The five local schools that use the American Indian Public Charter model might be among the highest-scoring public middle and high schools in Oakland (not to mention the state), but tonight, the state administrator stopped a new one from opening.
David Montes de Oca, Oakland’s charter schools director, was careful to say that his recommendation to deny the charter petition “is not a condemnation of the American Indian Public Charter School model or its schools — far from it.”
The problem, Montes de Oca said, was that the petition contained flaws relating to enrollment processes, recruitment, special education, and arts education (Here’s the report. If you can’t open that, go to the board agenda under N). He said the denial recommendation represented a shift in charter authorizations in OUSD — that, from here on out, they will be subject to tougher standards.
Ben Chavis, the infamously outspoken, un-politically correct and sometimes combustible former director of American Indian, showed up to the meeting, along with the schools’ current — and far more mellow — administrators, Janet Roberts and John Glover.
If anyone was dozing off before Chavis’s speech, they were shaken from their semiconscious state soon after he stepped to the podium. I wish I had the whole thing on video, but here are a few quotes:
On charters, in general: “I think there’s too many charter schools in Oakland — too many sorry ones, and you should close them.”
On the model he created: “You ain’t done nothing compared to what I’ve done in education.”
On how he would implement the model in other Oakland public schools for free: “I don’t need your money… I’m an Indian who bought America, and now I’m leasing it back to you.”
On the common assumption that the schools’ test scores have only risen because of their Asian student populations (directed to Chinese-American board member Gary Yee): “Pull it up on your computer, Mr. Yee. Your people are the lowest performing (at American Indian school)…”
Before the meeting, Chavis told me that he had fully expected that the district would deny the petition. If Kmart could have kept the Wal-Mart stores from opening, he reasoned, wouldn’t they have done the same thing? (Afterward, on his way out, he muttered, “Crooks!”)
What do you make of the Wal-Mart analogy?