Lavish Spending by CVCHS Administration

Due to complications with ticket prices last year as well as the rising cost of venues in San Francisco, the CV senior class is much lower in funds than previous senior classes have been, and are asking for GoFundMe donations for their Senior Ball. All the while, CV administrators are dining out on nearly $100 per person dinners (see attached $488 receipt for five people).

Why are taxpayer funds being diverted from the students to fund expensive meals for administrators?  Could these funds be better spent on IPads, Textbooks or student field trip transportation?

http://www.contracostatimes.com/politics-government/ci_22017896/san-jose-supervisor-george-shirakawa-racks-up-lavish

http://www.kctv5.com/story/26072404/kcps-superintendent-defends-lavish-high-end-dining

San Diego charter school king hit with felony

By Maureen Magee

San Diego Union Tribune

 http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/jan/14/local-charter-school-king-hit-with-felony/

A former San Diego County superintendent who approved charter schools that later hired his consulting firm was arraigned Friday in San Diego Superior Court on one felony count of conflict of interest, according to the San Diego district attorney’s office.

The allegation facing Steve Van Zant, who currently is superintendent of the Sausalito Marin City School District, dates to May 2010 while he was superintendent of the Mountain Empire Unified School District.

According to the criminal complaint, Van Zant “did willfully and unlawfully violate the provisions of such (conflict of interest) laws.”

Van Zant, who is not in custody, could not be reached for comment. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

The District Attorney’s Office declined to provide details of the case.

Van Zant, 53, has been a controversial figure among San Diego County educators. Long before he faced legal troubles, Van Zant stirred animosity among school districts for years as he brokered deals with charter schools to operate in their districts — often without providing the notice required by law.

Some of the charters that Van Zant ushered through soon hired his consulting firm for support services.

Van Zant worked in the tiny one-campus Dehesa School District, where the school board authorized several charters to operate in other districts, before he was hired to run Mountain Empire schools in 2008.

Under Van Zant’s direction, Mountain Empire authorized its first charter, San Diego Neighborhood Homeschool. Roughly a dozen more followed before he left in 2013.

None of the charters would locate in the district’s backcountry communities. Instead, they would operate in more populated reaches of the county — from Oceanside to San Diego to Chula Vista to National City.

Officials from small and cash-strapped districts approved charters to operate outside of their boundaries in part for financial reasons. The authorizing districts don’t stand to lose students — or the state attendance funds that accompany them — and they receive up to 3 percent of the charter’s revenue in exchange for varying degrees of oversight and often administrative services.

Although the trend didn’t start in Mountain Empire, under Van Zant the district played a key role in San Diego County’s spike in “out-of-district” charters — of which there are more than 80 currently in operation.

Van Zant didn’t just woo charters to earn revenue for Mountain Empire. The steady stream of charters helped bring money to his consulting firm.

A couple of years into his tenure at Mountain Empire, Van Zant and his wife, Ingrid, established EdHive, a consulting firm that offers administrative services and helps charters find districts to green-light their schools.

The company website claims, “We can find an authorizing district for your charter and cut a deal that provides the financial incentive for the district and still save your school money.”

According to profiles of company officials posted on the LinkedIn professional networking website, EdHive has represented at least 27 charters in California. Among them are several charters approved by Mountain Empire during Van Zant’s tenure as superintendent.

Charters that hired EdHive include Endeavour Academy, which was shut down last year after the San Diego Unified School District sued the charter and the Alpine Union School District, which authorized the campus to operate in a Clairemont church.

Most of San Diego County’s out-of-district charters are independent-study programs authorized by small districts in the eastern reaches of the region that have popped up in other districts only to serve their students and take the state attendance funds that accompany them.

The practice has sparked several lawsuits in San Diego County and elsewhere in California.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation in 2014 that would have restricted where out-of-district charters can locate because of “retroactive language that could force existing charter schools to change locations.”

In September 2014, Brown said in his veto message he would assign a team to “examine the situation and come back with solutions.” That work is still under way, according to a spokesperson for the governor.

In San Diego County, out-of-district charters continue to pit districts against one another. In his veto message, Brown appeared to acknowledge the problem: “Unfortunately, it appears that some districts and charter schools have gone against the spirit of the law.”

He went on to say that “this has led to litigation and strained relationships among districts and charter schools.”

A Superior Court judge agreed with San Diego Unified last year that the Endeavour charter was a traditional school and not a independent-study hybrid as it was billed, and that organizers failed to notify the district as required under the law. Endeavour’s headquarters were based 150 miles away in Santa Clarita Valley.

Under the state education code, charters that cannot find facilities in their authorizing district may look for a campus in another district as long as they notify that district before the charter is approved.

San Diego Unified has also sent cease-and-desist letters to several out-of-district charters.

Since Kathy Granger was hired as Mountain Empire’s superintendent in December 2013, Mountain Empire has halted its trend of wooing and approving far-flung charters.

She would not discuss Van Zant but did confirm she had been contacted by the District Attorney’s Office about him.

“If anyone were to come to me to open a charter school outside our district boundaries, I would recommend they go to the district that represents the area they want to open a school,” she said.

“We are not opposed to offering education options for our students and we are not against charter schools. Our focus is to provide programs for our students.”

Since taking office in Mountain Empire, Granger has made a point to make personal visits to charter schools in the name of oversight.

