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American Indian charter school parents speak out

Staff Photojournalist
American Indian Model Schools supporters, seen here at an April Oakland school board meeting, before the final state report on the charter organization was published. Photo by D. Ross Cameron.

The fate of the American Indian Model Schools won’t be on Wednesday’s regular Oakland school board meeting agenda, but we can expect a large group of parents and students from the three schools at the meeting.

Bernadette Coleman, president of the schools’ new Family Advisory Committee, told me today she believes the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team’s scathing report about the AIMS governance, operations and suspected financial fraud — which came out this summer, prompting OUSD to issue a “notice of violation” in September — was full of errors.

If and when the OUSD board holds a hearing on the subject, Coleman said, “it’ll be public knowledge what is true and what is not.”

Families and staff members worked around the clock to respond to each of the school district’s concerns, Coleman said, and will tell the Oakland school board so on Wednesday night after they march to the school district headquarters from the campus in Chinatown.

The charter school organization recently submitted a 13-binder response to Oakland Unified’s “notice of violation.” Staff are reviewing the response and are expected to come forth with a recommendation in January, according to OUSD.

I did notice vastly new and improved AIM Schools website, complete with the names of the governing board members and copies of the agendas and minutes. (It does, however, seem to lack some of the in-your-face attitude I enjoyed on the previous site.)

Here’s a letter the parents from American Indian’s advisory council sent out today (originally titled in red font):

Why does OUSD want to close one of the HIGHEST PERFORMING K- 12 Schools in California?

Since 2000, American Indian Public Charter School went from a failing school on the brink of closing to one of the Nation’s top performing schools in the country.

In 2006, American Indian Public Charter School became the first public school in Oakland to win the National Blue Ribbon Award!
Today, AIM Schools are among the highest performing K-12 public school system in the State of California.

American Indian Public High School (AIPHS) pushes an academically rigorous program to prepare all students for college. One hundred percent of the high AIPHS students are enrolled in Advance Placement courses including World History, U.S. History, Physics, Calculus, Statistics, English Language Arts, English Literature, Government, Economics, and Mandarin. In 2011 AP test passing rates were as high as 86% for Calculus and 76% for Stats. A recent US News and World Report article named AIPHS the number 1 public high school in Oakland, number 14 in California, and number 71 in United States. Out of the 15,000 high schools across America, Newsweek named AIPHS the 4th ranked public high school in California and 32nd in the nation.

During the summer, AIM Schools’ students participate in a variety of summer programs including U.C. Berkeley’s Academic Talent Development Program (ATDP), Google’s CAPE Program, and UCSF’s Biomedical Internship. Most popular among AIM Schools’ students, however, is the competitive John’s Hopkins CTY summer program where students get to attend a 3 week program designed specifically for advanced learners. The brightest students across America compete to qualify for this program through scores on tests like the SATs. Last year alone, 80% of 6th grade AIM Schools’ students who were tested obtained qualifying scores.

You can’t argue the facts; the American Indian Model Schools are helping students succeed. When families choose to send their kids to an American Indian Model Schools, they are not just choosing a school; parents are choosing a promising future for their kids. We Are A School At Work!

So why does OUSD and Tony Smith want to close AIM Schools?

American Indian Model Schools has scheduled a march on the Oakland Unified School District on December 12, 2012 leaving from American Indian Public Charter School II campus located at 171 12th Street. Oakland, CA 94607 promptly at 4:45 P.M. and will end in front of the OUSD Administration Office on 1025 2nd Avenue Oakland, CA 94606-2212.
We hope to see you there!

Family Advisory Executive Committee

 

Katy Murphy

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

  • oaklandedlandscape

    Definitely feel for these families and students. That doesn’t change what happened at AIPCS. Interesting to note the board roster. Several have ties to Chavis, including the president. That’s not change. It is more of the same. Hope OUSD holds firm on this one. How about a totally new board (clean house) and new organization?

  • Me

    Agree with Oaklandedlandsape that “that doesn’t change what happened”.

    The problem is, that the key accusations in the NOV “did not happen” the way they were portrayed in the NOV and FCMAT report.

    For example: the accusation of Conflict of Intrest based on the fact that the school rents from buildings that Chavis owns/controls. There is ample documentary evidence that the board knew that Chavis had an financial interest in these buildings. The appropriate Conflict of Interest paper was filed at the time. Furthermore, the board members who signed that contract have also provided written statements that it was clear to them that Chavis had a financial interest in the building.

    Beyond the letter of the law (which was obeyed) there is the additional question: Are these rental arrangement advantageous or disadvantageous to AIMS. Again, looking at the facts you can see that the rent charged is WAY below market value. It is ~ 60% of what it would cost to rent the space in OUSD buildings.

