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Rumors (and denials) of a rogue charter school opening next week

By Katy Murphy
Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 at 5:25 pm in charter schools, elementary schools, families.

American Indian Public Charter School

Sometimes when I write about the American Indian Public Charter School I feel like I’ve entered an alternative reality. This is one of those times.

For that reason, I can’t tell you definitively whether an unauthorized elementary charter school will open on American Indian’s downtown campus on Halloween, as rumored — though it’s looking unlikely. I’ll just share the information I’ve collected so far.

Evidence that suggests a school affiliated with American Indian is (or at least was) slated to open two months into the school year:

- I called the receptionist at the school last week, told her I was a news reporter, and asked if American Indian was opening a new elementary school in October, as I had heard. She said, “Yes it is.”

- An OUSD mother who attended a recent informational meeting at American Indian said parents were told that a new elementary school would indeed open on Oct. 31. She’s since heard rumors it will no longer happen. But if it does, she said, she will probably send her daughter there.

- OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint said district staff spoke with Laura Armstrong, the director of another charter school, East Oakland Leadership Academy. He said Armstrong told them that it planned to “expand” onto American Indian’s downtown Oakland campus this fall. (I’ve left two messages for Armstrong since Friday, which haven’t been returned.)

- Flint said the district received a number of reports about families who said they planned to pull their children out of their schools and enroll them at a new American Indian school.

- Two teachers from Bella Vista Elementary School’s Chinese bilingual program have told me families have told them the same thing.

But then…

- Ben Chavis, who has emerged from retirement to once again lead the charter school group, laughed at the rumor that AIM would open a school in late October.  He said East Oakland Leadership Academy had spoken with his organization about leasing space from them — and that American Indian is looking to open a k-8 school next year — but that he’s opening no schools next week. He said the informational meeting with parents was about next year’s expansion.

- Chavis then put me on the phone with the receptionist I spoke with last week, who proceeded to deny that she had told me anything.

Amid all the confusion, the school district sent out a letter to families, advising them to not pull their children out of school to enroll them in an unauthorized charter school. Here’s an excerpt:

  • No existing charter school in Oakland – not American Indian Model Schools or any other organization — has received approval to expand its existing program to the current American Indian Public Charter School campus at 171 12th Street.
  • If any organization opens a new elementary school in Oakland during the 2011-2012 school year without authorization, claiming that it is a public charter school, this is verifiably false and families should contact the Office of Charter Schools at the contact information below.

It goes on to say, in all-caps: “OUSD ADVISES PARENTS TO THINK CAREFULLY BEFORE REMOVING THEIR CHILDREN FROM THEIR CURRENT SCHOOL AND ENROLLING THEM IN AN UNAUTHORIZED PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL OR ANY PRIVATE SCHOOL THAT CLAIMS IT WILL BECOME A PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL.”

“We think what they’re doing is illegal, a violation of ed code,” Flint said. “There are so many issues, it’s almost hard to list them all.”

That is, if they’re doing it at all.

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  • Nextset

    Sharon & Co: All this makes my point of how bad OUSD is and how desperate families are for real schools.

    Do you think the Catholic grade Schools were without their drama in the 1960s?

    The Families send their kids to schools because with all the drama – the product produced by schools such as AIM and the Catholics are superior. That’s more important for black folks and some others because of the struggle their kids have climbing the ladder and staying on.

    Look how easy it would be for OUSD to out Charter the Charters if they would ever try. But they don’t.

    If OUSD cared about keeping the franchise they’d open a school across the street from AI that would out-AI AI. At least on a demonstration basis. AI would apparently collapse and that would be that.

    Business do it all the time.

    And Sharon – you write of Chavis getting rid of the Indian students like that’s a bad thing. You assume that because he’s using the name “Indian” he can’t do whatever he wants. You’re really mistaken. People do whatever they want. Free Country. Who’s going to stop them anyway? Chavis’ antics will continue unless and until the students and the money walk out the door. That’s how business works. Why don’t you complain about something realistic? You’d appear much more credible.

    Yesterday I was unfavorably comparing a large medical provider’s customer service to Allstate Insurance. I won’t leave Allstate. It’s a wonder some of these Doctors and Hospitals have paying patients left.

    Brave New World!

  • TKL

    It appears your version of the Brave New World includes not enforcing the law. If it were only antics that would be fine.

