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New website documenting charter school scandals

A new website launched recently by an Oakland California activist promises to be documenting scandals at charter schools across the USA. The site is still "under construction" but is up and running. They seem to be working to amalgamate news reports from other sources regarding corruption and controversy in charter schools.

KIPP is on its third school in Chicago, and has developed such poor relationships with Penn Elementary School that occasional violence has resulted. The reasons, as described by the school's staff and parents, have to do with the problems outlined in this article. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Below are some of their early postings:

Thursday, May 20, 2010, Ross Global Academy, Charter School at Tweed Probed for Test Tampering (NY Sun, June 2, 2008)

The city's Department of Education is investigating a charter school housed in its own headquarters building following an allegation that student scores on a state test were doctored.

The person accused of test-tampering, Stephanie Clagnaz, left abruptly as Ross Global Academy's principal in the middle of May. She is at least the fifth head of school to leave Ross Global since it was founded two years ago.

The brainchild of the multimillionaire philanthropist Courtney Ross, the charter school is publicly funded but privately run. It is modeled on an eponymous private school Mrs. Ross runs in the Hamptons.

The Ross Global charter school graduates from Tweed (Gotham Schools, January 16, 2009)

After a rocky journey marked by allegations of dystopianism and favoritism and almost too many principals to count, the charter school founded by the millionaire Courtney Ross is moving out of Tweed Courthouse and into a home of its own. That’s happening despite the fact that there is still no resolution to the cheating scandal that hit Ross Global Academy charter school last year, when its principal was pushed out after being investigated for tampering with tests…

A person at Urban Assembly today told me the school is excited to get a new space. “It’s very crowded here,” the person said. “We were supposed to be here for one school year, and it’s already four.”

Ross expects to have more students next year, 384 up from 316 this year, Department of Education spokesman Will Havemann said.

Village school students take charter 'flight' (NY Post, February 24, 2010)

A Manhattan charter school is so plagued with discipline issues and a dearth of academic services that students have been fleeing or have been pushed out in record numbers, parents charge.

This school year alone, 91 of 410 students of those enrolled at Ross Global Academy have left, according to the Department of Education.

It continues an unprecedented trend in which the East Village elementary and middle school has shed more than 20 percent of its students — and at least 42 percent of its teachers — every year since it was founded in 2006.

Testing irregularities and cheating, Wednesday, May 19, 2010, Maya Angelou Public Charter School Student injured by chair-wielding sub (Washington Post, May 18, 2010)

A seventh grader at Maya Angelou Public Charter School suffered a fractured ankle last week when a substitute teacher allegedly threw a chair at him during PE class. Lucretia Murphy, executive director of the See Forever Foundation, which operates the school, confirmed the incident, first reported Monday evening by Fox 5 news.

"There was a definite incident in which a substitute teacher did shove a chair toward a child," Murphy said. "That's completely inappropriate, so the substitute has been banned from the building."

Murphy declined to release the name of the teacher, who she said had worked at the school before without incident. She said a police investigation was underway.

According to the Fox 5 report, the-13-year-old student was shooting foul shots when the sub accused him of throwing jellybeans at him. As he denied it, the student said, the teacher picked up a chair.

"He grabbed it with two hands and threw it towards my way and I tried jumping over the chair and it hit the side of my ankle," he said. Video shows the ankle in a cast.

Posted by The Perimeter Primate at 9:02 PM 0 comments Labels: *Washington D.C., 2010, Questionable discipline practices

Nampa Classical Academy

As you read through these three stories, try to add up the amount of time and money spent on the extensive state school commission and courtroom costs, not to mention the amount spent on wages for the lawyers, judges, clerks, and everyone else who had to process this mess. And never forget, this money was your tax dollars. State panel expresses concerns about Nampa Classical Academy (Idaho Press-Tribune, April 29, 2010)

BOISE — Leaders with Nampa Classical Academy made little progress Wednesday in attempts to convince state officials that their school should remain open after this academic year.

The Idaho Public Charter School Commission has told academy officials that they could revoke the new school’s charter for a number of problems the commission has identified regarding the school’s operations. At a meeting in Boise, Charter Commission members continued to express deep concerns — especially about proof of the school’s financial soundness.

Some commissioners also voiced concern about a list of books provided by the school that showed religious texts the commission expressly barred use of in August. Academy officials said the school’s teachers were not using the books and they should not have been on the list.