    Another example, Credit Card charges. The Audit/NOV leads the reader to believe that Chavis made all sorts of purchases on the school’s credit card (that was issue in his name). They cite flights to North Carolina and $290 worth of Giants Baseball tickets. However, FCMAT did not do the footwork of finding who actually made those charges (e.g. who’s name is on the airplane tickets, who approved these Giants tickets). The reality is there is ample documentary evidence that shows that the Giants tickets was an approved purchase of 58 $5 tickets by the math teacher to reward his students for their outstanding performance on the AP Calculus Exam (~75% passed it).

    As far as the airplane tickets to North Carolina, examination of the receipts show that the tickets were an unauthorized purchase by one of the “WhistleBlowers” in this case for herself, her son, and her romantic partner. Furthermore, there is documentary evidence that shows that this unauthorized purchase was caught by AIMS’ financial systems, the whistleblower was admonished and told to pay the expense back, and that this incident was one of the things that led that whistleblower to be demoted ( she later quit).

    The FCMAT and NOV certainly sound very damning. It sounds very convincing.
    However, if you look at the actual point by point response – and the extensive evidence provided, one can see that the FCMAT audit is fairly shoddy work… and certainly not a document to be used to shut down these schools without validation of each and every one of its findings.

    Again, I strongly suggest that Katy get her hands on the point by point response and evidence that AIMS provided to OUSD. It is fascinating reading.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Me:

    “For example: the accusation of Conflict of Intrest based on the fact that the school rents from buildings that Chavis owns/controls. There is ample documentary evidence that the board knew that Chavis had an financial interest in these buildings. The appropriate Conflict of Interest paper was filed at the time. Furthermore, the board members who signed that contract have also provided written statements that it was clear to them that Chavis had a financial interest in the building.”

    The above seems to say that conflict of interest is nullified if an appropriate conflict of interest paper is filed. Neat trick if true that filing a piece of paper will make a conflict of interest disappear.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Me

    @ Jim Mordecai — thems the law :-)

  • OUSD Parent

    None of this changes the fact that parents in Oakland are desperate for alternatives to the traditional OUSD middle schools. Not everyone can send their kids to one of the few decent OUSD schools. If AIPCS is closed and these kids are displaced has justice been served?

  • Factcheck

    @ Me:
    “Another example, Credit Card charges. The Audit/NOV leads the reader to believe that Chavis made all sorts of purchases on the school’s credit card” –

    Is your position that M. Chavis didn’t make “all sorts of purchases?” Are other staff members traveling to Lumbreton or herding cattle down south?

    “The reality is there is ample documentary evidence that shows that the Giants tickets was an approved purchase of 58 $5 tickets by the math teacher to reward his students for their outstanding performance on the AP Calculus Exam (~75% passed it).”

    Oh “Me” oh my….correct me if I’m wrong, but the Calculus AP exam is a 12th grade exam. According to the CDE the AIM high school has never had 58 seniors. And test results are released during the summer. When was the Giants game? Shoddy response by AIM, eh?

    “Again, I strongly suggest that Katy get her hands on the point by point response and evidence that AIMS provided to OUSD.”

    Does this so-called “evidence” include back dating and falsifying documents – a very common practice at AIM?

    Katy,can you obtain the response and publish? Would love some good rainy day reading.

  • Me

    @ OUSD Parent – Agreed!

    Furthermore, there have been significant changes at AIMS since the beginning of this whole process. Financial Administration team expanded, Admin Assistant focused on Board Meetings hired, more formalized running of Board Meetings, Updating and expansion of Policy Book, Expanded Board – including former members of OUSD School board, Creation of Finance sub-committee with outside CPAs and financial industry leaders on it, formalization of family input via expansion of Family Advisory Committee… among others. And all of this (including the compilation of the response) was done without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on “Outside Consultants” .

    So, the good news is that the process of NOV/Statement of Concern has been a catalyst for positive change. Good. Now, lets see if OUSD will leave well enough alone, or if they are truly after shutting down the school regardless of the evidence.

    All this he-said she-said stuff about the past should be left to the District Attorney (who by the way have had the allegations for a while yet and have not to date chosen to move forward to prosecute the case).

    OUSD should focus on:
    1) IS the school financially viable (yes, over $1m in reserve, no long term debt)
    2) Is it meeting its academically successful (never any doubt here)
    3) Does it follow GAAP (yes, every OUSD-approved Financial auditor has given them a clean annual audit)
    4) Have the objectively legitimate concerns OUSD have raised been addressed with mitigating actions. (clearly, they have).

  • J.R.

    OUSD Parent & Me,
    In case you are wondering if OUSD has ever had to deal with the specter of financial improprieties and misspent money, the answer is yes!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lHEPOwKA_k

  • J.R.

