OUSD board stands firm on American Indian charter school recommendation

The Oakland school board voted 6-1 last night to issue a “notice of intent to revoke” the charters for three schools run by American Indian Model Schools: American Indian Public Charter School (6-8), American Indian Public Charter School II (K-8) and American Indian Public High School.

The next hearing will be Feb. 13. The final decision comes in March, possibly on March 20.

The OUSD board members — with the exception of Chris Dobbins, who cast the dissenting vote — made it clear they didn’t want to hear defenses or excuses. They said they wanted better accounting controls and governance practices — and assurances that the organization’s founder, Ben Chavis, and his wife, Marsha Amador, would be separated from all aspects of managing the organization and its finances.

A report published in June by the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team found $3.8 million of questionable expenditures, including numerous conflicts of interests involving Chavis, Amador and their businesses.

AIM Schools does have a new board, one that includes two former OUSD board members, in fact — Toni Cook and Sylvester Hodges, who addressed the board at Wednesday’s meeting and urged OUSD to consider the academic program.

OUSD administrator David Montes de Oca acknowledged the schools’ strong academic performance and mentioned the possibility of the schools being run by another charter management organization. He didn’t name any.

Do you think that might be a good resolution?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Sue

    Assuming that the schools’ success is valid*, keeping the schools open and getting rid of the (apparent) crooks at the top seems like the best way to serve the students and families.

    *I have no information about the validity, but I’ve seen the arguments many times on this blog that it’s the result of “cherry picking” students, or other methods of skewing results. When our younger son was entering middle school, we looked at AIM, since it had impressive scores and was only a few blocks from our home. We concluded that the harsh discipline wasn’t appropriate for him. Some will argue that this form of discipline is necessary, and for some students that may well be true. But we had to decide what was best for *our* kid, and AIM wasn’t it.

  • Stacks

    The irony in this mess of a situation for the district is that if they were to think of the kids, they in essence would continue to allow this guy, who is obviously corrupt, to make more money. He will become richer at the taxpayers expense! How crazy is that?

    The irony for him is that if that were to occur, and if the documentation were as damming as the FCMAT report states, he leaves no choice than for the DA to go after him.

    Such an ironic mess. But Board members , do not fret- how innovative and revolutionary is a school program that enrolls high performing students, and keeps them high performing? OUSD can track the AIPCS student data demonstrating their performance levels BEFORE the enrolled right?

    The district has to strategize their stance much better or something cause I will be irked if my tax dollars make this guy and his corrupt family a millionaires!

  • J.R.

    All indications are that these kids do very well, and continue to do so in college. Rigor, expectations, and focused curriculum are a big part of that. There are no gimmicks, all kids that want to learn, do learn. Their parents are expected to be part of the learning process right along with the student and teacher. Learning is not a passive endeavor, everyone needs to actively participate(learning does not happen by osmosis, or just being there).

  • Doug Appel


  • J.R.
  • On the Fence

    Thanks for the link. I just compared AIMS to Oakland Tech with respect to how the kids do at the end of high school on AP exams. It looks to me like Oakland Tech’s exam pass rate of 52% far exceeds the AIMS students exam pass rate of 31%. Not all Tech students attempt these exams as do the AIMS students, but then what does one expect since Oakland Tech takes ALL students. However, the students who are serious, academic, college bound, or what have you, seem to do better at actually passing these exams at Tech than at AIMS. Is this accurate? If it is, then it suggests that the comprehensive public high schools do perhaps an even better job with their high achieving students.

  • J.R.

    On the fence,
    Exactly, it’s up to the students,teachers and parents and how much work and effort they put in. Everyone should applaud what works! The ultimate test is how well these kids transition to ever more difficult work and life situations.

  • oaklandedlandscape

    What an unfortunate situation. I hope the district works with these families as promised to create a new school that is similar to the AIM model. I’m sure many students will enroll in other district and charter programs.

    The leadership and board of AIM Schools did very little to remedy. It is sad to think that Ben and those that he can easily influence think they can fool (Ben’s word) people. What fools. They have the nerve to tell the OUSD board that they can learn from them.

    Dobbins true colors showed. That was sad as well. I can’t believe they brought in a whole new board group. These folks have no idea what they are getting themselves into. You’d think they would do their research. Or not, and that’s why Chavis selected them.

    I’m glad that the board stood up. Now let’s all get real about academics.

  • Sharon

    In OUSD’s presentation above, page 12 lists “Key Actions That Have Occurred To Date.” Bulleted items include:
    – “County Superintendent referred the FCMAT report to the District Attorney”
    – “California Department of Education terminated ASES funding to AIMS due to misappropriation of funds”
    – “California Finance Authority found AIMS in default of Facilities Grant Agreements”

    In case you’re curious, info on ASES (After School Education and Safety Program) is @ http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ba/as/pgmdescription.asp
    And info on the Charter School Facility Grant Program @ http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cs/as/facgrntoc.asp

  • Nextset

    I rather expected this. And it is their decision to make. I respect it.

    It would be interesting if there was a Board who could close OUSD for screwing over the black students – mismanaging the budget and program so that their principal constituency largely drops out, fails to learn to read and write (while payroll and consultancies run riot) and lack basic life skills at 18 regardless of “graduating”.