Meanwhile, Granger is hopeful that Brown will address the ambiguity in the law when it comes to charters operating outside their authorizing districts.

“I have learned a lot about charter schools since coming here,” she said. “I definitely think there needs to be clarity in the law.”

Ricardo Soto, chief attorney for the California Charter School Association, told The San Diego Union-Tribune in November that school districts are threatened by non-classroom-based charters that he believes operate legally.

Still, he said the law could use some clarity.

Van Zant was arraigned one day after he requested a leave from his three-day-a-week job as superintendent in the two-campus (including a charter) Sausalito district.

Citing personal reasons, Van Zant was put on indefinite paid leave. His salary was $172,000 in 2014.

The lesson from a California’s charter school: Strict transparency needed

http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_29009787/thomas-peele-watchdog-column-lesson-from-californias-charter

By Thomas Peele, tpeele@bayareanewsgroup.com © Copyright 2015, Bay Area News Group

In 2011, Lassen County’s district attorney requested a still-unanswered opinion by the state attorney general on whether California’s Public Records, Brown and Fair Political Practices acts apply to public charter schools.

It came after former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation requiring charter schools to comply with those laws in 2010. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown, who’s anti-transparency and pro-charter, killed another attempt.

Assembly member Mike Gipson, D-Los Angeles, has introduced a similar bill. But Brown remains governor.

Charter schools pull students and money from public school districts where these laws apply, spending tens of millions of dollars across California, sometimes with nebulous — or worse — results.

The state Charter School Association urges members to generally comply with the laws, but it’s also lobbied Attorney General Kamala Harris’ staff to opine that they don’t apply. Harris should finally and forcefully reject those arguments. While the opinions are nonbinding, they’re influential and cited often.

My children attended the Urban Montessori Charter School in East Oakland for a year, an Alameda County Board of Education charter. The kids, now schooling elsewhere, weren’t the only ones obtaining an education there. My year as a charter-school parent provided a vivid lesson in why they require sunlight’s constant disinfectant.

Urban struggled with the Brown and Public Records acts; its board’s inability to fully grasp transparent governance was appalling. This became apparent when it fired the head of the school by not renewing her contract.

The meeting agenda where that occurred was barren of facts, listing only a routine job review, not a critical decision on whether to retain her. I asked questions and two days later met with very nervous board members, former Oakland schools official Hae-Sin Thomas and then board co-chair Randy Weiner. They lacked good answers. They also said they knew who the new administrator would be, even though there’d been no meeting about that yet.

“We hope you were impressed with us,” Weiner said oddly as we parted. I wasn’t.

The replacement, David Castillo, had recently resigned from Urban’s board. Like Thomas, he was an active member of the charter-school movement. They considered no one else. His hiring stunk of cronyism.

Then the board tried to approve Castillo’s contract at a special meeting, an action banned under the Brown Act’s post Bell-scandal reforms. I objected; the vote was aborted.

I checked the board’s Statements of Economic Interest. Most absurdly claimed no income or assets. A few Googles and emails later, board co-chairs Weiner and Tony Emerson filed amended forms identifying jobs and holdings.

These forms aren’t hard. Read instructions. Be honest. Err toward disclosure. This doesn’t qualify one for NASA. Failing to do so raises this question: If they can’t get simple disclosure right, what else is amiss? Well …

A board member, Peter Laub, was vice president of a firm, Ed Tech, that provides financial services to charter schools, Urban included. The conflict of interest was obvious, festering for two years. Laub resigned his seat; the company remained.

The board took macro views of shaky finances. It didn’t vote on bills. Members didn’t know employee salaries, or where money went on a daily basis. Bills and credit card receipts showed fat balances, accruing interest and sometimes late charges.

I’ve spent what seems like a lifetime sifting through government financial records. I’ve never quite seen a mess like Urban’s. Fraternities with unlimited credit would keep better records.

Castillo spent generously on meals. Text messages he and Thomas exchanged didn’t focus as much on education as on paying for booze at a staff party. Thomas rejected using school money for alcohol. Urban barely paid bills, and parents bought basic supplies. Yet its chief argued for party cash. (Full disclosure, I still owe Urban a small amount of money for after-school care.)

But it was my kids’ school. I volunteered for a transparency committee. It accomplished little. In July, I found that the board held a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. at Thomas’ home to renew Castillo’s contract. I forced a public revote. Given the board’s try at the same shady move just months earlier, members clearly cared not to change. I resigned.

Urban released documents under the Public Records Act showing its faults. Texts. Emails. Bills. Receipts. But Harris’ opinion writers would be foolish to think disclosure’s the charter-school norm, and this issue has landed on the dimwit side of Brown’s brain.

The last thing Harris should do is enable public funds to pour into ratholes without accountability.

Thomas Peele is an investigative reporter for this newspaper and teaches classes on public records at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him atTwitter.com/Thomas_peele.

CVCHS Not Included in 2015 Niche Rankings – Best Charter High Schools in California

Best Charter High Schools in California

https://k12.niche.com/rankings/public-high-schools/best-charter/s/california/?utm_source=fbPPC_k12Ranking_BestcharterCA&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=fbPPC_k12Ranking_BestcharterCA

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Best Charter High Schools in California

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Explore the best charter high schools in your area based on dozens of key student statistics and over 4.6 million student and parent reviews. A high ranking indicates that the school is an exceptional academic institution with a diverse set of high-achieving students who rate their experience very highly.