    I would say that Chavis(and maybe his wife) needs to be dealt with separate from the school. The school performs academically and prepares students well, and should be lauded.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Me:

    I agree OUSD needs to focus on number 4: “Have the objectively legitimate concerns OUSD have raised been addressed with mitigating actions”? You say “clearly, they have”.

    I don’t know if they have or if what you select is objective? Your postings sounds like you have an interest in the outcome and you are not objective.

    Whether they are objective or not the School Board has the role of decider.

    Powers to be over direction of AIMS seem to be leaving no stone unturned trying to get the Board to decide in their favor by bringing on board former OUSD school board members on their Executive Board.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Me

    @Factcheck – check the facts. I’ll be happy to have this conversation with you when you have looked the receipts and other documentary evidence.

    @Jim. Yes, I do have an interest in the school I have 2 kids in it. Closing the school will cause me significant hardship. That said, I started this process with a strong dose of skepticism. After reading the NOV, how could anyone believe anything else that AIMS is totally broken financially and that Chavis was a totally despicable person?

    @J.R. – yes. I agree. Exactly my point. OUSD needs to deal with AIMS based on its current state

  • Factcheck

    Me- why are you avoiding my questions? I don’t have access to receipts so I’m asking you (since you seem to have reviewed the receipts) if anyone other than Chavis made purchases in Lumberton and paid dues to the Cattle Association in NC?

    I am also asking how 58 tickets were purchased for students to reward them for a math test when your school has never had that many seniors. The CDE shows 28 seniors in 2010 and 19 in 2011. Please enlighten us if that inforomation, like the NOV and FCMAT are false.

    JR – Unfortunately, Chavis cannot be dealt with separate from the school because he owns the buildings and controls the board of directors, staff, and seemingly the NOV responses. The only people who were brave enough to stand up to his tyranny are the so-called “whistleblowers” who resigned from the board and school.

  • Me

    @Factcheck – re Baseball game…. I double-checked the documents. The game was on May 27th, 2010. The Teacher took the 11th and 12th grade class (plus chaperones). I slightly misquoted the stated purpose of the trip. The purpose was to reward the classes for their hard work during the year … ultimately 70%+ of the class earned passing scores on the AP Calculus test.

    The point is.. FCMAT makes it out that these were Chavis’ personal purchases, when they were clearly not.

    So, in your response to JR, ( “Unfortunately, Chavis cannot be dealt with separate from the school because he owns the buildings”) you are espousing a believe that “hurting Chavis” is more important than the interests of the students and the families. IMHO, Chavis can absolutely be dealt with separate from the school… and that is the job of the District Attorney.

  • oaklandedlandscape

    @Me – Devil is in the details. You have an uphill battle here. Chavis still controls the board. You know this. Everyone knows this. This is not about the kids. It is about fraud and a fraudulent organization that misappropriated public funds. Hope that you can see beyond this.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Me:

    Are you assuming that purchasing tickets for students and parents with the public’s money intended for instruction is an action that can be authorized by a charter school?

    I don’t believe public schools can provide incentives of the sort you just described. I also believe the Federal money cannot normally be used in such a fashion.

    Now charter schools get to play by to some degree by separate rules from public schools and maybe such an expenditure is authorized. Yet, I doubt it.

    And, if this expenditure and similar incentive expenditures wasn’t authorized under the rules that apply to charter schools, then all expenditures of this type need to be paid back to the state or Federal government that funded the ball park tickets. The $1 million reserve needs to reduced for this unauthorized expenditure and any other noncompliant expenditures.

    Implicit in accepting public money is complying with the rules governing that money whether or not the rules are enforced with criminal penalties.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Thomas J

    New Board will vote for one thing. Who knows where they’ll stand.

    I agree with Me in that report should be released to public, yet on another note- perhaps OUSD should “arrange” that the schools be completely removed from all Chavis buildings.

    Its not about him- its about them.

    On one side- There are over 40 charter schools, and a whole bunch of small schools. If those are good enough for other races, than the Asians should go as well if it comes down to it.

    On the other side- a very low performing charter (Arise) was allowed to stay open for god know what reason- so why not this one?

    The theft( which is so blatant) is him…..get out of is facilities, OUSD place a board member on the AIPCS board, and let the schools stay……BUT have them find a facility…if they don’t then option 1 is the case.

    Remember, this is a public benefit corporation….not a Chavis profit mill.

    Not a tough call in any other city, but this is Oakland.

  • 1day at a time

    #14 said “This is not about the kids. ” And that, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with OUSD.

    We’re considering closing down schools over Giants tickets? Let me say this, “the public” would buy every kid in OUSD tix to a Giants game if they excelled academically as a group. We’d recoup the money in property value alone, let alone the increased tax base coming from an employable citizenry.

