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FAME Charter School

UPDATE: That was one intense meeting. At one point a woman started shrieking “Remember the Children, Remember the Children!” Folks clapped for that, and I felt fortunate not to be an education report. Too many sentimental teachers.

About 50 teachers and parents attended  the meeting to support a teacher who was fired Monday. Apparently she’s accused of emailing a blog that’s critical of the school’s CEO, but I’m not 100 percent clear about that. I won’t be writing the story.

The teacher is in her fourth year at the school. Parents and colleagues say she’s the greatest. They had less nice things to say about the school administration. Apparently quite a few teachers have been canned by the school, which is  independent of the school district even though it’s funded with tax dollars. Also, the teachers aren’t unionized.

They’re sending me to a meeting tonight at FAME charter school in Fremont. It’s popular with Muslim families, and there’s been a lot written about its CEO, most notably this storyin the NYTimes.

Here’s a paragraph of that story:

Last year, state auditors pinpointed dozens of irregularities, including unusually high compensation of more than $336,663 for FAME’s director, Maram Alaiwat, for whom the school also bought a $75,000 Mercedes. In interviews with The New York Times, former employees have described a climate of intimidation punctuated by capricious firings, and a purchasing process so haphazard that textbooks and writing materials were sometimes in short supply.

Critics of the CEO say they’re going to be present at tonight’s meeting and demand her ouster. And, they’ve got a blog.

Matt Artz

  • Jon Simon

    Thank goodness for charter schools. Now we can take money from ailing public schools to line the pockets of executives.

  • jon simon

    Thanks for the update, Matt. Now we can see what wonderful things happen for children when teachers have no union. The good ones get fired. The administrators driver Mercedes. It’s time to close FAME.

  • bbox231

    In a normal situation, you might consider the Charter concept an appropos alternative to the other problem we have in the public schools . . . . . you know, the one where crappy teachers DON’T (or, can’t ?) get fired.

    But, since we cannot even implement a consensus amongst the unionized teaching professionals as to what constitutes a measure of a given instructors relative “goodness” . . . the above is all rather moot. . . . dont you think ?

  • http://fcnisbacon.wordpress.com/ Marty

    Now we can see what wonderful things happen for children in California when teachers belong to unions.

    Corrected that for you, Jon.

  • Jon Simon

    Gee, thanks, Marty. You should have corrected the word “driver” into “drive”.

    The institutionalized rules against firing came about because of abuse. They gave power to those who actually work with children, where a good deal of the power belongs.

    Do they go too far in protecting bad teachers? Yes. Should they be changed? Yes. Should they and unions be completely scrapped? No. In teaching, unions are a massive net good. Our whole No Child disaster could have been prevented if such unions were stronger.

  • VOR

    “…the school, which is independent of the school district even though it’s funded with tax dollars.”
    Sounds wrong to me. If the school is funded by FUSD why do they not have to adhere to the same rules and regulations?

  • bbox231

    Dont most employees seek protections from irrational and unfair management practices in the courts ? This IS California after all. And, from what I witness in the private sector, this is a major consideration for managers – as it should be.

    So, with that in the mix as one possible response to how employees can reasonably PROTECT themselves from the wrath of unfair (and not very smart) management practices, just what other benefits do the unions provide their memberships ?

    One answer may be revealed here -

    http://www.cato.org/pubs/tbb/tbb-59.pdf

    Table 3 confirms a direct and universally consistant relationship between the overage which is paid to public employees (in contrast to their private-sector peers) and the percentages of public employees who enjoy unionized protections.

    The Pacific region (consisting of AK, CA, HI, OR, WA) appear to be the biggest suckers.

    (P.S. – I’ve stated before that California public teachers are, by in large, undercompensated – - but as Marty has previously suggested, the allegiance established between ALL public-sector unions will, in the current economic unwinding, begin to work to their universal demise, just as they have worked, in the past, to their universal success . . live by the sword . . . . )

  • http://famepubliccharterschool.blogspot.com/ famecharterblog

    Please visit the blog: Help bring justice to the system!
    http://famepubliccharterschool.blogspot.com/

    Sign our petition to terminate the CEO, the person responsible for this corruption and Fraud.
    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/terminate-ceo-maram-alawai/

  • Chinmoy Roy

    Debate on the value of unions, public schools versus charter schools etc. is irrelevant when the future of our children is at stake which I believe is the case with FAME.