    Not likely to happen because there is no board actually worried about the mortality rates of the black students.

    But as far as AIM goes, it was fun while it lasted. It will be closed and the students will just have to find some other place to avoid OUSD. I think they will.

    Brave New World!

  • Nextset

    PS: As far as OUSD creating a new school specifically to mimic AIM and to attract the AIM families (Think Lowell High in SF).

    It’s not going to happen.

    Doing so would require a segregated school with admission controls to keep low IQ kiddies out. Like SF has.

    OUSD is dominated by a different management than SF and they cannot bring themselves to ever go there. SF has no problem spouting left wing nonsense while simultaneously running an academy for Jewish, Red-Diaper White, Chinese, and misc. Central-Committee-parentage students. Oakland is not there yet.

    Oakland keeps it real.

    The AIM kids will disperse to Catholic, Charter, Head-Royce and similar schools. In a few years AIM will be forgotten as though it never existed. I wonder who keeps their records?

  • Observer

    Oh Nextset, Red Diaper Babies…really?! Haven’t heard that expression for 30 years or more!

    I looked at Lowells test scores. Impressive! Then I looked at Tech’s. In the categories, Gifted and Talented, White, Not Economically Diadvantaged and Educated Parents—well those students are on par or very close to on par with the Lowell students. These would be students in the Padeia, Engineering and other specialized programs at Tech. So it seems those kids can be accommodated within a public high school in Oakland (the one that is popular with the families that have their kids in Hillcrest Middle School, the school no one ever mentions that is public, crammed full of priveleged neighborhood families and almost entirely family run). I have heard similar about both Skyline and even Oakland High School’s “gifted and talented”, which in OUSD generally means middle class with educated parents.

    The problem is not that there isn’t a specialized high school in Oakland for high(er) achievers. It’s that they have to go from AP classes in middle school to regular classes in 9th grade. Padeia starts at 10th. Many parents balk at the idea of placing their sheltered 14 year old in classes with 16 year olds who are repeating for the second time. This is where change needs to take place. The programs for the brains are there. They just need improvement and expansion. Parents would LOVE to not pay private tuition for four years right before college.

  • J.R.

    Oaklandedlandscape wrote:

    “Now let’s all get real about academics”. Amen and hallelujah to that! We need to be raising the bar and developing adults that can think and act with maturity to sustain this tattered society( we are leaving these kids that are the future workers with massive economic and social burden).

  • Ann

    How American Indian Charter Schools actually work. The media and “wonks” argue that AIMS cherry picks and cheats on the admission process and bullies children into performing on tests; as an AIMS parent this does not appear to be true.

    Both my children have classmates with behavioral or coping challenges and learning differences or skill deficits in their classes. They have about the same number of kids with issues as they did at Kaiser and less than they did at Chabot. Their classmates are far less affluent than their classmates at either of these schools and there is a high percentage of English as second language learners.

    What is markedly different is how much help these kids get and how the system empowers teachers to put reasonable boundaries around their behaviors. The children with learning differences or challenges get progress reports every three weeks and teachers work with them. Mr. Sparks who is now the site director was the resource teacher for 3 years.

    We were concerned about my son’s math performance, he got a C+. We spoke to his teacher and Mr. Sparks, both of whom knew my son and both of whom had very informed opinions of his academic strengths and weaknesses, as well as his learning style and personality. Both knew that he was doing well and said that if he needed help they would provide it, they were confident that he could improve and excel and they were eager to help him.

    These teachers and administrators know how both my children learn. More importantly my son feels great about his performance at the school even though he spends many hours studying every day and does not get straight A’s. My son is an African American young man with some learning challenges.

    Both my children are devastated by the thought of losing their school. My daughter, the nerd, is tearful about leaving the school. She learns quickly and AIMS teachers keep her working and challenged. She was referred by the school to the John Hopkins gifted and talented program, she got the represent her class in a spelling bee and the sixth grade teachers took both of my children on a Saturday field trip to the UC Berkeley Math Festival followed by ice cream. My daughter is pushed to her limits and has learned that she has limits and how much time real learning takes.
    My son, who loves rules and order, likes the structure and lack of bullying. He has trouble with keeping things in order and the smallness and personal relationships with the staff are dear to him. Both my children adore their teachers and their coaches. Coach Ng spoke with my daughter about nutrition and fitness. She changed her diet, lost 9 pounds and quit drinking soda since starting at AIMS, thanks mostly to coach Ng.

    American Indian Public Charter is very hard for the entire family and is not for everyone. The whole family must commit to the program, and it puts huge demands on everyone in terms of time and effort. You cannot go to this school and just pass on without learning. Many families leave because of the rigorousness and intensity of the program and everyone feels frustrated and exhausted at times. Nevertheless many of the children helped by the American Indian Charter School are not “gifted” or from privileged backgrounds. AIMS children earn their achievements through hard work. My children had classmates throughout their tenure in Oakland public whose learning differences and behavioral challenges went unaddressed or under addressed. AIMS may not be able to help all these kids or resolve all these challenges, but I see them really trying to help all the

  • Carl Brodt

    Although I was highly disappointed to read about rather flagrant conflicts of interest on the part of Ben Chavis and his wife, I think two points are worth noting.

