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Closure threat is mounting for Oakland’s American Indian charter schools

CHARTER SCHOOL EXTENSION
2012 file photo of Ben Chavis by D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group

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?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Ann

    We are parents we have not received any letter. Maybe you should ask OUSD if the plan to notify parents before or after the Board Meeting. They have also not told parents the timeline. Ms. Greely said a closure plan would be implemented at the time of the vote and omitted the appeal process. Ms. Minor said Ms. Greely was correct but that there would be an appeal. Have they sorted this out and do they plan to share information with parents and staff so as to mitigate disruption to children, families and parents lives.

  • Sharon

    In the meantime, landlord Ben Chavis continuously gets $63K/month in rent, or $751K/year, from the three schools. Families and teachers might be totally stressing because of the fallout from his and the AIM board’s actions, but he’s out there somewhere and laughing all the way to the bank.

  • Jim Mordecai

    To stop paying rent and hold Ben Chavis’ rent money in a non-interest baring account may be a possibility. Legal would have to advise the OUSD Board. Either AIMS Board would agree to withhold the rent or the California Department of Education might agree to withhold the amount of rent in its payments to the AIMS charter schools.

    Another avenue to explore is to see if the district has space to house one or more of the three AIMS schools.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Jim Mordecai

    Ann:

    The front page of the District webpage provides time-line. Closure would be June 31, 2013.

    You could be the founder of an AIMS replacement for the 2013-14 school year. Anyone can write a charter and get a start-up loan of $250,000 from the California Department of Education.

    But, you probably already know someone that is considering this idea.

    It is the fact that “anyone” can start up a charter school without training in running a school is one of the reasons I insist charter schools is bad public policy that puts at risk public money to abuse and waste.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Me

    What does OUSD expect AIMS to do? Move campus? If so, OUSD should show AIMS at least one option where to rent 65,000sf of similar space in Chinatown and Laurel for $1.09/sf. Oh, that $1.09 should also cover moving and renovation costs.

  • Catherine

    The bottom line is there is no middle school in Oakland that offers the rigor and after school homework help with a credentialed teacher until 4:00 PM each day. There is no middle school in Oakland that enforces school wide policies of being at school on time with no tolerance for misbehavior. My own son attends a school outside of OUSD, after previously attending OUSD schools, and the depth of what is covered in one semester is similar to Montera (one son attended) and Brewer (this son attended) in an entire school year because of the students who did not complete the reading, would ask irrelevant questions to the material being covered and the narrow scope of what was being taught because teachers were trying to make the material relevant to the students lives rather than teaching the difficult vocabulary and analytical skills needed. My sons had GPAs of 3.75+ in OUSD schools. That sane level of work was at most a 2.0 in the new school and was deemed an unacceptable GPA and an unacceptable work quality.

  • livegreen

    Why does this all matter? Even if they stole money, all they have to do is send 5 kids to the Alameda County BOE and they will over rule OUSD…

  • Juanstaer

    Turn part of Oakland’s American Indian Charter Schools into an Indian Casino to fund the other part.

  • Edufreedom

    Katy, is Jim Mordecai correct when he suggests that someone could open a “replacement school”? I’m wondering if there is any way to save the teachers after revocation.

  • Edufreedom

    I meant “to save the teachers and students.”

  • Anon

    Sounds more like an Indian Monarchy! Given the track record and nerve of this guy, I would suspect he try to open a school under other people or former employees name.

  • Whistleblower

    But that would undermine the real effort here… 1) to force the kids to the other schools (that their parents did not want to send them to in the first place) and 2) to attempt to settle personal scores with Chavis (students and parents be damned!) by interrupting the flow of rent. In fact, if another school were to rent the downtown building, Chavis would probably end up making more money because the rent would probably be at market rate.

  • Why?

    Katy:

    Why use the (unflattering) picture of Chavis for this article? Why not use a picture of the students and parents. Here is one that you used before that really tells the story.. http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8486/8250442615_27c8ae3d84.jpg .

