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Pro-charter group takes stand against Uprep

You know you’re in trouble when your advocacy group turns its back on you. 

Before today, the only charter organization that the California Charter Schools Association wanted to see closed was the California Charter Academy, a statewide operation accused of misusing $25 million of state funds on personal luxuries such as boats and spa visits.

Now it has company:  Oakland’s University Preparatory Charter Academy, a high school located in Eastmont Mall, which opened in 2001.

Gary Larson, a spokesman for the charter schools association, told me today that the latest letter from the Oakland school district — containing yet more allegations of fraud – left his organization little choice. He said the school was undermining “the integrity of the charter school movement.”

Earlier this month, they kicked the school out of the association.

The school district letter, sent yesterday to Uprep’s governing board, documented evidence of changed grades on students’ report cards and inflated enrollment projections. Already, the district had documented evidence of cheating on state tests and a lax governing structure.

If the school closes, hundreds of students will have to scramble to find new schools with just a few weeks before the start of the fall semester.

The next scheduled public meeting at Uprep will be Aug. 4 at the school. There, the school’s governing board is expected to decide whether or not to try to keep the school open. They couldn’t reach an agreement on Monday, though dozens of parents and students urged them to fight for the school.

Here’s the letter from the charter schools association:

July 27, 2007

Mr. Prentice Deadrick

President, Board of Governors

University Preparatory Charter Academy

575 Cliff Drive

Pasadena, CA 91107

Dear Mr. Deadrick:

I am following up on our letter to you (care of the Uprep school site address) dated July 12, 2007. Today we have read the July 26, 2007 letter from the Oakland Unified School District to you alleging material violations of your charter, the California Education Code, and the California Government Code specifically “false claims” based on fraudulent submission of daily attendance accounting.

The California Charter Schools Association takes these charges most seriously—false attendance accounting is illegal, it violates the public trust, and it certainly has a most deleterious impact on the integrity of the charter school movement. These charges, in addition to the school’s admitted cheating on state testing and the teachers’ assertions that the school submitted fraudulent transcripts to colleges, reveal a pattern of operation that undercuts the most basic covenant between the public and its public school system. And as we noted in our July 12 letter, it is our conclusion that the school is in violation of the Association’s Quality Standards: Quality Standard #1 “Student Achievement First”; Quality Standard #2 “Ethical Leadership”; and Quality Standard #4 “Responsible Governance.”

Given the admitted state testing violations and these most recent charges, that the school leader has resigned, that most of the teachers are no longer employed at the school, that the WASC evaluation indicates that the academic program is in disarray, and that what is most important in this situation is the educational welfare of the students, we urge you in the strongest possible terms to close University Preparatory Charter Academy immediately and to return your charter to OUSD.

By announcing the closing of the school now, you will provide the students and their families with the greatest amount of time to find another educational opportunity prior to the opening of the new school year. It is critical that the students’ interests are first and foremost in your thinking. The Association is prepared to assist you and the Uprep Board to close the school in an orderly fashion, and we are prepared to assist the families in finding appropriate placements in Oakland’s other charter and District high schools that may have spaces at this time. To that end we have already initiated due diligence on our part, given the possibility that you would elect to close the school, and believe that seven other Oakland charter schools could accommodate 200 or more Uprep students. It is important that the Uprep students and those schools have sufficient time to assist the students with transition planning.

Please contact our Bay Area General Manager Nick Driver (415-225-4661) if you have any questions or if you wish to discuss this course of action further.

Sincerely,

Peter Thorp, Chief of Staff

CC: David Montes de Ora OUSD; Liane Zimny

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Caroline

    I’m glad to see the CCSA finally take a stand against wrongdoing in charter schools, though it has plenty of catching up and some apologizing to do.

    In my school district, San Francisco Unified, we had a charter high school that had two students die on a school-run wilderness trip due to clear negligence by the school, which was also in fiscal shambles (with teachers going unpaid), was committing open academic fraud by graduating students with far fewer credits than required, and posted rock-bottom (1-1) test scores as well. Yet CCSA spoke out in favor of that school, Urban Pioneer, when SFUSD’s Board of Education moved to close it. It was a divisive, inflammatory controversy that harmed our district, our schools and our students.

    It’s a relief to hear that there’s SOME level that the CCSA won’t tolerate.