Niche Public High School Rankings Methodology:
Best Charter High Schools

 The Best Charter High Schools ranking provides a comprehensive assessment of the overall experience at non-magnet, non-online public charter high schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It uses data sourced from various government and public data sets, Niche’s own proprietary data, and 4,625,227 opinion-based survey responses across a variety of topics from 287,560 current students, recent alumni, and parents.

A high ranking in Overall Experience generally indicates that:

  • Students are very happy with their experiences in all aspects, including academics, teachers, health, safety, resources, facilities, extracurriculars, sports, and fitness;
  • The school is an exceptional academic institution in terms of teachers, students, resources for learning, and student outcomes;
  • The school is made up of a diverse population and fosters an accepting, positive school culture;
  • Students are actively involved in a variety of extracurriculars and sports the school offers.

 High Schools Assessed by This Ranking

At the time of calculation, our database contained records for 22,985 public high schools. For the purposes of this ranking, a public high school is considered to be a school that offers 12th grade, has at least 5 enrolled seniors, and has an average grade size of at least 15 students schoolwide. Schools were not included in the ranking process if they did not meet these minimum requirements. Of the schools that identified as charter, the final ranking results in 771  high schools receiving a grade, with 501 of those also receiving a numerical ranking.

Factors Considered

Factor Description Source Weight
Academics Grade Niche Academics grade, which incorporates statistics and student, alumni, and parent surveys regarding academics at the school. Read the methodology. Niche grade 50%
Health & Safety Grade Niche Health & Safety grade, which incorporates statistics and student, alumni, and parent surveys regarding health and safety at the school. Read the methodology. Niche grade 10%
Student Culture & Diversity Grade Niche Student Culture & Diversity grade, which incorporates statistics and student, alumni, and parent surveys regarding culture and diversity at the school. Read the methodology. Niche grade 10%
Survey Responses Parent and student opinions about the overall experience at the high school they currently or recently attend(ed). Includes 556,102 opinions about overall experience from 211,873 unique students, recent alumni, and parents. Minimum 7 unique respondents required at each school. Niche users 10%
Teachers Grade Niche Teachers grade, which incorporates statistics and student, alumni, and parent surveys regarding teachers at the school. Read the methodology. Niche grade 10%
Resources & Facilities Grade Niche Resources & Facilities grade, which incorporates statistics and student, alumni, and parent surveys regarding resources and facilities at the school. Read the methodology. Niche grade 5%
Extracurriculars & Activities Grade Niche Extracurriculars & Activities grade, which incorporates statistics and student, alumni, and parent surveys regarding clubs and activities at the school. Read the methodology. Niche grade 2.5%
Sports & Fitness Grade Niche Sports & Fitness grade, which incorporates statistics and student, alumni, and parent surveys regarding athletics and general fitness at the school. Read the methodology. Niche grade 2.5%

Statistics obtained from the U.S. Department of Education represent the most recent data available, usually from 2011–2012, as self-reported by the schools.