    This process is supposed to be about the students….

    Editorializing ?

  • Oakland Pride

    Why?,

    When journalists write stories about criminals, they don’t usually spend a lot of time searching for the most flattering photo they can find. Perhaps a cartoon would be better: Chavis in an orange jumpsuit with his wife (also in an orange jumpsuit) shackled to his ankle by a metal chain. “It’s bad enough I’m in here, but I’m locked up with this old ball and chain….”

  • OUSD Parent

    Maybe Chavis needs to go, but I continue to ask…What about these kids??? I don’t have my children there but I know families that do and they pleased with the level of education their children receive at AIMS. They want the discipline. They want the rigor. They cannot afford private school. They were not happy, for a multitude of reasons, with their local OUSD schools. It’s their kids who are going to lose out. All of the people who are working so hard to bust Chavis’ reign of power don’t seem to give a damn about the kids. Just that they’re shutting down a Charter or shutting down Chavis. What will happen to these kids? Does anyone care?

  • OUSD Parent

    Maybe Chavis needs to go, but I continue to ask…What about these kids??? I don’t have my children there but I know families that do and they pleased with the level of education their children receive at AIMS. They want the discipline. They want the rigor. They cannot afford private school. They were not happy, for a multitude of reasons, with their local OUSD schools. It’s their kids who are going to lose out. All of the people who are working so hard to bust Chavis’ reign of power don’t seem to give a damn about the kids. Just that they’re shutting down a Charter or shutting down Chavis. What will happen to these kids? Does anyone care?

  • David Laub

    “White collar” crimes of theft of public funds, extortion, and fraud and the criminals who perpetrate these crimes are corrupting and undermining to our democratic processes and institutions. We expect the public to act with honor and honesty, and there are frequent comments in this column on the responsibility of public employees and our unions to work with honor and honesty.

    If the charges against Ben Chavis and his cohorts are valid, then the only action that the board can take that will “BE FOR THE KIDS” is to have him arrested and brought to trial to answer for the crimes. If, the charges are valid.

    What possible moral and ethical justification is there to allow crimes against the public to occur?

  • J.R.

    “What possible moral and ethical justification is there to allow crimes against the public to occur”?

    I agree, and would add the everyone seems to ignore or be unaware of the massive “bait and switch” crimes against the public by people who are entrusted to be ethical and moral, bur are neither. Legal yes, ethical and moral absolutely not. Everyone seems to have a sliding scale of what is right, just and moral.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCADAK9Jf2Y

    http://www.mygovcost.org/2012/12/24/golden-state-gravy-train/

    http://www.orpn.org/MeasureI_swindle1.htm

    http://www.orpn.org/MeasureY_802quotes.htm

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

    http://www.orpn.org/poverty_cities1.htm

    I don’t want to minimize at all but everyone needs to wake up and see where the overwhelming majority of the tax money is disappearing to. Taxpayers please don’t allow yourself to be distracted from where all the tax expenditures are allocated.

  • Anonymous

    I fault the powers that be at OUSD for lack of oversight and for letting it fester to a point of revocation. The district is known to be fiscally irresponsible with tax payers dollars, enter FCMAT.

    Now the incompetency and lack of safeguards has trickled down to one of the district’s, if not the country’s, most successful, charter schools and more black and brown children will be grossly affected by so-called adult’s behind-the-curtain squabbles.

    I would also call Chavis and wife to the carpet on the matter, too. But I realize that they did what any business-minded individual would have done. They created businesses in public education, profitted from those businesses and fulfilled their organization’s mission of providing a high quality education to disadvantaged students without cow-towing to the district’s administration.

    Who wouldn’t be envious of his accomplishments?

  • Juanstaer

    “Jordan forwarded the case to the District Attorney’s Office, which is reviewing it.”