  • James Jones, Jr., Parent, etc.

    At this point, CCSA’s stand seems to be more symbolic than anything else; Uprep was closing anyway… it’s seems a little like a “me too”. I’d like to see some criminal charges filed. How else can we prevent future Upreps ?

  • Jim Mordecai

    How to prevent future Upreps is a good question because Uprep is an extreme example that shows
    California charter school laws failed to provide sufficient oversight.

    I believe if the governing boards of public charter school systems were elected from the districts in
    which they are located that would be a systemic improvement.

    No system is perfect, but the autonomy given charter schools by the current laws does not show
    foresight as to what happens when millions in taxpayers money is made available to anyone that
    wants to create a charter school.

    Are believe charter schools are destructive of public education and would be happy to see them
    abolished as a failed experiment. But, the next best thing to eliminating them would be to reform
    the charter school laws making them more accountable. Right now it would be difficult to reform
    charter school law because the charter school lobby is a very affective special interest in
    Sacramento.

  • James Jones, Jr., Parent, etc.

    Fraud is already illegal. The State just needs to prosecute; A criminal investigation would send a very strong message. This really needs to be handled the same way that the Diablo Valley College scandal is being handled.

    and.. I agree that at least part of the governing board should be elected from the District it serves.

  • Jim Mordecai

    What puzzles me about Peter Thorp’s letter is mentioning the WASC evaluation: “WASC evaluation indicates that the academic program is in disarray”. As Uprep passed the WASC evaluation and got its seal of approval while, according to Peter Thorp of the charter school association, finding the program in “disarray”, what does that tell the public about the worth of the WASC evaluation and seal of
    approval?

  • Jose, Former Student

    UPrep sounds alot like the rest of the public high schools in Oakland. Do you relize some of the same board members of UPrep also served on the OUSD board when it got one hundred million in debt?

    What about all the San Francisco Public Schools that also got caugth cheating on the state test?

  • Michelle, Parent U-prep

    It’s sad that people have to make a distinction that Charter schools are bad because of the schools who did not follow procedure and straight up cheated and misused public funds. However they truly are no different than other public school districts who have indeed had the same problems throughout the years. When I was a senior in a public high school my school was in danger of closing due these very same issues, minus the cheating on tests. My daughter has been attending charter schools since about 3rd grade and it has been a tremendous benefit to our family for her educational experience. That being said, I am sure that she may have had the same experience at another public school had there been one in my area that would have afforded her the opportunities she has had. Public Schools are failing to provide what is necessary for children, at least in my district. I found a place in charter schools where my voice and my input was respected and necessary in a community of Administrators, teachers, parents and students who cared enough to change that for a few who were willing to do it. I have served in so many capacities at the previous charter schools from cleaning bathrooms, to coaching a sports team to serving on the governing board. Now our choice to send our daughter to Uprep was obviously not the best one, and there does need to be better governance and accountability for these charter schools. But to do away with them would send them back into a system that has a number of problems and is failing children left and right. I am the first to say I would like to see criminal charges pressed for the activity that has gone on at Uprep. We believed in something better for our children and we have been misled severely. It’s funny because we had actually decided last December to take her out of the school and transfer her to a school more local to our home but she wanted to finish the year, I know my daughter is one of those students who was able to benefit from what was good at the school. Things were always a problem and I regret not changing her schools before. But I stand by ANY school, charter or not that has what it takes to give children the education they deserve. Remember, no matter how you look at it corruption exists in institutions that have been proven and those that have not yet been proven. I can only speak from experience that charter schools are providing a family like mine with a choice for better education and its up to me to determine that is done. I have learned a lot through this experience. As a parent who still has two more young children to go through the educational system and an advocate for teens in a community where opportunities are few, I will work tirelessly to help others see the opportunities that do exist and be a part of creating more opportunities. Will someone join me?