    (1) Conflicts of interest open the door to illegal profiteering, but they do not necessary mean that such activity has taken place. One should evaluate each transaction to see whether the participants inappropriately enriched themselves, and I haven’t read that anyone has done that yet in this case.

    (2) Any one who believes that the people on top of AIPC are “crooks” needs to be asking themselves how such people could deliver a quality education at AIPC if they inappropriately diverted funds as alleged. Remember: Each year we are told how Oakland’s traditional public schools struggle to provide even their current relatively low level of service in light of budget limitations. Charter schools are funded at substantially less than these traditional schools per student, and if the people on top of AIPC took advantage of their position to enrich themselves, then even less money was reaching the classroom than normal in a charter school. In light of the quality of education AIPC, a presumption of innocence about illegal profiteering is probably in order here until all the facts are “in.”

  • Jim Mordecai


    Perhaps you are arguing against conflict of interest laws and greed/self-interest has worked in this case of outcome based education being high test scores.

    However, in the last two years $3.8 million was taken in violation of the existing conflict of interest laws.

    But, this isn’t only about claiming like Nixon, “I’m not a crook!”

    It is about transparency and the Board’s duty enforcing charters following the law.

    The rules are in place for the School Board as authorizer of a charter to be able to hold a charter school management accountable for following its charter. Part of the contract made with the authorizer is that a charter will follow through and provide the information it needs for oversight.

    I am arguing that even if not one dollar was made, authorizer of a charter should revoke a charter that does not file reports needed to maintain its oversight responsibility.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Arthur Miler

    Ann – You should be figuring out how to replace the board if you want the school to stay open instead of insulting staff and teachers who worked at the school for years, saw the fraud, and did something about it. Current teachers and administrators cannot say anything to the board because they are “at will.” You could. It would be more effective. You want the school to stay open, right?

    From years of experience, AIPCS does have struggling learners, but not nearly the percentage found in other schools – charter or OUSD. And Sparks taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade – he wasn’t just resource for three years.

    Carl – Did you read the FCMAT report? Funds were siphoned from the ASES account to Chavis’s accounts. That, the rent, and the cars were the big ticket items.

  • mary tran

    this school is the best for everybody. we will suceed. we are the future

  • Kary

    No one seems to be mentioning what will happen to the students of AIPCS. There are kids and families out there who chose to attend this school for its reputation of success. They are going to have to find another school that may not be as engaging. This is not to say other schools are not capable, but that this school was doing something right. There have been gross oversights in the funds allocated here and what is needed is more oversight. Change the board, put in someone OUSD trusts, but why hurt the children? I will be attending the hearing and I hope others do too to make sure the students will have options for their future.

  • Benny B


    Blame your leaders. The responses to the matters have been comical at best. I could only imagine what is contained in the responses from aim to OUSD.

    From your leaders I have only heard denials, conspiracy theories, and Save poor old Ben Chaves.

    Nothing about the kids from anywhere in that organization. They simply are outmatched now……in the meantime, better go out to make sure your child has a great school next year!

  • Rumor Has It

    There was a special fair/event for AI families to learn about OUSD and charter options, and they were accepting applications. Here’s hoping my tax dollars no longer support this school. For families who are worried, there are many schools that will offer your child a good education. Just as at AI, what you and your child put in to their education is what you will get out, regardless of the school that they attend.

  • J.R.

    Rumor posted:
    “what you and your child put in to their education is what you will get out, regardless of the school that they attend”. That’s very true, except for one variable. There are extremely disruptive(class altering) kids, and or teachers in some schools and classes. Yes, it does all begin in the home with the parents, and their support(or lack of) for their child’s education.

  • Arthur Miler


    1. Chavis cites the incorrect cost per sq foot (again) even after OUSD debunked that.
    2. He lies about expenditures. By lying I mean his statements go against OCS and FCMAT reports.
    3. He glosses over the ASES money and other funds that were misappropriated since he was just ripping off the state of CA at a lower rate compared to district schools (allegedly).
    4. He doesn’t address the fact that the board has known about conflict of interest laws for two years and has not acted on them. AIPCS might have turned in 13 binders but it really doesn’t matter if he controls the figureheads on the board.
    5. Stossel doesn’t seem to understand that Chavis controls the board. It doesn’t matter if does not hold a proper title. Why would that stop someone from fraud? He is friends with Martinez, supports Locklear, and has a special relationship with Nedir Bey.

  • Parent

    Take Ben Chavis and his wife to court, fine them, jail them, get the money back. Put another management team in place and keep the school open, if need be, move to another location. I am a parents and have look up and down, in and out of Oakland there is not another school that I rather send my children to. You can take the horses to the water but you can’t make them drink it. Students who wants to learn will learn, those who don’t will slow those who want to learn down.

  • Arthur Miler

    Problem is, it’s not up to OUSD/DA to fix this problem. It was the job of parents and the board, according to charter law. You all have wasted a lot of time.

  • Arthur Miler