    Anyone up for a cold beer and shower while the District Attorney’s Office is reviewing it?

    Nope! Some dope gonna weave a rope?

    P.S. Since when was the board invested with the power to “arrest” folk? Let’s not Laub/lob school district powers in with those of the district attorney, shall we?

  • OUSD Parent

    @ #17, David. I get it. Shut the guy down FOR THE KIDS, but where are they going to go to school next year? Where will they go in Oakland and receive the high quality education they were getting at AIMS? There are many strong elementary schools who can absorb the younger kids. But what about the middle and high school levels?

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure the Piedmont community is getting in position to rejoice over what is about to transpire. They couldn’t handle defeat for too much longer and so had to beat him with the legal stick, since they had no other ammo.

    The nerve of some people just to get and remain on top!

  • OUSD Parent

    Anonymous- What does Piedmont have to do with this? Curious. What is the connection?

  • Rumor Has It

    I’m not sure that Piedmont cares that much.

  • Arthur Miler

    The parents were aware of fiscal irregularities since the FCMAT report. They were warned repeatedly to have a plan B. They were told that board members need to be replaced. They did not come up with a solution to the problem. Instead, they adopted an us against them mentality. When Chavis is accused of stealing millions of dollars, they chose to applaud his arrival during the last board meeting he attended. I haven’t seen him around since. Why the outrage? The parent committee formed is incompetent, does not understand how to run a charter school, and did not have the courage to stand up to board members who have questionable connections to Chavis or questionable backgrounds. I understand OUSD public schools leave so much to be desired, but complaint without correct action is foolish. Why didn’t they research other schools? Why didn’t they figure out a viable solution to conflict of interest problems? Why didn’t they reach out to other honest leaders? Why didn’t they ask board members to resign? Instead, the sheeple became stubborn and huddled together under attack. No one questioned his decision to move his wife from accountant to scholarship chair.

  • motkn

    What a lame night at the school board meeting tonight. Only 1 member had the sense to think of the kids and their families. I will remember this come voting time.

    I loved what Mr. Sparks had to say, loved what the UC Berkeley (former grads for AIMS school) had to say. Did not understand when a former teacher of AIMS said that the Oakland families have choices or other schools. I bet she was fired for under performance. You want me to send my kid to your school with under performing teachers? No thanks fat chick! :-P

    Saw Ella, a former kinder classmate from Cleveland who now attends the AIMS elementary school. To my surprise, her older sister mentioned she liked AIMS elementary more than Cleveland. I want to point out that I was not recruited to the AIMS elementary school and I am a Cleveland parent. Why wasn’t I recruited?

    Mr. Tony Smith’s letter to the parents and families of the AIMS school is a joke. He claims commitment “to ensuring that all children in Oakland have access to a high quality public school in their neighborhood and that they are on clear path to a successful future.” How can you say that you commit to this when you want to close down their chosen school? Can you honestly say that other OUSD schools will provide the quality of care, education, discipline that AIMS does? The legal issues Mr. Smith asserts is beyond the real issues at hand that we should be addressing. Mr. Smith asserts that those responsible for the governance and management of the charter organization have broken the law. Great, then hold them accountable and take them to court, punish them, but don’t punish the children, families who only have the best intentions for their children, teachers and staff who are credible and work their tails off. But you gotta love Mr. Smith’s jargon — it’s so pleasant sounding.

    I for one did not have a choice. As a single mother of two children, I applied to 3 schools when my child was going to middle school. I started the process in the 5th grade reading anything and everything I could get my hands to and as time permitted. I visited numerous schools: BUSD, NOCCS (charter school), and AIMS. AIMS took us first. BUSD accepted us after school started. NOCCS had us on a wait list and called me two weeks after school started. So you see, I did not have much of a choice. Unless you call it a choice to wait until the last minute, disrupt my child’s school year by switching her after the school year has commenced. All three schools were not tiered as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, choice. All 3 schools are far from perfect by my definition of a perfect school. They were schools that I thought were “good” and we ended at up at AIMS.

