NewsFox 13 Investigates


Administrators expelled from Utah public school run by polygamous Kingston group

Vanguard Academy moved from “warning status” to “probation”
Kent Johnson
Posted at 10:27 PM, Aug 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-24 02:43:56-04

This story is part one of a three-part series, FOX 13 Investigates: Administrators Expelled.

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — A public charter school run by the polygamous Kingston group is now on probation.

Vanguard Academy in West Valley City had been on "warning status” since June 2021.

Probation is typically the final step taken by the Utah State Charter School Board (SCSB) before shutdown.

The SCSB also voted to remove and replace all nine of Vanguard Academy’s board members, appoint an interim director, and appoint a new finance officer.

The new administrators are likely to be chosen within the next few weeks and confirmed in September.

FOX 13 News began exposing hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars being spent by Vanguard Academy on Kingston-affiliated businesses in December 2020.

READ: Public school run by polygamous Kingston group continues appointing family members

The Kingston group is also known as “the Order,” or the Davis County Cooperative Society.

Some of the school’s expenditures show businesses also involved in the Kingstons' half-billion dollar Washakie Renewable Energy fraud case, which sent Isaiah Kingston and Jacob Kingston to prison.

SCSB Executive Director Jennifer Lambert said she believes the school has spent approximately $10 million on DCCS businesses.

She cited “possible favoritism or bias” in the school’s spending habits as a reason for the probation recommendation, citing the school’s lack of transparency.

READ: State Charter School Board chair compares Vanguard Academy to a ‘little kid’ not wanting to take medicine

Vanguard Academy representatives claimed religious persecution.

Even though public schools are supposed to have a clear divide between church and state, SCSB members were clear to point out that the decision had nothing to do with religion.

An attorney for the school confirmed seven of the nine board members were members of the Davis County Cooperative Society but argued membership would not necessarily create a conflict of interest.

The SCSB has the ability to take another vote in three months to shut down the school if they still feel Vanguard Academy has not fixed its “deficiencies.”

In response to this action, Utah Association of Public Charter Schools Executive Executive Director Royce Van Tassell issued a statement which reads in part as follows:

“Innuendo and religious bias simply cannot justify the actions taken (Monday night). Neither the State Charter School Board nor its staff presented a single instance of Vanguard Academy actually violating Utah’s conflict or procurement laws. Because many of Vanguard’s board are affiliated with the Davis County Cooperative Society, they assumed that Vanguard Academy is guilty until proven innocent.

“Such religious discrimination is simply inappropriate, particularly in a state founded by pioneers fleeing all too similar religious persecution. The action of this board – appointed by the Governor - does not reflect Governor Cox’s commitment to inclusion and academic excellence."

This is a developing story. Stay with FOX 13 News for updates.

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