Tag Archives: Contra Costa County Board of Education

Is CVCHS Funding David Linzey’s New Clayton Valley Charter Tech Academy?

cv-tech-petition Clayton Valley Tech – Charter Petition

cv-tech-appendix Clayton Valley Tech – Charter Petition Appendix

Wondering why CV sits on an $11 million surplus but continues to ask parents to donate for school supplies, tech supports, sports etc?

Because the CV Board has pledged to use its money (amount “TBD”) to help David Linzey and his new charter corporation open a new school (“Clayton Valley Charter Tech Academy”) located at the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church  on Kirker Pass Rd.

When did the CV Board vote to fund a new charter?  And why doesn’t the CV Board care that its Executive Director is spending his time planning new charters instead of focusing on fixing the problems at CV?  Maybe because CV Board members Richard Assadoorian and Ted Meriam are part of the advisory council to the new charter?  And CV Board members Tom Sparks and Sarah Lovick have agreed to teach at the new school?

The CVC Tech Academy charter petition is scheduled to be presented to the Contra Costa County Board of Education on Wednesday, October 19th.

http://www.cccoe.k12.ca.us/supe/board.html#meetings

 

 

 

Contra Costa County Board of Education to add Clayton Valley Charter HS to their agenda at their next meeting

faculty-retention-list-no-comments

The leadership at CVCHS has caused many highly qualified teachers to leave. The following chart* depicts the extent of teacher turnover since the school went charter, and was presented at the Contra Costa County Board of Education (CCCBOE) on Wednesday night (9/21/16).  In addition to this presentation, several students also expressed how they have been negatively impacted. The CCCBOE plans to add Clayton Valley to their agenda next month.

*This only includes teachers, not support staff and administrators who have also experienced high turnover.

faculty-retention-list-no-comments

 

 

9/14/16 CVCHS Governing Board Meeting Narrative

Clayton Valley Charter High School
September 14, 2016
Governing Board Meeting Narrative

The CVCHS board meeting started shortly after 6:00pm. The audience appeared to be made up of 150+ unhappy students, teachers, parents, and community members. There also appeared to be several happy Executive Director Linzey supporters in the front row. The meeting began with Chairperson Ted Meriam giving the audience instructions on proper behavior at a board meeting. He then called on members of the audience who had filled out a speaking card to come up and speak for their exact allotted speaking time of either 2 or 3 minutes. There were over a dozen speakers with all but one expressing their concerns about the executive director, the school board, the flight of teachers and staff, and the unexplained budget.

While memorializing the teachers that had touched their lives so profoundly, teachers who had each in turn fled the charter, the emotionally charged students begged the board members to listen to them. It appeared as though the entire leadership class of the school was in attendance. One after another they went to the speaking podium and poured out their feelings of frustration at the disappearance of their teachers, their counselors, and the staff that supported and mentored them. Some of those students were not only saddened by loss, but were also angry that nothing was being done to stop the landslide of disappearing staff. Another teacher had resigned that week, following dozens before her. Each student was loudly cheered by the audience for their heartfelt speeches, and as the room became more on edge, one very brave student stood up and with an air of confidence and resolve called on the board to wake up and solve the problem. Over and over again she pointed out that the problems at the school lead back to the executive director. She then looked at Executive Director Dave Linzey and asked him to resign. Of course the room erupted in cheers. The audience was with her.

One notable speaker pointed out the strange shifting of money in the budget from last year and the 11 million dollar surplus that could be used for students, but it appeared that it was being stockpiled for some unknown future use. Another speaker also pointed to the lack of detail in the budget and stated that she has tried numerous times to request explanations from the administration. This person is a respected, hard working elected board member of the Athletic Booster Board and was recently asked to resign by the athletic director, noting her unwelcome inquiries and negative comments about the administration. He told her if she didn’t resign the athletic booster club would be effectively shut down and kept from operating on campus.

After the students finished their impassioned speeches, but before any agenda “business” began, the executive director showed how much he cared by condescendingly giving the students “permission” to leave the meeting to go do their homework. The students looked around incredulously and stayed in their seats.

The board chair then gave a lengthy speech about how the Board has no say in, and cannot address personnel issues. He left out, however, the fact the Board does in fact have one personnel responsibility—to oversee, hire, and fire the Executive Director.