    With the revocation looming, what are my options? Back to square one and applying to other charter schools or BUSD where I have to drive far away and spend my funds on gas and polluting the earth with my car emissions. Did I mention I am a single mom with a single income supporting two kids and an elderly family member fiscally, emotionally, and physically? Too bad I can’t afford 15K/year private schools, or else I would be set.

    I think it is easy for the Oakland School Board member not to see the struggles and impact they will have on closing down the AIMS school. It’s comfortable to sit in their mansions on Skyline and look at the view of Oakland and make hasty black and white decisions.
    There is no easy answer but closing down your top performing school in Oakland, top scoring school in the state is also not the answer.

  • Erika M.

    1) If the Charter is revoked, no current student at AIPCS in Oakland will recieve the same excellent education they recieve at AIM schools. Anyone can see the proof for this. It is impossible for OUSD to ensure that children recieve the same kind of education. Yeah right. “Promise” what you want, but I guarantee none of the elected school board has their children in Oakland Public Schools. They know better.

    2)Yes, Dr. Chavis stole $3.8 million from tax payers. Yes, HE should be punished for his crimes. Yes, AIM schools’ board has a lot of improvements to make and work to do. Keep Dr. Chavis’ wrong-doings and the future of the school 2 seperate entities!

    3) The OUSD wants to make an example out of AIM schools. It truly is their job to ensure tax-payers are not wasting their money. It will make them look bad if they keep a charter school open knowing the founder was this crooked. HOWEVER, it will make them look much WORSE NATIONALLY if they decide to close down the best academically-performing school in California. Both sides have excellent points, but put the future of the children, not reputaions or politics, first.

  • Nomikins

    Maybe it is time folks saw the link between “top performing” and corrupt and business-minded. The so-called “high performing” school was so bent on test scores (to keep it’s “high performing” label) that it forced kids out who were struggling students, or didn’t accept them to begin with. I know personally students who were earnest and hardworking, but when it came to having an IEP, they were singled out and pushed out. We have some great schools in Oakland, and it may come as a surprise, but the better ones are not run like an army camp, with drill and kill curriculums. Check them out…

  • Sharon

    @ #19 re “more black and brown children will be grossly affected by so-called adult’s behind-the-curtain squabbles.”

    To be clear, black and brown students are NOT the overwhelming majority of the children attending the three AIM Schools. Last year the schools enrolled a total of 698 students: 473 (68%) were Asian, 118 (17%) were Hispanic, and 70 (10%) were Black. Only 6 claimed to be American Indian/Alaska Native.

    To compare, OUSD’s enrollment was 14% Asian, 41% Hispanic, and 32% Black. The district has previously cited the schools for engaging in discriminatory enrollment practices.

    Also, for supposedly being so great, AIM Schools don’t do well with keeping their students around. AIPCS’s Grade 6 to Grade 8 student retention for the past two years averaged 66%. For AIPCS II it was only 57%. AIPHS’s Grade 9 to Grade 12 student retention for the past two years was only 56%. The schools are crystal clear when they let letting families and students know what they’re in for, but a huge proportion of them are not satisfied with their experience and leave. Why?

  • Rumor Has It

    Erika M. asserts that none of the board members has their children in Oakland Public Schools. She also asserts that none of the children will obtain an excellent education at an OUSD school. She is wrong on both points.

    Oakland board of education president Jody London’s children attend Claremont and Tech. I have no doubt that her children will receive a stellar education. Gary Yee’s children attended OUSD schools. I suspect that there are many more. Many high achieving students and their highly academic minded families are attending public schools with great results.

    Nomikins’ experience and Sharon’s data sheds light on a highly questionable practice within AIM of both cherry picking and pushing kids out. Sorry, this is not an acceptable practice unless this is the agreement to which tax-payers have knowingly ascribed. If this is a ‘public’ school using public funds then there must be more transparency along all lines. This transparency did not exist fiscally and did not exist within the practice of selecting and retaining students. This is not where I want my taxes spent.