School Rankings Best Charter High Schools California

Best Charter High Schools in California

1 Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) Anaheim-Santa Ana-Garden Grove Township, CA
2 University High School, Fresno, CA
3 The Preuss School San Diego, CA
4 Dr. Olga Mohan High School Los Angeles, CA
5 El Camino Real Senior High School San Fernando Valley Township, CA
6 University Preparatory School Redding Township, CA
7 High Tech High School San Diego, CA
8 Guajome Park Academy Charter Oceanside-Escondido Township, CA
9 Natomas Charter School Sacramento, CA
10 Port of Los Angeles High School Los Angeles, CA
11 Da Vinci Charter Academy Davis Township, CA
12 Helix High School San Diego, CA
13 High Tech High – International La Mesa, CA
14 Escondido Charter High School Oceanside-Escondido Township, CA
15 Leadership Public Schools Hayward, CA
16 Classical Academy High School Oceanside-Escondido Township, CA
17 Hawthorne Math & Science Academy Hawthorne, CA
18 Alliance Marc & Eva Stern Math & Science High School Los Angeles, CA
19 The Grove School Redlands, CA
20 High Tech High – Media Arts San Diego, CA
21 Steele Canyon High School Jamul Township, CA
22 River Valley Charter School Winter Gardens, CA
23 Vaughn Next Century Learning Center San Fernando Valley Township, CA
24 Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep High School Sacramento, CA
25 Nuview Bridge Early College High School Perris Valley Township, CA
26 Academy for Academic Excellence Victorville-Hesperia Township, CA
27 Health Sciences High School San Diego, CA
28 Birmingham Community Charter High School San Fernando Valley Township, CA
29 Lennox Mathematics, Science & Technology Academy Lennox, CA
30 Animo Leadership High School Inglewood, CA
31 Huntington Park College Ready Academy High School South Gate-East Los Angeles Township, CA
32 Elise P. Buckingham Charter Magnet High School Vacaville Township, CA
33 Aspire Benjamin Holt College Preparatory Academy Stockton, CA
34 CHAMPS Charter High School of the Arts – Multimedia & Performing San Fernando Valley Township, CA
35 George Washington Carver School of Arts & Science Rancho Cordova, CA
36 Gateway High School San Francisco, CA
37 Environmental Charter High School Lawndale, CA
38 Millennium Charter School Tracy, CA
39 American Indian Public High School Oakland, CA
40 Camino Nuevo High School Los Angeles, CA
41 Lemoore Middle College High School Lemoore Township, CA
42 Temecula Preparatory School Murrieta Township, CA
43 The Met Sacramento High School Sacramento, CA
44 California Military Institute Perris Valley Township, CA
45 Oakland School for the Arts Oakland, CA
46 View Park Preparatory Accelerated High School Los Angeles, CA
47 Heritage College-Ready High School Los Angeles, CA
48 Six Rivers Charter High School Arcata Township, CA
49 Anderson New Technology High School Anderson, CA
50 Santa Rosa Academy Perris Valley Township, CA
51 Sacramento Charter High School Sacramento, CA
52 New Technology High School Sacramento, CA
53 Leadership Public Schools – RichmondWest Contra Costa Township, CA
54 City Honors College Preparatory Charter School Inglewood, CA
55 New Designs Charter School Los Angeles, CA
56 California Academy for Liberal Studies (CALS) Early College High School Los Angeles, CA
57 Gertz-Ressler Academy High School Los Angeles, CA
58 Excelsior Education Center Victorville, CA
59 Roseland University Prep Charter School Santa Rosa, CA
60 Opportunities for Learning – Baldwin ParkLa Cañada Flintridge, CA
61 Wallis Annenberg High School Los Angeles, CA
62 William & Carol Ouchi High School Los Angeles, CA
63 Animo Ralph Bunche Charter High School Los Angeles, CA
64 Animo Pat Brown Charter High SchoolSouth Gate- East Los Angeles Township, CA
65 Bright Star Secondary Charter Academy Los Angeles, CA
66 Aspire Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy Oakland, CA
67 NOVA Academy Early College High School Anaheim-Santa Ana-Garden Grove Township, CA
68 Venture Academy Stockton, CA
69 Los Angeles International Charter High School Los Angeles, CA
70 Animo Venice Charter High School Los Angeles, CA
71 School of Arts & Enterprise East San Gabriel Valley Township, CA
72 Riverside Preparatory School Victorville-Hesperia Township, CA
73 Animo Oscar De La Hoya Charter High School Los Angeles, CA
74 City Arts & Tech High School San Francisco, CA
75 Connecting Waters Charter School Waterford Township, CA
76 Alain Leroy Locke High School Los Angeles, CA
77 Animo South Los Angeles Charter High School Westmont, CA
78 Charter School of San Diego San Diego, CA
79 Encore Junior/Senior High School for the Performing & Visual Arts Hesperia, CA
80 Frederick Douglass Academy High School Los Angeles, CA
81 Los Angeles Leadership Academy Los Angeles, CA
82 Mare Island Technology Academy Vallejo, CA
83 Options for Youth Public Charter School – San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA
84 San Jacinto Valley AcademyHemet- San Jacinto Township, CA

Tori Campbell’s letter to the Contra Costa County Board of Education regarding her PERB case and her tenure at Clayton Valley Charter High School

CVEA vs CVCHS PERB Settlement Agreement 5-28-15

Tori Campbell’s letter to the Contra Costa County Board of Education regarding her PERB case and her tenure at Clayton Valley Charter High School

I would like to state one simple truth:

1. I left CV mid-year because I was miserable working there.

Yes, it’s true…eventually, I would have moved to Santa Rosa because my
boyfriend took a job there. When we first found out he got the job, I decided it would
be best if I stayed to finish out the school year. I even made plans to stay with a
coworker until June and paid the first months rent! However, I realized how utterly
unhappy I was all the time. I would come home from work stressed out and anxious,
I had a hard time sleeping, and for the first time in my life, I started seeing a
therapist.

A couple of months ago, the admin team decided to fire our copy-volunteer.
She was an integral part of our day as teachers and I was upset about it. I sent Neil
McChesney an email asking if they could replace her with someone else. This email
went back and forth and every single time he replied, he changed the reason why
they let her go and why we weren’t allowed to have someone make copies for us. The
staff knew that I was speaking to admin about this issue and I was contacted by many
teachers who were concerned that this was just one more way the admin team was
asserting their power. Neil finally told me that the secretary’s in the front office
would make copies if we needed them to. After getting that information, I sent a
private email on my personal gmail account to all staff on their private email
accounts. (This is common for union business and other related issues). In that
email, I said that Neil offered the front office as a back up for copies and I suggested
that the teachers take him up on his offer. Given that it was only November, and we
as a staff had made over 100,000 copies to date.

Someone on the all-staff email forwarded this private message to Neil and he
chose to write me up. He skipped over the discipline steps outlined in the staff
handbook and went straight to step 3-a letter of reprimand. He justified this action
by stating that what I did was “Comparable to bomb threat.” This is an actual quote
from the meeting we had when with my CTA representative present. My CTA rep
found this to be completely outside of the bounds of the school to discipline me for a
private email and we are now going to PERB after having filed an unfair labor
practice against the admin team. The letter of reprimand was a gag order. It said
that if I talked to anyone about anything that could be perceived as negative towards
clayton valley, I would be suspended w/o pay.

In an effort to try to get me to back down from the unfair, Dave Linzey came
and talked to me, against my CTA rep’s wishes. She had explicitly told him not to
speak with me but he chose to ignore her and corner me in my classroom. I asked
him why the admin team didn’t follow discipline protocol and he said, “Well Tori, if
you’ve got a child molester on your staff, you don’t follow the traditional steps of
protocol, you go straight to the last step.” He literally compared my private email
telling the staff that they could now send their copies to the front office to a child
molester.