    What amazes me is this, there was no outcry about anything related to AIPCS while it was a sinkhole. As long as they were doing nothing…. everything was fine. You telling me the place was run well before Chavis? Seriously? Well ho much ire did they draw back then.NOTHING from most of these groups who are hellbent on seeing the school dissolved.

    Its ok to have your bias. Name it and claim it, but please stop masquerading as the defender of the public good.

    In 2002 the API was 596. Where was the outcry. Where were the investigation about how the school was wasting the public’s money by delivering piss-poor education!! Where were the defenders of the public good.

    Do you really want to have an open and honest discussion about what the public considers to be a waste of money?

  • Told you so

    In other parts of the state, a PTA staffer gets caught stealing 20k and gets a jail sentence. In Oakland, a guy and his wife get caught stealing 3 million and get?????

    Isint their laws for public benefit corporations that can stop this, because I am not too sure Oakland will.

    He owns the buildings….therefore schools are at his mercy and reckless abandon!

  • Me

    @Oaklandlandscape – I find your comments pretty sane. So I guess my question is “where is the the fraud”? If you follow the evidence, there is no fraud in the rentals… as they they were entered into with the boards knowledge of Chavis’ financial interest and proper “70O” documents were filed. (and the rents are way below market value). Its not in credit card charges that Chavis made that he was reimbursed for. Its not in the construction contracts as once again the appropriate disclosures were made, board was aware, and significant money was saved compared to competitive bids. There is no fraud in its accounting as every OUSD-approve CPA that has ever audited it (since Chavis took charge in ~2004) has given it a clean audit.

    My point is not to defend Chavis… my point is to defend the school.

    OUSD’s job is to determine if the school – in its current state – if viable in financially, educationally and with regards to its governance. The first two are not in question. There are widely accepted objective measures for these that the board has acknowledged ($1m reserve in the bank, no debt, clean financial audits; API scores, etc). The place where it gets subjective is in the governance and the board composition. We’ll just have to see how the board responds to the changes that were made there.

    @Jim — are you kidding me regarding your comment about school field trips not being permitted by law?

  • Observer

    Mixed feelings about this one. Bottom line though- this is a school with both a high approval rating from its customers (the families) and high outcome (the success of those customers). Both are exceedingly rare in Oakland and the state of California.

    Regardless of how and why it came to be, this is a successful institution.

    If Chavis is guilty of criminal acts, then he should be prosecuted. Many CEOs and CFOs of corporations have commuted intolerable and criminal acts, been removed from gheir positions, paid fines and have even gone to prison while the companies have remained in place, employees have stayed in their positions and customers continued to be served. Why should AIPCS be closed and these families hurt? A hold on a good education in Isklsnd us tenuous at best and these families will fight to the finish.

    No love of the privatization and corporate presence in public education being thrust upon us. Emotionally, I almost would like to see AIPCS go away because of what charters are doing to public education (especially when we now see their ill effects creeping up on and hurting “good schools” in Oakland like Cleveland). That’s an emotional response though. There are valid reasons to temper and slow the proliferation of charters in Oakland and elsewhere. I don’t see closing AIPCS satisfying the logical reasons to address the charter movement and slow it.

    I hope these families win.

  • Me

    @Observer – well stated and, Amen!

  • Jim Mordecai

    Me:

    “@Jim — are you kidding me regarding your comment about school field trips not being permitted by law?”

    Of course field trips are permitted, but there is in public schools the understanding that incentives cannot be financed by public money intended for instruction. You described the Giant tickets as purchased as a reward for the charter school students. If it was a field trip connected to curriculum objective there isn’t a problem. According to your account it was a field trip as a reward for a job well done. Such a field trip likely violates guidelines on how state and federal money can be spent.

    If I am correct that the Giant tickets was an example of misspending of state money, then the State needs to take back that money out of future allocations to the charter school. That would be the redress if a public school had misspent money on Giant tickets.

    However, the rules public schools must follow are not always the same for charter schools. Time will tell if the Giant ticket expenditure has to be repaid.

    If there are a lot of examples when money was misspent, then it is in the economic interest of the state and federal governments to want the charter school to continue so it can recapture the money that was misspent.

    Charter schools run up debt, and unlike college students, the managers of charter schools just walk away from a closed school and the law doesn’t hold them accountable for mismanagement of funding.

    Misspending of charter school taxpayer money is one of many reasons why charter law is poor public policy. A charter school must complying with the conditions agreed to when the money was granted or be subject to a range of responses from its authorizer up to having a school closed. High student scores should be celebrated but student scores should not negate fully complying with the accountability rules for receiving public funding.

    Financial accountability is not about children but an adult responsibility. And, the authorizer of the AIMS charter school, the Oakland School Board, must decide on the consequence when it appears adults are not fulfilling their duties and responsibilities.

    Jim Mordecai

  • coding error

    @ Jim Mordecai

    This charter is supported by Spearman who you, in turn, support. It’s a little selective.

