WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (KUTV) — In a dramatic move, the Utah State Charter School Board ordered Vanguard Academy to replace all seven members of its school board. In addition, the USBE will appoint a temporary director to work with the current director.
Vanguard is affiliated with the Kingston polygamist group, known as “The Order.” In a 2020 investigation, Crisis in the Classroom revealed the school regularly hires Kingston-connected businesses and pays them with taxpayer dollars. We found the board is made up almost entirely of Kingston family members. We also found that a Kingston-related business owner won the school’s lucrative contract to feed the students.
Jennifer Lambert, executive director of the USCSB, laid out a litany of Vanguard’s violations in a staid, but dramatic, board meeting Monday. She said, in addition to the violations discovered by Crisis in the Classroom, Vanguard also routinely violates Utah’s open meeting laws. Lambert said despite efforts to get Vanguard to correct the issues, she said the school never did.
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“They had not resolved it, (repeated issues) they were not making further progress on resolving them,” Lambert said.
Royce Van Tassell, executive director of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools, said Vanguard Academy is an excellent school and that the charter school board is targeting the institution because of polygamy.
"The message that they sent to the polygamist community in Utah is, you are not welcome in Utah’s public schools,” Van Tassell said. “This is just religious discrimination."
Lambert said religion has nothing to do with the action taken by the USCSB.
“Charter schools cannot be religious schools, charter schools must be nonsectarian,” Lambert said. “We are not basing any of our decisions on religious or any of those outside issues."
Meanwhile, the USCSB will appoint new board members, an acting director, and an acting finance director to work with the existing money manager at the school.
Vanguard is now on probation, and if the issues are not addressed, the school could be shut down. The USCSB will revisit the issue in three months.