SCSB chair compares Vanguard Academy to a ‘little kid’ who doesn’t want to take medicine

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – Utah Charter School Board (SCSB) representatives are reacting to a FOX 13 News investigation that exposed how a charter public school linked to the Kingston polygamous group is defying state warnings by continuing to appoint members of the Kingston family to key leadership positions.

FOX 13 Investigations: The Kingston Polygamous Group continues to recruit family members at the public school operated by the Kingston Polygamous Group

Vanguard Academy in West Valley City has been on alert since June 2021.

The school has faced questions regarding its spending since December 2020, when FOX 13 News revealed the school’s payments of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to Kingston affiliates.

FOX 13 achieves: The polygamous public school is 100% white

Public records show that school spending on these businesses did not stop in 2021 or 2022.

A state review of Vanguard Academy found that all seven school board members had social or financial ties to the Kingston Group, also known as the Davis County Cooperative or “The System.” The SCSB has determined that it is difficult for Vanguard Academy leaders to be impartial when voting on the school’s spending habits.

As such, SCSB has asked Vanguard Academy to appoint new board members from outside the Kingston Group to avoid a conflict of interest in spending public funds.

In response, Vanguard Academy expanded its board of directors from seven to nine. The school replaced only one of the original seven members. FOX 13 News has found that at least two of the three new board members have significant ties to the Kingston Group.

These nine members serve on the Vanguard Academy Board of Directors as of May 12, 2022.

Learning that the school was continuing to recruit Kingston family members, DeLaina Tonks, president of SCSB, compared Vanguard Academy’s behavior to young children who did not want to take their medication.

“When my kids were young and they had to take medicine, the hard way is I put pressure on you, and I give you medicine,” Tonks said. “The easy way is to open your mouth, and I give you the medicine. Either way you have to take the medicine. You have to choose the path.”

“It seems to me, on a conflict of interest issue, that sometimes you feel like you’re choosing the hard way. You bring in more people who have additional conflicts,” Tonks continued. The easy way is to add the directors who don’t have your conflict of interest, and make sure that this represents the majority of the board members. This is my view.”

No one responded to Tonks’ comments.

Daniel Jessup, one of the new Vanguard Academy board members, spoke briefly with FOX 13 News after the meeting.

“I’m not sure why they assume I’m a conflict,” Jessup said. “I have no prior contact with Vanguard Academy, so I guess that was an assumption.”

“Don’t you have two sisters in the Kingston group?” asked FOX 13 News investigative reporter Adam Herbets.

“I have no comment,” Jessup said.

Isn’t your sister (Kathleen Kingston) the assistant director? asked Herbets.

Jessup stay away.

Past and present members of the Kingston Group have confirmed that Kathleen Kingston is also married to Vanguard Academy Board Member Scott Kingston.

“Of course this is a conflict of interest. This is his son-in-law,” said Chanel Derieux, who left the Kingston group more than 10 years ago. “I remember when (Kathleen) got married… my mother informed me (that they are) from another polygamous group.”

DeRieux explained how the Kingston group taught its members to take as much money from the government as possible, also known as “monster bleeding”.

In April, the SCSB discussed whether it should begin removing and replacing Vanguard Academy board members. Cynthia Phillips, a member of the SCSB Board of Directors, has submitted a motion, recommending that Kent Johnson be removed from the Vanguard Academy Board of Directors.

Johnson is a well-known member of the Kingston Group. In addition to his responsibilities at Vanguard Academy, he also serves as a spokesperson for the Davis County Co-operative.

In the end, Phillips decided to withdraw her proposal and requested that the school be given “30 days to become compliant.”

“I hope this sends a signal to the school,” Phillips said. “At least one board member is willing to make a motion to remove (Johnson) if this is not taken seriously and quickly corrected, because it is not difficult to correct.”

In May, SCSB made no determination to find Vanguard Academy “compliant,” with the school still on alert. There was no discussion of removing any of the Vanguard Academy board members.

Instead, Phillips’ tone changed. While discussing Vanguard Academy’s regulations, she repeatedly praised the school for its efforts.

“Personally, I’m very pleased,” Phillips said. “I’m really happy with the effort Vanguard has made to increase the number of board members.”

After the meeting, Phillips declined the opportunity to clarify her comments.

I don’t talk to the media. Phillips said. “You can listen again to the recording of the meeting for clarification.”

SCSB has not taken any meaningful action since placing the school on “alert status” nearly a year ago.

Due to scheduling obstacles, SCSB is not expected to discuss Vanguard Academy in June or July.