After that, I was done. I went home that day and updated my resume on edjoin,
found a job at a wonderful school in the Santa Rosa area and moved.

Looking back, everyday was like living a real life version of 1984. People who are
’pro-administration’ are rewarded and people who are ’anti-administration’ are
shunned or disciplined.

Dave Linzey is a great leader when things are great and other people are making
him look good. He is a terrible leader when things start going wrong. He throws
tantrums, and threatens people. He turned into a dictator as soon as he realized that
people weren’t interested in listening to his lies anymore. The only reason he hasn’t
been fired is because the board of directors has absolutely no idea what they are
doing so they depend on him for guidance and he gets to do whatever he wants
without them questioning him because they think that ’He’s the expert.”

There’s a reason why the man has had a new job every two years for the last decade.
He comes in and charms everyone, then he pumps them up and everyone wants to
do well. Once they do well, he takes the credit. Now that the charter is imploding, I
think we’re seeing the real Dave Linzey:

The man that rules like a dictator.
The man that rules with fear.
The man that refuses to admit guilt no matter the cost.
The man that places blame on others and fires people to save himself from any
wrong doing.

I hope this investigation is true to justice and gives CV the closure it needs so that it
can move on and be great again, The students and the staff deserve to be given that
chance,

If I find myself back in the Concord area in the future, I will look forward to putting
in my application at CV as long as Dave Linzey and Nell McChesney are gone, They’re
both unprofessional and have no true leadership skills, CV cannot be great again until people who know what they’re doing are in their place,

Thank you for your time,

Tori Campbell

Former Clayton Valley chemistry, honors chemistry, and AP chemistry teacher, CSF
advisor, and Engineering academy advisor

A Graduation Plea From CVCHS Student Body President

**Stakeholders for Transparency was asked to help spread the following message from the CVCHS Class of 2015**

Stakeholders,

Recently, the Class of 2015 was notified of changes to their graduation. It is a Clayton Valley tradition for the Student Body Leadership to nominate teachers they would like to shake hands with at graduation.

This year, Mrs. Ihle and Mrs. Lineweaver were nominated. Tuesday, we were told that rather than teachers, Governing Board members Ted Meriam and Megan Kommer will be handing out diplomas and shaking seniors’ hands.

Students are outraged and are trying to fight for their right to decide who receives this privilege. However, we are struggling.

The following has been sent out to seniors through social media, in efforts to influence change. If you could please help in spreading the word and joining the effort, we would appreciate it.

Administration has taken away teachers’ privileges of handing out diplomas at our graduation. Seniors, this is OUR graduation and we have the power to change this decision if we come together. Please email the board and executive director asking for students to nominate administration, teachers, or board members to shake hands with, rather than the board president and VP. We are asking for the school to compromise with students and allow our input on who we would like to share this special moment with.

Email the governing board:

ted.meriam@claytonvalley.org

megan.kommer@claytonvalley.org

april.winship@claytonvalley.org

diane.bailey@claytonvalley.org

mike.fine@claytonvalley.org

patrick.gaffney@claytonvalley.org

richard.asadoorian@claytonvalley.org

Email Mr. Linzey: david.linzey@claytonvalley.org

Please spread the word to students and parents, the more emails the better. Thank you

Thank you,

The Class of 2015

**Send a copy of your email to the County Board of Education**

pmirabella@cccoe.k12.ca.us

cdeane@cccoe.k12.ca.us

mmaxwell@cccoe.k12.ca.us

dgomes@cccoe.k12.ca.us

jbelle@cccoe.k12.ca.us

ksakata@cccoe.k12.ca.us

American Indian Model Schools file response to allegations of financial, organizational misconduct

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Oakland North Article Picture

AIMS board chairperson Jean Martinez looks on as attorney Paul Minney addresses the OUSD board at the Sept. 27 board meeting. Photo by Lauren Kawana.

Administrators at the American Indian Model Schools—a set of three Oakland charter schools, two middle schools and one high school—responded late Monday night to a 1,080-page notice of violations given to them by the Oakland Unified School District, OUSD spokesperson Troy Flint said Wednesday.

School officials had been given until November 28 to respond to the district’s allegations regarding improper business contracts, inappropriate credit card usage and lack of school board meeting documentation, but filed their response two days early. If the response does not appropriately answer the questions posed by OUSD school board members about the schools’ finances and organization, the district could decide to revoke the schools’ charters.

The response will be summarized and released to the public after the Oakland school board members read it and remove confidential information, such as student or employee names, Flint said. “It was a long response. It filled up many binders,” Flint said. “The board will have some guidance from our legal team, but they will ultimately decide the fate of AIMS, whether the schools will remain open and in what capacity.”

AIMS operates three charter schools in Oakland: American Indian Public Charter School, American Indian Public High School and American Indian Public Charter School II. The schools reported a total enrollment of almost 500 students during the 2010-2011 school year; in that year, reports to the California Department of Education indicated that almost 70 percent of the students were Asian, 18 percent were Hispanic and 1 percent were American Indian. For the past few years, the schools have had consistently high Academic Performance Index scores, which measure a school’s yearly progress and determine federal funding. During the 2009-2010 school year, American Indian Public Charter School had an API of 988, the highest of all the schools in the state.