  • Nextset

    TKL: Are you nuts? California is flooding the cities with Convicts. Police Departments are wholesale shutting down detective sections. DA’s Offices are cutting back intake to favor “violent crimes only”. Cities are refusing to handle car wrecks and residential burglaries (no photos, no fingerprinting, no service, online reporting only). Government services are on the way out and that includes controlling badly behaved corporations. Small Claims and Civil Courts are talking about shutting down and that includes Divorce Court. They haven’t competely done it yet – things are only slowing steadily. Don’t ever think the public will be told how bad things are going – even by the media who is not exactly publishing news of the deterioration. Drunks, Druggies, & Thugs of all kinds are feeling less inhibited. So good luck at the football game and any large gathering – or on BART.

    And you really think the government is going to Police what goes on with the non-profits anymore?

    In case you haven’t heard – people sentenced to state prison are being kicked out of the county jails in a month because of overcrowding and the bulk of the impact from the transfer of state prisoners to the counties hasn’t arrived yet. Some may say the crashing of the civil courts is more important – it all is – but these conditions will soon make it vital to limit who you talk to and do business with in any way. Yes, i’m talking about big time discrimination coming. Based on absolutely whatever is a marker for trouble – race, sex, age, zip code, parentage, you name it.

    Wake up and smell the coffee. What’s happening to the schools is only a small part of the collapse of California. And then there’s the problem of the open border and the government’s refusal to deport criminal aliens much less those who won’t leave on tourist and student visas.

    I’d just love for the students of CA to have the schools systems I did. My family all went to public high schools in the East Bay. But all that is gone, gone, gone.

    The Brave New World is here and you’d better start making plans to take care of your own. I didn’t ask for this, but the people of CA sure did with it’s state legislation. Get real and adjust your expectations. These are the good years, things are going to get much worse quickly.

    Every Baby Boomer I know has thought now of leaving California – taking their assets and cash flow with them. The weather is the only thing slowing them down.

  • TKL

    Far from nuts and weary of hearing the above (which is obvious to a 2 year old) used as an excuse for not addressing a known and clear issue.

    Tired of this blog and lack of the ability to focus on a problem that should be addressed. It seems that we are also a part of the problem if we actually agree there is a problem but then turn around and support doing nothing because there are other problems too.

    Doesn’t make it right in the new or the old world. wrong is wrong…

  • PoohBear

    When is the AIPCS II hearing?

  • Former AIPCS Parent

    The district just wrapped up their site visits there at downtown. Wonder what they found?

    I will tell you this-knowing Dr. Chavis- I bet he was not even there. He will allow his staff and wife take the beatings and he will beat them again later! This is known- he yelled and cursed his wife in front of staff and kids before. It doesnt matter though- Dr. Chavis is very smart. He knows how to hide well through and use others (that’s why he and Lopez fought, split and are now enemies).

    In the meantime – EOLA will try and open in downtown, Little Hands opens in downtown, and Alpha Charter school is being established in San Jose as an aim school headed by former AIM head John Glover….
    guess who is in charge???

  • PoohBear

    Sorry if you’re tired of this
    AIPCS board mtg Wednesday 1/11/12 6 PM
    171 12th St Oakland

  • Askew

    So….I am tired of this a bit but would like to finally know…..who are the board members? Did anyone go to the meeting? What was the resut?

    Such a soap opera! I wonder if American Indian likes this sort of attention- probably not!

  • PoohBear
  • PoohBear

    The video above shows an AIPCS Board meeting. There was no discussion – a tactic used to keep the public uninformed. Just thought I’d give everyone an update…

  • Remi

    There is too much going on here. First this person posts the linlk through “lumbee lovechild”?Then at the end of her rant thgat remonded me of a college campus group leader, she states that ” she wants to help expand the model. She believes init?”

    I watched and came of thinking that this perosn either has had a relationship with Chavis,and is a disgruntled employee.

    Not much of an investifative reporter are you Lovechild?

  • Remi

    sorry…too many typos!

  • Sue

    As much as I do not like Chavis, I have to say PB that you come off as a disgruntled teacher!

    Not much substance here to be honest, and you even sound childish at times!

    Honey….teacher raises..your serious?

    As for him on the board, ok there might be something, but leave that teacher slant alone…enough at OUSD already – who are you the union? No better way to turn off the public! Also, if you support model as you day at the end of your “speech”, then you support the practices as far as Im concerned…

    Leave it alone, your in over your head.

  • PoohBear

    Getting fired or being forced to quit because of intimidation can make some unhappy. I can count eight who left after Chavis came back. The reasons had nothing to do with money. The AIPCS board was questioned about their actions…I don’t think OUSD was mentioned. OUSD should hold charter schools accountable and the public should know what is going on. Sorry if I sounded childish – the list of questions was so ridiculously long it was humorous. I just want someone to investigate.