  • Observer

    Jody London has two children in her neughborhood OUSD. One is Claremont which–despite the good press for tweedle dum and dee—continues as an underperforming school.

    Smith also has two children in OUSD. We’ll see if he walks the talk at middle school time.

    I don’t know about the new GO members, but Spearmans whole family went through OUSD. I believe her replacements children go to private.

    Hodge? She’s the best! Her children went to a combination of private, Alameda (town) public and Berkeley public schools. No “what’s good for the goose” for her family. One adult child is employed at KIPP. Maybe that “counts”. Of all the board members, her home is the only one that loosely qualifies as a “mansion”. But given its West Oakland locale, I think the label doesn’t stick.

    AIM seem to enjoy success because it weeds out under performing students. The Hills schools that have lots of neighborhood kids also enjoy success because the overall population come from higher performing households. To say you can take a large group of high performing kids and redistribute them to schools with largely under performing populations as if it will not affect them is an insane model that urban school district keep attempting. Over and over again. You have to accommodate both populations as seperate entities because their needs are very different. Teachers in OUSD believe “anyone” can each a population of high achievers. No. Not to their true potential. Yes, in a lacksadasical manner you can pass them through and their parents will work hard to pick up where the schools ineptitude left off. At least it’s cheaper than private, but it certainly isn’t free.

  • Nextset

    Sharon – is it possible that the students leaving AIM do so because as they age they realize that they are unable to keep up with the academic rigor of the school?

    And is that a problem?

    It is normal for students to have to face their limitations as they age and pass through puberty. This is the point where the cognitive differences really make themselves known. Therefore a good school will have a dropout rate around puberty as the less cognitively able children exercise the choice to withdraw to a less academically rigorous program.

    We saw this in Catholic Schools – I saw it in public high school – that’s life. If anything it is a credit to AIM that they do not carry cognitively impaired children like OUSD does.

    Brave New World!

  • Gordon Danning

    Nextet:

    I have had several students transfer from AIM to my classes at Oakland High School over the years. Without exception, they have been top notch students, and without exception, they transferred because they were disappointed with the lack of rigor and the lack of academic opportunity at the upper levels in high school.

    In fairness, AI has greatly increased the number of AP classes it offers over the last couple of years — that information can be found here: https://apcourseaudit.epiconline.org/ledger/

    Also, the AI model might work better for middle school than for high school.

  • Anonymous

    If this guy was overpaying himself and his wife, than what do you call the order of magnitude bigger overpayment of the union thugs and useless school administrators that make everything in other schools so expensive?

  • Anonymous

    May be another metric should be mentioned:

    performance / cost-per-student

    this school is 2nd in the state and it’s cost is lower than your average teacher-union-thug run school.

    May be the students should go to city hall and teach them some basic math.

  • Nextset

    Gordon Danning: I tend to agree that the AIM model needs to be pushed in Middle Schools – for all the students.

    High Schools are able to sort the students into A, B and C track. Doing so fairly and accurately is frustrated when the kiddies have been babied in middle school. If we are going to relax standards we should do so later(after age 15), not in the beginning (age 11-14).

    Some of the minority kids have no clue what they are really capable of, preferring to stay with the herd. It’s best work work all the students academically up to the early years of high school then invite those who want to to move into College Track at 15. By then the abilities are becoming clear to the school and to the student and his/her parent.

    Those who decline college track need to be into basic academics (reading/writing) and vocational studies. Voc Studies would include getting a solid understanding of industry & income levels in the various industries, prerequisites for industries, and Home Ec/household operation. Basic education should include US & CA Civics, Basic Criminal & Civil Law and Driver’s Licensing.