    And with regards to the conflict of interest document and the law: how many times has Spearman said “we are the board, we make the rules” (verbatim)?

    Money for tickets: if you are really concerned about that, go check the massive squandering in OUSD. I can give you one or two (or three or four…) examples where principals use “public money” to buy gift cards for teachers and parent leaders. And all is cool.

    Smith and friends wish that any district wide family engagement (or laughable “task force”) event were attended by a fraction of the parents that support this charter.

  • Me

    @Jim…. not sure of your statement of public law on using public money to fund on Field trips (and not about to spend time researching that).,, but to your point, yes the trip was tied to the math curriculum and this is documented in the response.

    And again, that was not the NOV’s point. The NOV leads the reader to conclude that this was Chavis buying Giants tickets for his own benefit. It is just one example of the FCMAT team, government-employed non-CPAs , doing sloppy work. There are over 100 exampled of other errors, both material mathematical/factual errors and sloppy typographical errors in the FCMAT report. My point is that the audit should not be considered as gospel without validating its findings (which is what the response process in theory is supposed to be about)… and certainly the conclusions drawn from this unvalidated audit should not be taken as gospel.

    (full disclosure: I am a certified auditor. A significant part of my career was spent auditing auditors’ reports.)

  • Jim Mordecai

    Me:

    I assume a financial audit and a compliance audit are not the same thing. The issue I raised about the Giant ticket expenditure is whether or not the field trip was a reward and incentive for the students.

    A compliance with state and federal rules regarding incentives is the issue I raised. Whether the FCMAT report was sloppy or not, the question I raise is whether this money was spent in compliance with regulations governing how the public’s money can be spent. My understanding is that public money is normally not allowed to be spent as student incentives or reward. It doesn’t matter if you directly hand the public’s money to students or buy students tickets to a Giant’s game.

    Jim Mordecai

  • fakdjf

    Charter schools have to PAY for rent! the only money they get is ADA or donations (if they are a 501c3)! how about OUSD REWARD its best-performing schools by giving them 100 years leases for 1 dollar a year in the best buildings! what a crying shame that a school that IS THE BEST in Oakland is punished just because of some petty administrators whose schools simply CAN’T perform at the standard of American Indian!

  • Parent

    Katy, I heard Dr. Chavis was paid $300,000 a year which is more than Dr. Smith, Superintendent of OUSD. Why did the Indian school pay him so much? I understand he was paid $2.10 sq. ft. a month for rent for school space and that OUSD is a lot less than this, which is crazy. I was also informed he paid his personal bills on the schools credit card. So how can he get away with all of this? He should be in jail.

    At least with the departure of Alice Spearman and Noel Gallo, we are assured that Dr. Smith has the support to get rid of AIM Schools once and for all. They have been taking kids from Cleveland and Lincoln Elementary long enough and we have had enough. Everyone knows there are no American Indians at AIM Schools anyway.

  • defendpubliced

    I am surprised that no one has brought up the issue of AIMS being a charter school which has a lot to do with how and why they could get away with many of the misdeeds that they are criticized for. Charters get away with a lot because they have semi-autonomy from the district and often end up pushing drill and kill learning to boost standardized testing, ignoring students with special needs and treating teachers like disposable robots. Many charters across the country have been found to have atrocious discipline methods like AIMS. Why are they shutting down perfectly good public schools to open charters like AIMS? However, we do need to listen to the parent voices and take their input seriously. OUSD has not had a good reputation of this in the past. My question is who are the parents that wrote this letter? Are there parents at AIMS that disagree and are critical of AIMS and of charters in general? There is a great article breaking down the problems charters here ( http://classroomstruggle.org/2012/02/05/the-deceptive-promise-of-charter-schools-a-new-orleans-case-study/) if any one is interested in learning more.

  • livegreen

    The two schools Parent mentions are either excellent or much improving. Don’t forget Bella Vista, which is also doing well. Same for EBMS.

    Parents at AIMS might find they can get the same results at these schools for an equal amount of hard work, minus time at School Board meetings, time bringing their school up to the financial requirements of state law, and minus the corruption. In addition it helps contribute to building their neighborhood communities in the long run.

  • coding error

    @ Parent

    As if Smith did not have enough on his plate cleaning his own schools. Starting, of course, with those who are not dancing his music (see quality review). You must think this man is superman or something! :) ) I hope he devotes his time to improving his product and not just “getting rid” of his obstacles.
    PS: if families want to go there, it is their choice. Something good they must be getting that they cannot get elsewhere. Wasn’t it about empowering parents to make their choices?

  • oaklandedlandscape

    @coding error and @me:

    The school and Chavis hid behind their API for years. Charters should be held to the highest academic and governance accountability that the law affords. AIPCS under Chavis and under “his” current board are one in the same. Wolf in sheeps clothing. Crazy like a fox.