    If you’re irked by the part regarding teacher bonuses and raises, ignore it. It was for teachers who still work there. If you speak out, you’re considered a threat. That leads to dismissal. I spoke of raises/bonuses because 1) it’s a part of the model which the board ignored the past year(AIM specific, not OUSD specific)and 2)Chavis profits immensely from renting space to AIPCS II, but can’t afford a standard of living raise. I guess I should stay quiet. I’m one person and in over my head.

  • http://www.alphapublicschools.org John Glover

    Re: comment 106

    Former AIPCS Parent,

    I can’t speak for the rest of your comment, but I wanted to take the opportunity to correct your assertion that Alpha is an AIM spinoff.

    Ben has had no involvement in the creation of Alpha. He will not be involved in its operation or governance, nor will he serve as an adviser or consultant. We have our own non-profit and board. Though I’m proud of the work I did with the students and teachers at AIM, and though we will still have high expectations of students, the model at Alpha is completely different. We are implementing a full blended model with 2:1 student to computer ratios in every class; significant parent involvement and community outreach; a robust teacher development program that focuses on established best practices; an intensive, research-based character development program for students; and a behavior management approach that balances consequences with praise – treating all kids with respect.

    I learned a lot during my time at AIM, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I had there, but I’ve moved on – geographically and with respect to my educational philosophy. Alpha will succeed or fail on its own merits.

    I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about Alpha. Contact information is available through our website.

  • concerned parent

    http://www.asbcs.az.gov/board_information/meeting_info/2012/January.asp

    These aren’t just allegations anymore. OUSD is now formally investigating AIPCS through FCMAT. The investigation is ongoing.

  • J.R.

    Good, it’s about time! Every rotten egg, either within charter or public schools should be tossed away.

  • Summer

    At the last board meeting, Ms. Spearmen made it clear that the charter office has a bone to pick with Chavis. So, will she and other board members approve this school with all of this?

    Arizona denied on the attched video link above. Now-its Oakland’s turn…will board members do the right thing? What precedent will be set when you approve this one?

    I hope you get it right!

  • Molly

    So when is the verdict out on Apics? I am curious to see what its all about.

    When is the vote for this school as mentioned above?

  • Katy Murphy

    I don’t believe it’s been scheduled yet. The Oakland school board held its first of two hearings on the AIPCS charter renewal last week.

  • Poohbear

    Aipcs board meeting Tuesday 2/21/12 4 PM

  • sue

    Perhaps an answer to the state investigation will be discussed? I am still not clear who is in charge?

  • Director

    Thank you Arizona for keeping us Oakland Parents updated on what FCMAT, ACOE, OUSD, and hopefully soon, the Feds, have been investigating!

    See and read #116!!!

    fyi… conditional “Letters of Acceptance” for Fall 2012 have been received by numerous K-4 families for a school at 12th/Madison (same location as AIPCSII)!

  • Anon.

    Is it true that AIPCS II’s renewal petition was denied by OUSD?

  • Katy Murphy

    Not yet – it’s on Wednesday’s agenda. I’m working on a story about it now, actually.

  • PoohBear

    http://ousd.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1099958&GUID=C5656E8D-7547-4B5A-96E7-83FB6553BA11&Options=ID|Text|Attachments|&Search=leadership+public

    few tidbits:

    Facilities lease agreements signed by the founder that document various roles as lessee and lessor with no
    verifiable authorization from the governing board. (Annual lease for AIPCS II facility is currently $280,350;
    amounts for the other AIMS schools are about the same.)
    o Large expenditures for construction projects that lack any support documentation or authoriza- tion by
    the governing board and corresponding checks signed by the founder to his personal business for these
    construction expenditures. (AIMS board minutes report construction expenditures of $500,000 to
    date.)
    o Entries for the founder’s life insurance, payroll and additional CalPERS paid to on behalf of the founder
    during a time when former employees and the founder indicate that the founder was not affiliated with
    the day-to-day business and was instead only the landlord. (Salary of $100,000 per year reported to
    OCS.)
    o The founder’s wife has a separate outside services contract with the organization to perform back-office
    bookkeeping and exists as an employee on the charter schools payroll records during the same time frame.
    (Service contract reportedly $150,000 per year.)
    o Department of Motor Vehicle fees paid with school funds when the school has no vehicles.
    o A check payable to the Arizona Commission for expedition services related to a charter petition
    o unrelated to AIMS Charter Schools in Oakland, CA.
    o Multiple checks to a former board member for various services.

  • Anon

    PoohBear,
    Where is this info. located? I can’t seem to find it on the link.

  • PoohBear
  • Katy Murphy