The American Indian Model Schools organization, whose governing board was accused last year of allowing its founder, Ben Chavis, and wife to funnel millions of tax dollars into their own companies and pockets, has failed to make the necessary fixes and should be shut down at the end of the school year, Oakland school district administration has concluded.
In a letter to families, written in English and in Chinese, Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith has this to say:
The students, teachers, school-site staff, and families deserve recognition for their considerable work and for their outstanding academic achievements. We are committed to ensuring that every child in Oakland has access to a high quality public school in their neighborhood and that they are on a clear path to a successful future. You have found this in the schools you are in now. I will work with you to ensure that your children continue to benefit from a school community that is similar to where they are and that they continue on the pathway to success they are currently on.
However, due to many serious legal issues, I am recommending to the governing board of OUSD that they approve a notice to revoke the charter of American Indian Model Schools. Those responsible for the governance and management of the charter organization have broken the law, a conclusion reached after investigations by three separate government agencies. I believe this action is necessary to ensure that public dollars are used legally and to the maximum benefit of students. To educate every child in Oakland our city must have high quality socially responsible public organizations that our citizens can trust.
If this week the Oakland school board agrees, the award-winning American Indian charter schools will be one step closer to closure. The OUSD board decides Wednesday night whether to issue a notice of intent to revoke the charter, as the OUSD Office of Charter Schools has recommended.
If the OUSD board approves the staff recommendation — up for a vote during a regular meeting Wednesday night — a public hearing on the revocation would happen next month. A final decision would follow, no later than March 24.
Even if the OUSD board does vote to revoke the organization’s charter, American Indian would have the chance to appeal to the Alameda County Board of Education and, later, to the state board.
Background, taken from a story I wrote yesterday:
Last year, in response to a whistle-blower complaint of fraud, Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan requested an investigation. State auditors spent months examining the charter organization’s records. A report issued in June cited evidence that the founder of AIM Schools, Ben Chavis, and his wife, Marsha Amador, used public funds for the schools to enrich themselves.
Auditors found $3.8 million in questionable expenditures, rife with conflicts of interest, from construction contracts and lease agreements to mandatory summer programs going to Chavis’s companies — all while Amador handled the books. At one point, Chavis served on the governing board while he was director.
Jordan forwarded the case to the District Attorney’s Office, which is reviewing it.
Last fall, the Oakland school board gave AIMS 60 days to show it had mended its ways — tightening its oversight, instituting new conflict-of-interest enforcement, and assuring the board that Chavis and Amador would be separated from “all aspects of AIMS operations.”
An OUSD review found it had done none of the above.
Wednesday’s board meeting begins at 5 p.m. You can find the presentation and other documents here.
Because of flood damage at the school district’s headquarters, it will be held across the street, at the La Escuelita Elementary School, 1050 Second Avenue.
What do you think the board should do?