    The idea is to prevent that schools’ products from ever becoming roadkill Or as one larger-than-life Gun Toting Old School Black Oakland Woman used to put it to me – “In the World, In the Way.”)

  • Callie

    How can Superintendent Tony Smith say that, “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.” Especially when he wants to revoke the charter for AIMS and physically force thousands of students and parents to go to OUSD school or somewhere else.

    Just because Chavis is a bad egg, do we throw the whole batch of good eggs( the schools of students and teachers) away. If he is guilty of embezzment, it’s up to the DA to sent him to jail or demand payment back. No matter what Chavis and his wife did, you can not deny his school model of a school works.

    As for people saying that the school is bias in preselecting the students by race and grades, I do not believe so. This year, there are more ethnic diversity in the classes. As for these schools being mostly Asian enrolled, AIPCS 2 is near Chinatown; of course their is more Asian enrollment. Beside this, Asians are known to be hard on their children education because they hold their children to higher expectation and standard.

    Other ethnic groups, I have seen in past are too wrap up with the fact that their kids are not happy, they don’t have enough recess, they have too much homework, there are too much discipline….etc, that is why they don’t attend AIM Schools. They only care for their kids to play all day and be happy. American Indian is a work school…that is why lots of students enroll every year, some later drop out and go to other school; because those students are prepare to play and not work.

    OUSD schools should be ashame, while both supported by our tax dollars; American Indian receives 1/4 of what OUSD school get and is able to function sufficiently and not ask parents to contribute at all. If anyone should be mad, you OUSD parents should be mad ! Always ask to make money donations. OUSD schools are wasting your money on art, music, gardening class that you parents can provide at home or on the weekend. How many kids like art or music any way? All my children it. They had to take those classes too while attending OUSD schools even though they hated them.

    While attending OUSD schools, my children never seem to have homework. When I went to their schools, I always saw kids roaming about. At American Indian, students are never roaming unless they are going to the bathroom or assign to do something by their teacher.

    Even if AIMS close down, OUSD school still won’t be AIMS parents first choice! They will just go to another charter school. Sorry for all you OUSD parents and Teacher Association supported that hoped that this closure would eventually help beef up your enrollment problems!

  • Sharon

    Native American Health Center executive director Martin Waukazoo probably never imagined things would turn out the way they have when he hired Chavis to improve “the dismal performance of Native Americans in the Oakland schools.”
    http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/beating-a-new-kind-of-drum/Content?oid=1066433

    Two years later, a national Native American policy journal proudly featured Chavis and AIPCS.
    http://facstaff.uww.edu/mohanp/NAPNNL_F03.html

    No one ever suspected that, once Chavis arrived, the “American Indian or Alaska Native” students at AIPCS would be systematically eliminated in order to make way for some of the highest performing and most compliant students in the district. This is how the enrollment of AI/AN students at the AIM Schools had ended up: 45 in 2001-02 (Chavis’ first year), then 42, 29, 27, 26, 17, 15, 18, 10, 6, and 6 (2011-12). During that same time period, the AIM Schools’ enrollment climbed from 106 to 698.

    Last year, OUSD enrolled 109 AI/AN students in Grades 6-12. What ever happened to AIPCS’s original mission?

  • Arthur Miler

    I’ve heard that the personal issues with Chavis, along with possible crimes he committed, should be kept separate from governing board issues.
    This is true. The school should not be punished for crimes of the founder. The governing board is accountable for ensuring the schools maintain GAAP and follow conflict of interest laws. It was clear that OUSD was really trying to give AIPCS a chance to remedy the situation. FCMAT was announced Jan 2012! The governing board had ample time to right its wrongs. The conversation was about change, not about shutting the school down.

