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Month after damning story published, IDEA co-founder Torkelson resigns Does CEO have a Golden Parachute?

Did IDEA Public Schools CEO and Co-Founder Tom Torkelson’s big-spending, high-flying ways finally catch up with him, or was it simply his time to walk away from the charter-school empire he helped found 20 years ago? The Advance News Journal submitted a public information request earlier this week, asking for any and all information about the board’s long meeting last Friday (April 17), which reportedly lasted approximately six hours via teleconferencing, and ended up with a “CEO Transition Agreement” between Torkelson and IDEA. Board President Al Lopez sent an email to IDEA’s staff late Friday letting them know that Torkelson had resigned and was set to begin ‘the next chapter of his career.” Also, wrote Lopez: “…the Board has appointed JoAnn Gama, our current President & Superintendent, to be IDEA’s new Chief Executive Officer. That IDEA is making its first leadership transition in 20 years is both a testament to the stability and success of this organization under Tom’s leadership and a reminder that different moments in an organization’s evolution call for different leaders.” What does the “CEO Transition Agreement” include in way of severance and/or benefits? Don’t know, and there is no guarantee we ever will. In fact, in a story published Saturday, April 18, by the nonprofit Rivard Report (San Antonio), Torkelson was asked about his contract. According to Torkelson, he didn’t remember the length of his own contract, or the terms contained therein, and said that he “didn’t have any further details to release at this point.” IDEA has a history of fighting to disclose certain things. Three years ago, The Advance filed a public information request to obtain documents tied to IDEA’s formation of two new limited liability corporations (LLCs). IDEA protested, saying that the information wasn’t subject to public disclosure. The Texas AG sided with this newspaper, saying it was public information. IDEA then filed a lawsuit against the AG and was eventually granted a victory by a Travis County district court judge (the 126 th ) in August of 2018. IDEA could, in fact, shield from public eyes the terms and conditions tied to its creation USA LLC and IPS Enterprises LLC. In a story published April 8 by the Texas Monitor, written by seasoned journalist Steve Miller, it turns out that IPS Enterprises LLC was the corporation planning to lease a private jet for IDEA ($6.9 for six years). This was during the same time period that IDEA had ...

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