The district’s review of the school’s operations began in 2011, when it was given information from a confidential source regarding “improper financial dealings” at the AIMS schools, Flint said. Early this year, the Alameda County Office of Education requested that the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) audit the AIMS schools. The audit was released this June. According to the audit, the study team found evidence of problems, including conflicts of interest in awarding school contracts, inappropriate credit card charges made by school officials, and a lack of documentation for decisions made by the schools’ board members in their meetings. 

This September, the district issued a “notice of violations” to the schools based on that audit, as well as public records and previous correspondence between OUSD and AIMS board members. The AIMS administration was given 60 days to provide documentation that the FCMAT auditors said had been missing when they compiled their June report. AIMS administration members were also required to provide a written response to the OUSD, including an explanation or defense against the notice’s accusations, and a plan for remedial measures.  This is the written response the district has just received.

At a heavily-attended September 27 school board meeting, when OUSD formally gave AIMS the notice of violations, board members emphasized that the notice did not mean they would close the schools, something that concerned AIMS schools parents in attendance.    But if this new AIMS response proves unsatisfactory, officials made clear, OUSD could begin the process of revoking the schools’ charters.

Some of the central allegations in the district’s notice focus on financial transactions involving Ben Chavis, the founder of two of the AIMS schools and the former director of all three.  The notice asserts that Chavis and his wife, Marsha Amador, collected almost $4 million from contracts made between the AIMS schools and Chavis’ businesses, including lease agreements, storage agreements and construction contracts—upgrading restroom facilities in 2006 and 2007—for the schools.

According to the notice, though the AIMS school board approved the contracts, there is no indication that they were aware of the money Chavis and his spouse would make from their businesses, including Lumbee Holdings and American Delivery Systems. Since state laws prohibit public officials, officers and employees from engaging in a contract in which they have a financial interest, Chavis’ membership on the AIMS board and the AIMS contracts that financially benefited him appear to be conflicts of interest, according to the FCMAT audit report.

The report also concluded that school funds had been used for personal reasons by Chavis. The study team requested documentation for credit card charges totaling over $72,602.28. According to the report, among the purchases without proper documentation were charges for almost $6,000 on Amazon, over $750 at Home Depot and almost $300 for San Francisco Giants tickets.

The notice of violations and the FCMAT audit report also included complaints about the recording of the school’s board minutes and the lack of details in board meeting reports. For example, the audit report states that “the board approved a maximum of $500,000 to be spent on construction, but there was no discussion of the projects to be completed, timeliness, funding sources or the selection of contractors. Bidding, quotations and requests for proposals were never discussed or considered.”

Board meetings were not held in accordance to schedules, and board minutes and agendas were not available for the FCMAT study team, the OUSD report stated. The district’s report also said Chavis had reported that all board minutes and agendas were stolen from the schools’ business office.

Perhaps more troubling was the OUSD report’s recap of previous notices of concern given to the AIMS board. The first, issued in November 2011, addressed concerns about an apparent lack of teacher credentials and the rapid expansion of the AIMS middle school, American Indian Public Charter School II, beyond 200 students, as first planned in its charter. The second, in January 2012, addressed complaints that OUSD said it had received from anonymous sources about “serious allegations of sexual harassment and verbal or physical abuse of students,” according to the OUSD report. These include a complaint about a staff member kissing a 14-year-old female student, and a sexual harassment complaint filed against Chavis in 2011.

In its January 2012 notice of concern, the OUSD asked the AIMS board to provide all reports of complaints over the past three years. Flint also said the district’s entire report had been sent to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, as required by FCMAT guidelines.

Flint was not able to speak about the content of the AIMS board’s Monday response yet; he said a summary of the response will be available to the public after OUSD members have been able to read it. Ben Chavis, current AIMS director Jason Chu, and the schools’ attorney did not respond to repeated requests for comments.

One of the teachers at an AIMS school said the staff had been working hard to prepare the school’s response. Ryan Young, an eighth grade teacher at AIPCS II, said a few teachers were asked to help create the response. “A lot of the stuff they said we don’t have, we do actually have,” he said.  “We’ve been spending several hours every night for the past month and a half basically compiling spreadsheets of documentation.”

Parents of AIMS students have been worried about the schools closing since they were given notices of concern by the OUSD in late 2011, said parent Aster Zeriezghi. “This is one of the few schools where kids in eighth or ninth grade are already thinking about college,” she said. “We don’t want to send our kids to any other school in Oakland.”

Flint said the AIMS response will be discussed at the next school board meeting, which will be held on December 12.

By Nausheen Husain

Posted November 29, 2012 11:00 am

Additional reporting for this story was done by Lauren Kawana.

Read the entire OUSD notice of violations report here. (Click on “12-2557 Notice of Violation – Named Schools.”)  The FCMAT audit report is included, on pages 946 to 1,001

https://oaklandnorth.net/2012/11/29/american-indian-model-schools-file-response-to-allegations-of-financial-organizational-misconduct/

High drama as Oakland charter school cuts ties with unsavory past

OAKLAND — In the 2½ years since American Indian Model Schools leader Ben Chavis left after a state audit showed he directed at least $3.8 million from the school to companies he owned, the school has paid him an additional $8.6 million to use his buildings.

Now, new leaders at the high-performing charter school are attempting to get out from under Chavis’ shadow by moving out of two classroom buildings and an office he rents to the school on 35th Avenue for $46,000 a month and by orchestrating the removal of three board members.