The board continued and as usual there were no comments about anything, no questions to the executive director, no promise to look into the issues, no questioning of the budget that no one in the room appeared to have a copy of. The board gave the appearance of puppets on a string bobbing their heads yes to everything the executive director proposed. There was no discussion of any item and no board business conducted at any time. A seemingly endless list of new hires was announced, some very obviously causing a controversy afterwards. Not one of the new staff, not even the new administrators were at the meeting to be introduced. Mr. Linzey stated that he would be visiting the leadership class the next day. The meeting was adjourned by 7:30pm.

Many people milled around talking after the meeting was over. A board member came down and chastised the students for their behavior. Another staff member from the school did the same. The parents also seemed incredulous that not even a single word was uttered by board members that gave them any indication that they recognized the problem and they would look into it. Parents wondered what they could do next. What can they do? This is a charter run by one person with no apparent oversight by anyone. One group already tried and where are they now? Retaliation is an often repeated word. Speaking up can have life time consequences. Good luck to the amazing students who spoke at the meeting and to all the students and parents who came to support them. Hopefully they will find the answer.

 

Editorial on the teacher turnover at Clayton Valley Charter

 

There have been various reasons why teachers have left CV. But regardless, the amount of turnover that CV is seeing is absolutely abnormal, especially in the midst of a teacher shortage in California. Overall, many teachers simply disagree with the direction the school is taking. Mr Linzey cares more about building an empire and creating an image, and the governing board rubber stamps whatever he wants.

Professional development and collaboration has become a bumbling mess, and there is little effective communication amongst the staff as a result. The division of two years ago is still there, it is just quieter now. Academic programs seem to take a back seat to certain athletic programs. Achieve 3000 is touted as a panacea for literacy problems when really it is a waste of time that is forced on teachers and students and takes time away from meaningful learning and teaching. Teachers are scolded and punished for complaining or speaking out. Student discipline is not effectively handled and there is little to no avenue for teachers to have any input. The list goes on, but in the end, CV still has a lot of work to do- more than ever- if it still wants to go from “good to great”.

The public needs to be educated about the fact that teachers are professionals with extensive training, but their contributions are not valued at CV, or only valued if they’ve sworn allegiance to Mr. Linzey, and often the direction he wants to go is not student-centered. However, pointing that out will get one labeled a “traitor” and discredited as “just another disgruntled teacher.” Such a toxic place to be if one truly believes in education and working for young people. It is insulting to advocate for students, only to be dismissed and discredited as the opposite.

~Anonymous CVCHS Teacher

 

Stakeholders for Transparency posted the list of staff that have left this (2015-2016) school year so far:

 

Miguel Romo – Student Services Administrator

Greg Fister – Dean of Students (Discipline & Character)

Jackie Valdez – Counselor

Katelyn James – Psychologist/Special Education

Kirsten Owen – Office Manager

Joey Scott – Band/Orchestra Instructor

Kipp Penovich – Science/Physics Teacher

Jennifer Garcia –Teacher

Cristina Valle – Teacher, Special Education Transition Specialist

Sabine Becker – Teacher

Suzanne Chenault- Teacher

Clarice Hammett – French Teacher

Lauren Lewis –Resource Teacher

Maurice Maier – Teacher

Renee Tresse – Teacher

Paul Tucker – Teacher

Jillian Winkler – Teacher, Yearbook Leadership

Melissa Chesnut – Special Education Assistant

Kathleent Prato – Special Education Assistant

Jhullli Rogers – Special Education Assistant

Paula Dillon – Teacher

Rocketship Charter to Petition the California State Board of Education

Stakeholders for Transparency urges you to contact the California State Board of Education, and request they deny the petition for Rocketship Charter School. The board will be hearing the petition on March 9, so the earlier the better!

Rocketship charter is known for it’s intense “drill and kill” curriculum. which is not at all suitable for young children.

Rocketship charter has targeted students in the Monument Corridor, promising their families better schools. Rocketships main reason for targeting the Monument community is purely financial. With the new LCAP school funding, students who qualify as English Language Learners, and for free/reduced lunch are worth more money than students who do not. The current oversight of Charter Schools in California is abysmal, at best. There is no guarantee that the additional funding would be spent on ELL programs.

Placing Rocketship in Concord will not create additional jobs, or bring any additional funding to the city.

What it will do, is divide our communities. Our school district is zoned for neighborhood schools. Children and families need the support of their communities, and in turn, work to better their own schools. Rocketship has not been able to secure a site for their school, so MDUSD is forced to offer them equitable space. MDUSD has approved a resolution to place Rocketship at Ayers Elementary, and Silverwood Elementary. Both of these schools have major traffic issues already. Adding an additional 125 students, if not more, will make the traffic in these areas completely unmanageable, and unsafe.

