The American Indian Public Charter School should be a lot quieter from here on out. Ben Chavis, its controversial principal, has retired and moved to Arizona to spend more time with his grandkids — a move he says he’s been planning for more than a year (Board minutes from March say Chavis planned to work only part-time at the school).
I asked him why he didn’t mention this in May, when I shadowed him for a profile and multimedia piece for the Tribune. He said it was a business decision; he didn’t want to scare off any prospective families, so he waited until after the summer session was well underway to tell people. “I didn’t go around advertising,” he said.
He picked Isaac Berniker, a Dartmouth-educated teacher, to take over.
Meanwhile, the Oakland school district — which began to investigate complaints about Chavis’s explosive behavior earlier this year — apparently was not satisfied with the response from the charter school’s board. During a visit in June, Chavis swore in front of two district administrators (which he admits) and referred to students as “darkies” and “whities,” as he often does.
“We consider the behavior observed during our visit to be inappropriate and offensive,” Kirsten Vital, chief of community accountability, wrote in a letter dated July 9.
It will be interesting to see how the school changes without its controversial founder. His colleague, Jorge Lopez, said he expects it will be as successful, if not as colorful, as before. “(Isaac)’s not going around calling people crazy-ass liberals or bull—- darkies, but the fundamental program isn’t going to fall,” he said.