But the impending changes have caused turmoil at the school, including student walkouts over school board politics, a restraining order against a former board member, police intervention at a school board meeting, and teacher and staff turnover.

CCT Oakland American Charter

Maya Woods-Cadiz, new superintendent of the American Indian Public Charter Schools, stands in a hallway of the Middle School building at the East Oakland campus in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, May 14, 2015. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

“We are trying to separate the school from Chavis,” school board President Steven Leung said. “The school district would like to see us not be associated with him. I think we’re in good hands.”

Founded in 1996 and currently serving about 1,000 students, the American Indian Model Schools have established a strong record of academic success with a strict, test-oriented approach but have struggled in recent years with allegations of mismanagement and fraud.

Last year, the school paid Chavis $7.5 million to buy a building that houses a K-8 campus on 12th Street in downtown Oakland. Leung said the school had no choice but to buy because it didn’t have anywhere else to go at the time.

An investigation and finding by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights that the 35th Avenue campus does not meet disability access requirements, coupled with a stalemate over who would make repairs, prompted plans to move from that facility.

SAVING MONEY

New Superintendent Maya Woods-Cadiz, a former Oakland school district principal and administrator, and Leung hope that by moving 300 high school students to the 12th Street building and by moving 150 middle school students to Oakland’s Bella Vista Elementary school for rent of just $38,000 a year, they can save money and fix their disability access problem without having to continue hounding Chavis to make repairs.

“Mr. Chavis has known about the conditions at that school for quite some time, but he doesn’t want to fix it,” Leung said. “The Office for Civil Rights has asked us to either fix it or move. We’ve sent multiple notices to Mr. Chavis.”

But Chavis, who is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the IRS and FBI relating to his financial dealings with the school, called Leung’s comments about his refusal to make repairs at the school a “damn lie” and referred to Woods-Cadiz as a “(expletive) loser.”

Chavis, who lives in North Carolina, said he never received any notice from the school’s lawyers asking him to make disability access repairs. He also acknowledged the rent at the 35th Avenue campus is high.

“I did charge them high rent, but when I was there I gave it all back so I could send the illegals to college,” Chavis said. “I did work the system, but then I took my salary and donated it back to the school. If I’m a crook, we need more crooks, it sounds like to me.”

The former AIMS leader said moving the 35th Avenue high school students to the school’s 12th Street building and putting the middle school students at Bella Vista is “a stupid idea” because they will lose a gymnasium in his building and there won’t be enough room for the high school students at the 12th Street building.

Leung and Woods said moving out of the campus will help the school move on from Chavis.

There is “no more Mr. Chavis, and we have a really strong board now,” Woods-Cadiz said.

POST-CHAVIS

The school originally was primarily oriented toward American Indians. Chavis was hired in 2001, and soon after the student demographic started to change to a broader community.

For the next 10 years, the school’s academic performance soared and it attracted more mostly low-income students of other ethnicities, but by 2012, things started to go wrong. An investigation by the state Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team reported finding evidence of fraud, misappropriation of funds and conflicts of interest. The investigation found that from 2007 to 2011, Chavis had directed $3.8 million from the school to companies he owned for contracts not approved by the school board.

In 2013, the Oakland Unified School District yanked the school’s charter and Chavis stepped down. After Chavis left, the school fought back in court and won reinstatement of its charter last year.

Under Woods-Cadiz, the charter school has seen many changes, including the planned move of the 35th Avenue campus, the removal of one school board member, the resignation of two others and the firing of a beloved physical education teacher — all of which has led to increased tensions at the school. Students have walked out of classes four times since March 24, when the school board ousted one of its members, Nedir Bey. Bey became a board member in 2012 after Chavis left the school, Chavis said.

Bey, who does not have any children at the school, came on campus April 20 and started yelling at staff, according to legal documents related to a restraining order against him. He returned on April 21 to a school board meeting and incited the crowd against Woods-Cadiz and board members in a way that “created the potential of physical harm and actual emotional harm,” an initial petition for the restraining order said.

“We had to call the police because the meeting got very disruptive and unsafe,” Woods-Cadiz said.

On advice of the school’s lawyer, she declined to talk about the events leading to the restraining order. The school’s attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The restraining order protects Woods-Cadiz and 11 administrators and school board members from Bey. He is ordered not to harass, make violent threats, stalk, contact, come on campus or have any personal contact with those listed on the order.

“The reason we got the restraining order is for Ms. Woods-Cadiz’s safety and her family’s safety,” Leung said. “He also got involved with the operation of the school, meaning he was trying to go to the office and wanting to see files and not going through proper channels. There were other incidents where staff did not feel comfortable with him.”

The school also has hired a private security firm to make sure Bey does not come on campus.

Bey’s attorney, Chris Dobbins, a former Oakland Unified School Board member, said Bey denies the allegations in the restraining order. A hearing over the allegations to make the order permanent, throw it out or modify it could come in a couple of months, Dobbins said.

“There were no threats or harassment,” Dobbins said. “They also listed all the board members as being protected and there is no verification that Mr. Bey made any threats to them.”

Bey, a former associate of Your Black Muslim Bakery, was charged in 1994 with abducting and torturing a man who ran afoul of the bakery. He pleaded no contest to felony false imprisonment and served a home detention sentence. In 1996, Bey launched a failed health care company with more than $1.5 million of city money that he never repaid.