  • Me

    @Parent

    Your comments are consistently inaccurate.

    1) ” I heard Dr. Chavis was paid $300,000 a year”

    Chavis’ contract (included in the response) shows that his salary is $100K a year.
    Chavis, in turn, took each paycheck and donated 100% of it back to AIMS. Yes, you read that correctly. Chavis donated 100% of his salary back to the school to be used for the benefit of the students. AIMS’ NOV Response includes the canceled checks as evidence.

    2) “I understand he was paid $2.10 sq. ft. a month for rent for school space and that OUSD is a lot less than this”

    You have your facts wrong on this, too. The rent AIMS pays is $1.09/sf. You might have your facts confused with the $2.50/sf that OUSD collects from other charter schools that rent space from OUSD (per Katy’s report of 03/17/12). AIMS’ NOV Response includes leases and rent checks.

    BTW, in 2004 when Chavis was recruited to come in and clean up AIPCS, the school was in debt and habitually late in paying the landlord of the Magee Campus (a local church, which continues to own the building to this day). Understandably, the landlord threatened to stop renting to AIPCS.

    3)” I was also informed he paid his personal bills on the schools credit card”

    Again, completely inaccurate. Chavis never charged anything to the school’s credit card. Rather he charged school expenses to his personal card and was reimbursed just for those approved school expenses. While there was one incident of the school mistakenly reimburse a handful of his personal expenses in 2010, AIMS’ financial processes caught this (in 2010) and it was rectified (in 2010). The response contains documentary evidence of this.

    4) “They have been taking kids from Cleveland and Lincoln Elementary”
    Your attitude that somehow my kids are chattel of any existing public school is troublesome. Parents make decisions about what they feel is best for their kids. This concept that my kid’s are the property of some specific school galls me.

    Now, please understand, I take the time to provide all this (publicly available) information in this forum, NOT AS A DEFENSE OF CHAVIS. I offer this because 1) it irks me when I see false information slung around like it was the truth; 2) I hate to see the swelling of unthinking mob mentality; and 3) I hope of in some small way to truthfully inform public opinion so that the wrong decision is not made.

  • 1day at a time

    The root: insecurity masked as ideology, and it blooms into hypocrisy.

    #27 said “They have been taking kids from Cleveland and Lincoln Elementary long enough and we have had enough.”

    #14 said “This is not about the kids.

    #30 said “Charters should be held to the highest academic and governance accountability that the law affords.”

    Parents vote with their feet. This is a democracy, right?
    All schools should be held to high standards, not just charters.

  • J.R.

    #27 said “They have been taking kids from Cleveland and Lincoln Elementary long enough and we have had enough.”

    This kind of monopolistic arrogance is just incredible. A monopoly that doesn’t work very well yet does not want people to have a choice to send their children wherever they wish. It sounds so much like the union monopoly ” pay dues as a condition of employment”, how very democratic, and freedom loving is that?

  • OUSD Parent

    Does AIPCS have an elementary school? #27 claims that it has been stealing students from Cleveland and Lincoln for years… Both of those elementary schools are high performing and sought after. I doubt that families are bailing on those schools to get into AIPCS. It doesn’t make sense to me. What am I missing here?

    I have a couple of kids in OUSD and sometimes it feels like a cult. I always say that make the middle schools stronger and families won’t be leaving for charter or private schools in droves. You won’t find a lot of charter or private schools in communities with strong public school systems. I say stop blaming the charters and focus on fixing the problem in OUSD, especially at the middle school level.

  • Me

    @OUSD Parent

    Yes, AIMS has an elementary school that it opened about a year ago at its Downtown Campus.

    Not coincidentally, this is when the concerted effort to get rid of AIMS began. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but when this whole brouhaha gets boiled down, this is about money. That’s the translation of “they are stealing kids from Lincoln and Cleveland”.

  • OUSD Parent

    @36 – Thanks, Me. Now that you mention it I vaguely remember that an AIM elementary school was being formed. But again, I still believe that schools like Cleveland and Lincoln are desirable. OUSD may be losing students to AIM and other charters but not necessarily from Cleveland and Lincoln. OUSD needs to fix what is broken and stop blaming charters for all of its problems. If there wasn’t a need for alternatives then there wouldn’t be so many charters popping up. Parents get fed up with OUSD. I don’t blame those families for seeing out other options.

  • Harold

    @37 – Its not really so much “blaming charter schools” – its the different rules set up, that give charters an advantage or the traditional model. The charters do not have to accept everyone who resides in the schools boundary.

    re: Lincoln/Cleveland and AIPCS’ effect on their enrollment. I bet some of those parents who left those two high-performing schools, were very interested in the extra instructional time (Saturday school).