    I believe we have 2 Charters in Fremont: COIL and FAME. COIL is under the jurisdiction of FUSD and FAME is under the jurisdiction of Superintendent Sheila Jordan (Alameda County Board of Education). COIL is doing an excellent job in not only meeting its Charter but also meeting and in some cases exceeding the expectations of parents. I wounder why FAME has not been successful in achieving what COIL has achieved. I think the FUSD Superintendent and County Superintendent need to get together to see what is going on. For the Alameda County Superintendent to say that she is not empowered to remove the School’s Administrator even when she perceives irregularities is preposterous. The law may not be explicit in providing her the power to send Ms. Alawat packing. But it also does not say that she cannot fire Ms. Alawat. So I wonder why the County chose to keep her over that of firing her. Ms. Jordan is a very smart woman. She knows fully well how to close down a Charter as much as she knows how to grant tone. There have been precedents where numerous charters have been shut down. Those in itself should serve as a guide for her.

    Off course, the parents have recourse here in that they can take this issue up directly with the California Superintendent of schools and their Board. Yours truly stands ready to help should the parents need some.

  • Chinmoy Roy

    Jon #1, you should know better that the issue of Charter schools is not an issue of teachers’ union. I suggest you meet your fellow teacher, who is the founder and principal (I believe she still is) of Summit Preparatory Charter school in Redwood City. It is one of the top 5 performing Charter schools in the country. She saw the ailment with our public schools including how the teachers were paid low and had to put in work hours without any room for creativity which any teacher yearns for.

    So she did not go to her union. Instead she created this Charter and today the school has a long waiting list of teachers and students according to news reports. Now, not all Charters are that successful. But that is so because of the people who run the schools and not the concept of Charter school which is to provide parents the choice within the public school system.

  • Larry Sweeney

    Speaking only for myself – The concerns of many people relative to FAME’s management, intent, results and business practices have been a matter of public record for quite some time.

    FAME was granted a charter by the County Office of Education, not by Fremont Unified School District.

    Last year, a FCMAT (Financial Crisis and Management Assistance Team, a professional organization created to, among other tasks, investigate the financial practices of California educational organizations) issued a second of two reports detailing their findings of management practices, financial inconsistencies and suggestions for improvement. These reports make for very interesting reading, especially if someone wants to know what happens to your tax dollars and the management of some charter schools.

    FCMAT Extraordinary Audit of FAME (2009):

    http://wwwstatic.kern.org/gems/fcmat/AlamedaCOEFAMEreportFINAL460.pdf

    FCMAT Final Report (February, 2010):

    http://wwwstatic.kern.org/gems/fcmat/FAMEPublicCharterSchoolfinal.pdf

    FAME’s original charter came up for review and renewal last year. The proposed renewal was for 5 years. I attended the January meeting of the Alameda County Office of Education in an attempt to speak under Oral Communications to try to draw more public attention to these reports and to ask that a renewal for 5 years not be granted. Along with me was Bill Stephens, the Assistant Superintendent for Business Services who was going to read a prepared statement from FUSD. That statement had been provided to the County in advance of the meeting. Even though we had properly signed in to speak, no communications from the public were allowed at that meeting in advance of the vote! I had never seen such a display of civic arrogance in my life (not to mention a possible violation of the Brown Act). The vote was taken (5-2 with members Cerrato and Elizalde voting against the charter renewal) and the renewal approved. At the break immediately following the vote, I got into a heated exchange with two of the Board members regarding process and transparency and dealing with the public.

    This charter school was approved to continue by the County Office of Education in spite of the FCMAT reports and other stated concerns. Read the reports, and see if you agree that improvements need to be made in both the oversight of tax dollars and management in some charter schools .

  • Chinmoy Roy

    Thank you Larry for the info. During the Board hearing when the FAME charter was being granted some 5 or so years ago, I was one of the very few who addressed the Alameda County Board to deny the charter. Guy Emanuele, Nina and the then Superintendent were the others who also spoke against it. But the overwhelming sentiment that night was in favor of granting it. Prior to that hearing, I made several attempts to contact Ms. Alawat. She did finally return my calls when in my last voicemail I told her that I was requested by Ms Jordan to meet with her. However, she did not agree to meet with me in person nor discuss the issue over the phone. My problem was that it was going to be a Charter that inherently discriminated against people of other religions. And her comment to me when she heard that was something like “since I am not a Muslim, I would not be in a position to appreciate the plight and cultural segregation of the Muslims.” And she hung up. Little did she know that I understood the cultural segregation of all immigrants and I wondered that since she has been raised here unlike me, how much she understood their plight. Now it is evident that she i s in it purely for the sake of making money for herself. And if the story of the rental is true, may I dare to say that she is even exploiting the plight of these folks in which case it becomes a criminal issue.

    That attitude on her part, where she refused to meet with members of the public like myself, in itself was a warning sign.

  • californiaguy

    I really have a hard time understanding The Alameda School Boards actions, on the Fame Charter renewal!.
    They have failed in there responsibility to the residents of Alameda County.
    There incompetence is staggering, how do we remove these people from the Alameda County School Board. Maybe after seeing how stupid they were, they will resign!

  • Robert

    MArtz, could you post the original articles about the Charter school?

  • Robert

    …when it first opened