday as part of a continuing investigation of Philadelphia lawyer Mikel Jones, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D., Fla.). Jones was convicted in November of defrauding a New York venture capital firm. No allegations of wrongdoing have been made against either of the Fattahs.

Jones told FBI agents that he had hired two companies run by Fattah Jr. to do consulting work, American Royalty and 259 Strategies. The latter firm has been paid $450,000 as a subcontractor for a for-profit company called Delaware Valley High School, which has a $4 million contract with the School District to educate students with disciplinary problems.

The president of Delaware Valley High School isn't an educator, nor is he a childhood-behavior expert. He's David T. Shulick, a very successful personal-injury attorney, who also may be one of the most politically connected people in Philadelphia. Translate that to mean he can be counted on for political donations.

And Shulick is an equal-opportunity donor, giving to Democrats and Republicans alike, typically a sign of someone who knows the importance of relationships. He was on Gov. Corbett's transition team and donated to former Gov. Ed Rendell's campaigns, as well as President Obama's.

The legislature passed a bill in 1999 allowing school districts to contract out their disciplinary programs. In 2000, Shulick was appointed to a state panel that set the guidelines for alternative education. In 2002, his disciplinary school got its first contract, with Bristol Township. The next year, Philadelphia hired him.

The district must be pleased with DVHS, given its $4 million contract. But anyone reading its story can't help but think it's who Shulick knows that got him this gig. And maybe what allows him to keep it. The School District has numerous contracts with outside vendors who never seem to be listed among the cuts when it's trying to fix its perennial budget problems. Why?

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