  • J.R.

    Harold,
    The rules,flexibility and autonomy were given to charters by design to be “educational laboratories” in order to (hopefully)increase the quality of instruction and learning. society has been able to learn some valuable lessons by comparing the two models side by side over the last couple of decades.

  • Lenny S

    I think many of those supporters are a bit confused. They act as if FCMAT does not know what they are doing?

    Remember, FCMAT was called in because a whistle-blower (former school leaders) kept files and demonstrated documentation that alerted the district. There are many things that will still develop and will be dealt with outside of the educational jurisdiction- trust me. These things take time, and there are other entities who may be chomping at the bit for this guy and his wife. Frankly, no one knows better than FCMAT what this guys has or hasn’t done.

    If you do not believe it, look up California Charter School Academy and others audited by FCMAT.

    By the way, FCMAT investigations cost money (approx. 50k) so districts and counties will not simply ask for an audit just because.

    I encourage all of you to look at the FCMAT website. These guys are forensics auditors not slouches. To insinuate that they would somehow miss key evidence , either in support or against the school, which is part of the investigation, is plain ignorant.

    This is a very different situation than some other charter schools that were audited in the past by FCMAT because of the exceptional academic record, and the fact that he owns the facilities. Its almost no option but to close them and what is unfortunate is that good schools and kids will be affected.

    What are the options? Kick him out Of Oakland and his buildings?How?

    @Me:

    If you are truly a concerned parent then you should demand OUSD to place a staffer on their board (a legal right per charter law) , and get rid of all existing AIPCS board members there now (all cronies), and relocate the schools out of his facilities. I truly believe that is the only way to survive this mess.

    If you are parent: stop answering for the guy….his decision will come and it will not be from OUSD- they only decide on the schools.

    Good luck.

  • A coding error

    @ 1day at a time

    Exactly. Parents should go where they want to and not be caged in a mediocre system, with mediocre leaders who are not actually educators. Life is taking away much of our liberty to choose to have another option taken away from us!

    All schools should be held accountable and their budgets scrutinized. Then, we would have more than one surprise. Beyond the principals, because there are people above them turning a blind eye in the face of blatant squandering and mismanagement.

  • Arthur Miler

    @Me “furthermore, the board members who signed that contract have also provided written statements that it was clear to them that Chavis had a financial interest in the building.”

    Actually, you’re wrong. Here’s why:

    #1 – The conflict of interest stems from the fact that Chavis not only is the lessee and lessor, he also controls board members. From what was submitted, there was absolutely no evidence to show that the board approved these decisions or had evidence that they knew what they were approving. Unfortunately for the school, Chavis does not have the luxury of backdating Form 700’s (conflict of interest papers). I asked repeatedly requested Form 700’s on 1/11/12, 2/21/12, 2/24/12, 6/15/12, 6/20/12, and 6/25/12. I emailed board members Judi Marquardt and Michael Stember. Board members that served for years don’t have that still haven’t submitted statements of economic interests. Jordan Locklear, since the last time I asked, still has not turned in Form 700 because he is financially dependent on Chavis. And as Jim Mordechai pointed out, just because they signed the paper (which is most likely backdated), does it mean it’s not a violation of law? It doesn’t make it legitimite if it’s slipped into the binder now. It’s too late.

    #2 – While Chavis was both landlord and renter, he was also elected first as COO, then CEO, then “interim chief.” He finally resigned in January. If you want to argue that this isn’t a conflict of interest violation, then you lose credibility.

    @Me – Your argument: The charges on a credit card with Dr. Chavis’s name on it weren’t made by him even though he approved the transactions.

    (BTW, romantic partner?! – We’re dying of laughter..either you’re secretly Chris Rock or incompetent and misinformed. Thank you.)
    I mean, I won’t even refute. If we’re talking about a couple thousand dollars for a Giants game, I don’t care. I find it funny you omitted the hundreds of thousands taken from the ASUS grant, the life insurance, cars, Marsha’s double payments. I find it funny that you omitted how he siphoned money from the CA gov’t straight to his own companies. I was also there during the reconstruction and it continued to progress, in my eyes, just to profit off the state. Yes, he loves to brag that he had such a low salary….his wife was taking it all! But for your argument…you bring up Giants tickets?

    Argument – Financial Administration team expanded, Admin Assistant focused on Board Meetings hired, more formalized running of Board Meetings…

    None of this matters if the board is still controlled by Chavis. The school is being run by really young, inexperienced leaders. Everyone experienced and strong left right when the board brought him on as COO. Formalized board meetings? Wait till the next one is posted on Youtube. Dr. Chavis hijacks the floor to ask if someone called his wife a thief. Bernadette Coleman and Ronald Grant become irate and start to YELL because the meeting is being filmed…uhh violation of Brown Act again? I thought they would have learned after the OCS and FCMAT reports. Yet the filmer is accused of breaking the law. Marsha was scholarship chair and making reports about money. Why is this woman allowed to be anywhere near the money?? Nedir Bey, a contributing member to Oakland society, will need to use all of his charisma and financial prowess to save the school.

