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.
Peter Thorp, Chief of Staff
CC: David Montes de Ora OUSD; Liane Zimny