Please, write to the State Board of Education, urge them to uphold the decision of our locally elected school officials, who have already denied Rocketship at the MDUSD level, and at the County Board of Education level.

You can email sbe@cde.ca.gov. Alternatively, you may also call the SBE at 916-319-0827 or send a facsimile to 916-319-0175.
In addition, we urge you to write, call or email the contacts listed at the bottom to express your wishes to deny Rocketships appeal to the state.

Limit your reasoning to not having Rocketship in the community at all!

To see the staff reports of MDUSD and CCBOE that support these agency’s unanimous votes to deny, please follow these links:
http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/…/fe89dc4a-67d2-416b-b4c6…

http://www.boarddocs.com/ca/cccoe/Board.nsf/vpublic?open

To see the report of why MDUSD has to offer space to Rocketship:
http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/…/a7aa0b8c-1e99-41bc-8e07…
and
http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/…/812c9e07-ce8e-4115-951e…

To see the proposal Rocketship has sent to the State: (item 7)
http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/cc/cs/accsnotice020916.asp

Additional info regarding Rocketship:
http://www.stoprocketship.com/
http://www.stoprocketship.com/…/CityCouncilPresentation…

Additional info regarding “corporate” charter schools:
http://www.salon.com/…/were_onto_the_phony_education…/

Urge the following to deny the Rocketship petition:
Contact Information
To contact the State Board of Education members or staff, please send an email to sbe@cde.ca.gov. Alternatively, you may also call the SBE at 916-319-0827 or send a facsimile to 916-319-0175.
charters@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-6029

Urge the following to contact the California State Board of Education and ask them to deny the Rocketship petition:

Concord
Mayor: Laura Hoffmeister
Vice Mayor: Ron Leone
Councilmembers: Edi Birsan, Tim Grayson and Daniel Helix
1950 Parkside Drive, MS/01
Concord, CA 94519
Phone: (925) 671-3158. Fax: (925) 798-0636
CityCouncil@cityofconcord.org
Note: For correspondence sent to City Council, City Clerk or City Treasurer, please put Attention; followed by the name of the specific elected official.

Walnut Creek:
mailto:mayor@walnut-creek.org

Pleasant Hill:
http://www.ci.pleasant-hill.ca.us/forms.aspx?FID=74

Martinez:
Mayor Rob Schroder: 925-372-3501 rschroder@cityofmartinez.org
Councilmember Mark Ross: 925-372-3544 mross@cityofmartinez.org
Councilmember Lara Delaney: 925-372-3542 ldelaney@cityofmartinez.org
Councilmember AnaMarie Avila Farias: 925-372-3543 amafarias@cityofmartinez.org
Councilmember Debbie McKillop: 925-372-3541 dmckillop@cityofmartinez.org

Contra Costa County Supervisors:
Karen Mitchoff: supervisormitchoff@bos.cccounty.us
2151 Salvio St., Suite R
Concord, CA 94520

Ph: 925-521-7100
Fx: 925-646-5202

 

Neil McChesney Bills CVCHS For Consulting Work

Neil McChesney Resignation Letter 3-2-15

FINAL CVCHS Closeout Report-Conflicts of Interest

According to a declaration made by Neil McChesney in a letter addressed to CVCHS, “I left (CVCHS) on or about March 2, 2015 to pursue other interests, notably creation of a performing arts charter school”.  Mr. McChesney continued to receive monthly payments, totaling $9,600.00 from Clayton Valley Charter High School between April 1, 2015 and August 1, 2015 for “consulting work.”

What exactly is Mr. McChesney doing for Clayton Valley Charter High School, besides receiving money that could be spent on the students’ education?  Stakeholders for Transparency has requested a contract describing his duties, but have been told that the school needs extra time to “search for and collect” the requested information.

We are especially concerned because McChesney has been working to open the School of Performing Arts (SPA), and in the Contra Cost County Board of Education’s final report, “CVCHS provided the requested written confirmation that no funds were provided to the SPA Charter” and “provided the requested copy of its annual budget, showing no funds have or will be transferred from CVCHS to the SPA Charter.”  (Final CCCBOE Report, page 4 –   presented at the Jan. 13, 2016 Board Meeting).

 

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.

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

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

Oakland North Logo

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/