    Here is the problem: Parents continue to support the AIPCS board without realizing it is doing more harm than good. If the school wants to demonstrate fiscal responsibility, the board has to resign because even some of the new members have personal ties with Chavis. Chavis refuses to leave. Is there a plan to pay pack the misappropriated money? At this point, mocking the expenditures OUSD will make to clean up this mess isn’t the way to go…hiring internally when the financial problems began with a lack of internal controls seems counterintuitive and possibly dangerous.

    Katy, how can we see the binders AIPCS submitted?

  • Arthur Miler

    Why doesn’t AIM post the response online??

  • Arthur Miler

    I just caught that Me thinks Magee is owned by that church. Did you do your research? Chavis owns that too.

  • oaklandedlandscape

    Chavis is tied to a minimum of 4 (Armstrong, Martinez, Bey, and Locklear) of the current board members. That is not change. It is more of the same. We are talking about much more than credit card charges and baseball tickets. High test scores and parent demand do not outweigh fraud. Sorry. Chavis loves taking the “white man’s” money. Just ask him. The new parent leadership at AIPCS should be reaching out to new charter operators, hoping to save these schools.

    Recommendation =>

    The county superintendent should:
    Notify the governing board of AIMS charter schools, the Oakland Unified School District governing board, the state controller, the superintendent of public instruction, and the local district attorney that there is sufficient evidence that fraud or misappropriation of assets and other illegal activities of charter funds may have occurred.

    Source: http://wwwstatic.kern.org/gems/fcmat/AlamedaCOEfinalreport6121292.pdf

  • Ms. J.

    Regarding the idea referenced by J.R. in #39, that was indeed the original hope of charters. No one seriously believes that is what charters are about now.

    Regarding the string of posts suggesting that OUSD is blaming its problems on charters, I find it hard to believe the posters are looking at the same district as I am. Blaming charters? Welcoming them, more like.

    And regarding the suggestion that AIPCS offer a better education than schools such as Lincoln, Cleveland, Bella Vista, or any of the others from whom parents have withdrawn their kids in order to send them to AIPCS: in this case, ‘better education’ is code for ‘education at a school with kids who look like my kid.’ No doubt many outraged and offended folks will respond that this is not true, that they send their kids to AIPCS because of the superior education. They can tell us that and they can tell themselves that story if it makes them feel better. But it’s not because they’re receiving better instruction from better teachers. They want their kids to go to school where the kids whom they perceive (rightly or wrongly) as the problem are counseled out.

    Am I being blunt enough? Families choose AIPCS because they want their kids to go to school with Asian kids, not with Black and Brown kids. This is the truth.

  • Sharon

    Moving on beyond useless back and forth bickering about this crooked charter school and its AIM cult, I’m very much looking forward to the day when the D.A. files its string of charges against Ben Chavis and his spouse.

  • Me

    Well, I guess Mob mentality will rule the day on this thread. There is so much broken logic, unfounded claims, and pure bile in the last 7 posts. No facts will ever change your minds. Reminds me of my conversations with Birthers and FoxNewsJunkies running up to the presidential election.

    What I do agree with the mob is that AIMS has an uphill fight. OUSD board can pretty much do whatever it wants. I doubt that Jordon, Yee, Kakishiba and Smith will actually read all 13 binders.. and even if they do I doubt that they will let it change their minds.

    But then again, I was pretty depressed about Obama’s chances ahead of the election. :-)

    signing off this thread….

  • Arthur Miler

    Attacking and ad hominem won’t work. If you can’t refute, save your words. I’m not really against the school, I just think parents need a better plan. Can the high performance save the school from an incompetent board? If everyone sees the emperor has no clothes, why not call the board out? Save yourself the trouble. If Chavis and board members really cared about the school and not about power/money, they would have walked away. Chavis could easily be the landlord from a distant NC cattle ranch. His friends could step down. They chose not to.

    Please post the AIPCS response online to save words. There is no reason not to. I’m sure there is a reasonable explanation for the siphoned ASUS grant..lol. You can get a student or the web coordinator to do it.

  • lenny s

    Did I read correctly that Armstrong was on the AIPCS Board now? Is this Dr. Armstrong from the east Oakland charter school?

    I will research a bit more…but isin’t she the one that Chaves said was looking to move a school into his building back during Halloween during that whole grade level debacle?

    If its her then , that shows just how serious the school is about change….Where are you now Me? You need to rally the parents to rid the school of all of these cronies..Seriously- your only hope.