By T. A. Hendrickson
Vielka McFarlane, who founded the Celerity network of charter schools located in Eagle Rock and other parts of Los Angeles, was sentenced on May 20 to 30 months in prison for misspending public education money on luxuries for herself, including first-class plane travel, fine dining and high-end shopping.
McFarlane pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to misappropriate and embezzle public money. The plea followed an investigation, starting in 2012, by the inspector general of L.A. Unified School District and federal authorities.
The 30-month sentence is what the government requested. McFarlane’s lawyer had asked for two months behind bars, three years of supervised release (including a period of home detention) and community service.
McFarlane, who earned $471,852 in 2013 as Celerity’s chief executive, was also ordered by the court to pay restitution of $225,138 within 60 days.
Celerity Troika, a K-8 charter school, opened in Eagle Rock in 2007 and was closed by the state in 2017, as the investigation into McFarlane intensified. In 2018, a new Celerity charter school in Eagle Rock, Celerity Rolas, closed before the start of the school year because it failed to enroll enough students to justify opening its doors.
In January 2019, another former executive at Celerity, Grace Canada, was indicted on federal charges that she participated in McFarlane’s scheme. That case is scheduled to go to trial in November.
T.A. Hendrickson, a native of Eagle Rock, is the editor of the Boulevard Sentinel and a former member of the Editorial Board of the New York Times.