    So why didn’t change occur? It’s astonishing they don’t realize how keeping close ties to Chavis further damages the school at this point. An example poor judgment – moving Marsha from the position of accountant to the position of scholarship chair (with access to the fund) and letting her have access to her old office. Another example of poor judgment – letting Chavis speak freely and interrupt AIPCS board meetings. How does this look to the public? Again, he is not the reason for revocation but acts as an inhibitor against financial honesty. The board has not properly remedied the situation (rent, conflict of interest, organizational changes, over 3 mil misappropriated) because members like Jean Martinez (was the new board president in 2012) and Jordan Locklear have been influenced by him for years.

    In the interest of saving the school, why don’t they move towards severing connections with Chavis so at least his excellent academic legacy can continue?
    This might be one reason:

    http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2007/09/founder-of-californias-largest-charter.html

    At the risk of closing the school they will not incriminate the founder. It’s public knowledge the DA is currently deciding what to do with Ben Chavis. During the AIPCS charter renewal hearing President Michael Stember and that accountant who was there for two months categorically denied all FCMAT charges. Judi Marquardt told OUSD they needed to ask her questions, not Chavis. She also stepped down. If they actually acknowledge wrongdoing as Director Harris said they should have done, and make steps towards fixing it, maybe AIPCS wouldn’t have had a 6-1 vote.

    Parents, do you understand that the only fault OUSD has is lack of oversight? Do you realize that the governing board is responsible for repairing the situation, not OUSD? Even if you were able to find new facilities, how can OUSD be sure that AIPCS will be financially transparent? Nomikins, most of the boardmembers have sense now that Spearman is gone (hopefully permanently). I have seen her waddle over to Marsha Amador and discuss weekend plans. Rumor has it Chavis is funding her current court case.

    Parents, instead of spewing anger towards OUSD or teachers that speak out against fraud, why not take a stand and write a letter requesting certain board members to resign? Why did you remain silent when Chavis placed Nedir Bey, a felon, on the board? Ask who vetted the new financial team. Were they brought on by Chavis or a board member who has received checks from Chavis? If the parent committee really wants to be effective, demand resignation letters. How else can you save the school? Make your anger productive – right now, it’s misdirected and ineffective.

  • AIPCS Teacher

    Our campus has no guns, drugs, violence, or teen pregnancies. My students are safe. We also study harder than anyone else. ALL of them will go to 4 year colleges. That is all the students, teachers, and families know; the rest of the political/ financial jargon is up to the powerful people. It would be a horrible shame if they do shut down AIMS and a part of my faith in humanity will be taken with it, if it were to happen..

  • Blissed non ed

    The fact that you have nothing of that sort (drugs, violence, drugs or teen pregnancies further demonstrates that your leaders have screened your students!

    Heck, some of those problems even exsist in Piedmont and Blackhawk, but not at your schools?

    Have you ever asked yourself, do I really teach in Oakland? You better hope they dont get closed, or you will be forced to leave OZ and teach in a real school!

  • Doug Appel

    First of all–kudos to the Superintendent and Board for taking a courageous and difficult stand. They have finally exercised the proper oversight of the chartering agency envisioned in California’s charter school law. There appears little doubt that AI schools engaged in many violations–screening students, having a population that did not effectively mirror the student population in the chartering district and, of course, the apparent financial chicanery practiced by Chavis et al. and enabled by a compliant or complacent charter governing board.
    But the AI school experience reveals both what is potentially beneficial and potentially disagreeable in charter schools as a whole. It is possible to create educational models that offer opportunities for students to thrive who might not do so in traditional public school settings. But in doing so by handing over public monies to private entities without sufficient public oversight, it invites abuse, “gaming the system,” and outright thievery.
    I taught in a small district in Southern California. When another teacher and I proposed an innovative educational program it was welcomed by the parents, the principal and school board and modestly supported financially by all of them–and thrived for eight years. We have seen some evidence that there are places in Oakland where such “ground up” initiatives are encouraged. I would suggest that an openness to such educator based reforms is a better solution than handing huge sums of public monies to charter schools. Instead of top down, consultant and test maker driven initiatives, lets ask the folks who work daily with children, in conversation with their parents and guardians, how to design programs that improve student outcomes.