TURNOVER

Recent interviews with teachers and staff at the 35th Avenue campus reveal resentment and distrust over Woods-Cadiz’s changes and support for Bey. Woods-Cadiz blames Bey for the student walkouts.

Teacher Daniel Eng, who has worked at the school for nine years, is quitting at the end of the year. This year, he said, has been the worst, with the planned move of the campus, the changes on the board and the student walkouts.

“Leaving without a job to go to, this speaks volumes for me if I lasted through all the other stuff the last few years,” Eng said.

First-year teacher Cris Bautista, who teaches eighth-grade math, science, English and history at the school, replaced another teacher who quit in November, shortly after Woods-Cadiz arrived.

“It’s been hard to teach in this atmosphere, with the student walkouts and the administrative turnover,” Bautista said. “There are a lot of problems with the board and the administration, and it trickles down and it’s harmful to the students. Every day something crazy happens.”

By Doug Oakley doakley@bayareanewsgroup.com

http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_28181196/high-drama-oakland-charter-school-cuts-ties-unsavory

Feds Spent $3.3 Billion Fueling Charter Schools but No One Knows What It’s Really Bought

Billions Spent Photo

Madison, Wisconsin – The federal government has spent more than $3.3 billion over the past two decades creating and fueling the charter school industry, according to a new financial analysis and reporters’ guide by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). (The new guide can be downloaded below.)

Despite the huge sums spent so far, the federal government maintains no comprehensive list of the charter schools that have received and spent these funds or even a full list of the private or quasi-public entities that have been approved by states to “authorize” charters that receive federal funds. And despite drawing repeated criticism from the Office of the Inspector General for suspected waste and inadequate financial controls within the federal Charter Schools Program – designed to create, expand, and replicate charter schools – the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is poised to increase its funding by 48% in FY 2016.

CMD’s review of internal audits reveals that ED did not act quickly or effectively on numerous reports that state education officials had no idea where the federal funds ended up. The documents also show that ED knowingly awarded grants to states with no statutory oversight over charter authorizers and schools as the grant applications are evaluated based on how much “flexibility” from state laws charter schools have.

As a result of lax oversight on the federal level, combined with many state laws that hide charter finances from the public eye, taxpayers are left in the dark about how much federal money each charter school has received and what has been wasted or spent to enrich charter school administrators and for-profit corporations who get lucrative outsourcing contracts from charters, behind closed doors.

“The Department of Education is pushing for an unprecedented expansion of charter schools while paying lip service to accountability, but independent audit materials show that the Department’s lofty rhetoric is simply not backed up by its actions,” noted Jonas Persson, a writer for the Center for Media and Democracy, a national watchdog group that publishes PRWatch.org, ALECexposed.org, and SourceWatch.org, adding, “the lack of tough financial controls and the lack of public access to information about how charters are spending federal tax dollars has almost inevitably led to enormous fraud and waste.”

CMD’s guide, “New Documents Show How Taxpayer Money Is Wasted by Charter Schools – Stringent Controls Urgently Needed as Charter Funding Faces Huge Increase,” analyzes materials obtained from open records requests about independent audits of how states interact with charter school authorizers and charter schools.

These documents, along with the earlier Inspector General report, reveal systemic barriers to common sense financial controls. Revealing quotes from those audit materials, highlighted in CMD’s report, show that too often states have had untrained staff doing unsystematic reviews of authorizers and charter schools while lacking statutory authority and adequate funding to fully assess how federal money is being spent by charters.

In many instances, states have no idea how charter schools actually spent federal monies and they have no systematic way of obtaining that information or making sure it is accurate.

Meanwhile, charter school advocates within state agencies and private entities have sought to prevent strong financial controls and reporting systems backed up by government oversight.

“It is astonishing that the federal government has spent more than $3 billion dollars directly on charter schools and is poised to commit another $350 million on their expansion this year, even though charters have failed to perform better than traditional public schools overall and have performed far worse when it comes to fraud and waste,” noted Lisa Graves, CMD’s Executive Director.

She added: “This result is not surprising since many charter school advocates have pushed to create a system that allows charters to get federal funds without federal controls on how that money is spent–but it should not be acceptable for so much of taxpayers’ money to be spent this way, with no requirement that the public be told how much money each and every charter school receives, how much each spends on high-paid charter executives, how much money makes it to the classroom, and how much is outsourced to for-profit firms.”

In CMD’s view, “There is no doubt that American school children and American taxpayers are getting short-changed by the charter school system that is siphoning money away from traditional public schools.”

Download a copy of CMD’s full report below. You can also read excerpts of responses to open records requests via CMD’s SourceWatch, such as the corrective action planimposed by the ED Office of the Inspector General after a scathing 2012 audit.

Monday, 11 May 2015 00:00By Jonas Persson, PR Watch | Op-Ed

MDUSD Board President asks CCCBOE to return Clayton Valley Charter HS to the MDUSD.

Mt. Diablo Unified School District Governing Board President, Cheryl Hansen asks the Contra Costa County Board of Education to return Clayton Valley Charter High School to the MDUSD due to the “corrupt and dysfunctional CVCHS Governing Board and Administration”.

Letter From Cheryl Hanson to MDUSD Page 1 2-25-15 Letter From Cheryl Hanson to MDUSD Page 2 2-25-15