  • D Mascharney Smith-Franklin

    In regards to the above mention, I agree that not only should Isaac serve time for the crime he has commeted, but his governing board should pay the same price; for they were aware of Isaac’s wrong doings, even when it came down trumped up expulsions. I know for a fact that Isaac, nor the board followed the guidelines surrounding suspensions, expulsions, etc. If Isaac said kick them (students) out the board never followed up to see if the chain of command was being met, (contacting parent in writing) and having solid evidence of the so called infraction the student committed. Not only is the board guilty of not following up on these types of infractions, they have wittnessed Issac call students out of their names, talk about the parents of certain students (welfare reciepients)

  • Jim Mordecai

    Michelle and D Mascharney Smith-Franklin:

    I would prefer to close down the public charter school experiment as providing too many opportunities to cheat both the public and charter school students. However, that will probably not happen because of the charter school lobby is just too powerful. Therefore, I would hope that those in support of charter schools would join me in calling for reform of the current laws to make charter schools more accountable. My first suggestion is that the governance board be elected from the district in which the public charter school is located.

    Some will realize that better oversight will cost more as would elected charter school boards. I would hope that the money would come from raising taxes and not from cutting further into the K-12 education budget.

  • Michelle, Parent U-prep

    Absolutely Jim, Reform is NECESSARY and better oversight but it is also necessary in the educational system overall!
    you wrote:
    “My first suggestion is that the governance board be elected from the district in which the public charter school is located.”
    I say yes, I have served on the governing board of a Charter school in Richmond Ca. Each one of us were either parents of current students or parents of former students, along with others from this community. It was an experience that allowed me to see the complexities and joys of ensuring a fair and good educational experience for children. When we were getting our Charter Renewal the WCCUSD (West Contra Costa School District) commended our school model and admonished the District to us it for ways to improve the existing schools of the district. I could go on and on about what should have been at uprep and what we had at the previous charter that went so well, bottom line is they aren’t going away because they are good and they work, just like regular public schools, there are many good schools and there are many that you just would not send your child to. What do families need? That’s the question to ask when approaching steps for reform!

  • D Mascharney Smith-Franklin

    D Mascharney Smith-Franklin Says:

    July 29th, 2007 at 6:16 pm see comment made @6:05pm same day for this is a continuation of the above comment
    contd from previous comment……., or young girls who were pregnant trying to obtain an education, one young lady was told that she couldn’t walk accross the stage at graduation because she would cause him (Isaac) embarrassment, “This isn’t the place for you to be with your belly sticking out, you should have stayed a Oakland Technical High where girls are always getting pregnant”, another student who is the parent of two children, Isaac had her benefits discontinued, telling the worker that she wasn’t a student at his school, his school was for the serious minded only; not for welfare babies having babies this student tok approx. two months to get this straightened out, which ment her children were being deprived because he (Isaac) has a deep rooted hate against women on welfare. He has even suspended students for talking to a student he disliked, and had the parents come to a meeting if they wanted their child to be a student at UPREP.

  • Supporter

    How come the Board just cant fix these Problems its not everyday you see a school that has numerous of African American Students wanting to go to college and wanting to go to school. Everything cant just be perfect through life sometimes mistakes are made to make things better just a couple of years ago the OUSD was in major debt and still is very broke and they didnt shut them down they sent a new leader to oversee and build it back up make it better and benificial but UPREP is sending blacks to college getting degrees NO OTHER HIGH SCHOOL IN OAKLAND IS DOING SOME OF THE THINGS UPREP IS DOINGFOR THESE STUDENTS s where are the students to go back to overcrowded public schools class room with old text books and very tacky system not caring whether they go to college or not well IF not all students they should atleast let it stay open for the seniors cause they have it the worst it being their last year and they were taking community college classes WELL I THINK UPREP SHOULD STAY OPEN

  • Another Observer

    Max:

    Even if it were possible (which it isn’t), why is it the “right” thing to do to absorb Piedmont USD into Oakland? Do you think this is a moral issue or is it about moving money from Piedmont into the Oakland schools. Piedmont is incorporated as a separate city, after all.

  • Nextset

    The People of Piedmont do not want their kids associating with the public school children of Oakland. It’s their decision to make and they have made it. There is nothing the OUSD board can do about it and nobody cares about their opinions or feelings – certainly no one in Piedmont.

  • Another Observer

    CarolineSF: I don’t think the “Piedmonters” are squirming about not having their kids go to school in Oakland. I believe they’re happy to be in their own school district.

    Nextset:
    I’m not sure what you mean by “Some of them are only a divorce away from Oakland Tech” – but Tech is a good school…were you thinking of a different one?