  • JCR

    1. No free meal programs.
    2. Students are always tired from lack of sleep due to homework overload.
    3. Students in AP Physics are not proficient.
    4. Who gives twenty minute lunches for teachers and students??
    5. Students get detentions like not returning signed forms for picture day.
    6. Apartments turned classrooms are filthy.
    7. Most students at the high school refer to the “site administrator” as a “monarch”.
    9. No technology whatsoever. All grading is done manually.
    10. Questionable administrator, who comes to work late and talks on two cell phones simultaneously during the day.
    These are just a few observations from a former teacher.

  • Low balled

    JCR: Some clarifying questions:

    Are you staff there? What does #6 mean? Maybe you could clkarify something that many of us, teachers from other Oakland schools have been asking for some time…..who the hell is in charge at AIPCS? I saw an older man at the podium at board meeting the other night and for those of us who know about this school and founder….you absolutely know that he is not in charge.

    The school is so synonymous with Chavis that it will never be able to crawl out from his shadow. My question is, if the school does indeed close as it now looks, what will happen to the large cash reserve they were so bragging about last Fall? Is it true that OUSD will capture that money?

    Or, will Chavis find a way again, he is after all, Crazy Like a Fox right?

  • Aimed

    Low Balled:

    The HS facility, which by the way is owned by Chavis, was converted into classrooms. While they are unconventional, they work. Dirty? I would say if there is one thing the AIM schools do is clean!

    But your point about the extra money is a good one. Aipcs staff always heard that the school had a large reserve of cash while at the same time hearing there was no money for anything.

    If the school closes, what happens to the reserves? Maybe the questions should be, are there any reserves? Once the state closes them, will that end up in state funds for education or will it go to politicians?

  • JCR

    AIPHS located in the Laurel District of Oakland is clean on the exterior, but makes me wonder what’s really going on internally.

    The majority of the high school students are of Asian descent.
    I feel the site administrators can get away with so many unfair practices because they know parents may feel their children are safer there than in other public schools.
    How is it that the following occurs at AIPHS:
    1- No free meal programs for students when every other charter school has provisions for it?
    2- Why does staff need to drop and pick up high students from the chruch gym turned lunch room?
    3- Why is lunch time only twenty minutes for all except the site administrator?
    4- Why are students required to have at least 5 hours of homework per night?
    5- Why are students so tired while in class?
    6- Why are there no computers in the “class rooms” or on campus for that matter?
    7- Why are the females required to keep their hair dyed black?
    8- Why is Saturday School conducted by the site secretary (without pay) to monitor students?
    9- There is no onsite janitor, food service employees, technology for teachers, teacher lunch rooms, phones in classrooms in case of an emergency, biology lab despite there is a biology class…one copier machine.

    The list goes on and on. Makes me wonder where is all the money going?

  • JCR

    Sorry for the typographical error on number 2.
    I meant to write church gym….

  • Yazstremski

    JCR….#7?? Hair dyed black…I think you mean hair TIED BACK!
    #9??? Biology lab…and there is NO Biology class, or there is a Bio class without a lab?
    I have no idea what you are trying to say.

  • JCR

    Yazstremski:

    AIPHS could work if honesty and dedication were the primary focus for students’ educational endeavors.

    There was an occasion that a student had medium brown highlights in her hair. She was reprimanded and immediately sent home. She returned with her hair dyed black the next day. They don’t have to tie their hair back, right?

    There was an occasion where students created crystals for a “science project”. Don’t recall witnessing an onsite, fully equipped laboratory for students.
    As a former chemist I have considerable knowledge because I’ve worked in labs for many moons.

  • Yazstremski

    JCR…you just don’t get it…they do not allow the students to have any hair color other than their original hair color. So if a girl with black hair highlighted it brown, it would have to be colored back to the original color. They don’t make blonde girls dye their hair black. That is what you said…reread your post