Commissioner Esther Van Wart was surprised that NCA Treasurer Terry LaMasters didn’t bring to the meeting written documentation of a $400,000 loan the school listed on its budget.

“Does that not scare you guys?” Van Wart asked NCA officials about the commission’s prospect to revoke the school’s charter. “To me this is a terrifying thing to face and to hear you say, ‘I didn’t bring it with me.’”

A budget that has not been updated to the satisfaction of the commission, the $400,000 loan to the school the school counts as revenue, and budget errors were among the items that raised the commission’s concerns.

The academy will have a hearing before the commission to discuss the state panel’s intent to revoke the school’s charter June 11.

Revocation of the charter would mean the school would be closed.

NCA board chairman James Lorenzen said the commission’s demands are reasonable.

“We will have the documents they’re requesting,” Lorenzen said. “I don’t know if we will be able to convince them of our fiscal stability, (but) we will be financially solvent.”

The commission Wednesday discussed several notices of defect given to the school and the school’s plans to address those defects, called corrective action plans. Only one defect, regarding proper teacher certification, was removed.

“They have not made much progress in meeting their corrective action plans,” Commission Chairman Bill Goesling said. “The information they’re providing us is not even updated.”

Commission’s concerns

Concerns of the Charter Commission include:

The status of half-time teacher Isaac Moffett and whether or not he acts in an administrative capacity for which he is not certified. This has been an issue since last year. NCA has changed Moffett’s title twice. But commissioners are still not convinced his duties are not administrative, and they await clarification from the Idaho Department of Education on the issue.

The school overestimated how much start up money they will receive by $75,000.

An apparent typographical error in the school’s proposed budget listed money for leasing portables for next school year at $3,500 when the number for this school year is $350,000.

A budget line for next school year of $50,000 in public donations when the school had not raised any such donations this year. “I would be reluctant to include that in next year’s revenue,” Commissioner Nick Hallett told NCA officials who attended the meeting.

Company believes in NCA mission

BOISE — A spokesman and part owner of a limited liability corporation that plans to loan Nampa Classical Academy $400,000 said his company will take the risk because its leaders believe in charter schools.

Gary Perron of Twin Falls said the company, BAP, owns the land the school is on and spent $1 million improving it. Perron spoke to Idaho Public Charter School Commission members Wednesday at a meeting to discuss NCA’s operations.

“Essentially we’re taking a large risk because we believe in the school,” Perron said. “We believe in charter schools. It’s the wave of the future.”

Perron said his company is confident the school will “survive.” He said the school will not put up any collateral for the loan, which will be paid back in two years at 15 percent interest.

“We’ve poured over their numbers time and time again,” Perron said. “We’re confident they’re going to be fiscally sound and of course we’re going to play a significant factor in that.”

Panel startled by book list

Commissioners were also dismayed to see the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon on a list of NCA curriculum books when it was decided in August that NCA could not use those books for instruction.

“I’m really uncomfortable with this reading list,” Commissioner Brad Corkill said. He said the list made him feel like he was being “mocked” by NCA officials.

NCA has sued state officials and the commission for the right to use religious texts as part of instruction in history and literature. The lawsuit is still pending.

Commissioners said despite the fact that academy officials at the meeting assured them that the books should not have appeared on the list, the list was presented to them and it was all they had to go by.

“You’re telling me one thing ... but yet what we are getting is totally different,” Commission Chairman Bill Goesling said.

What’s next

The Charter School Commission will receive the recommendation of a hearing officer regarding Nampa Classical Academy’s financial status.

The officer will attend the June 11 revocation hearing and submit his or her decision about ten days later.

The commission will then quickly decide whether or not to revoke the academy’s charter.

If it does revoke the charter, NCA may appeal the decision. NCA board chairman James Lorenzen said he didn’t know if the board would vote to do so.

* * * * * *

Judge dismisses Nampa charter school lawsuit (Greenwich Time, May 18, 2010)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the state by a Nampa charter school over plans by school administrators to use the Bible and other religious texts as a classroom teaching tool.

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge dismissed the case Monday filed by the Nampa Classical Academy.

School administrators sued the state and the Idaho Public Charter School Commission in September after the commission barred the school from using religious texts in the classroom. At the time, the school's attorney, David Cortman, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, complained that he had never seen such a broad-reaching ban on using the Bible as a resource in public schools.

But the judge sided with the state and commission, saying the ban did not violate the school's rights, the Idaho Press Tribune reported.

The state and commission "have acted according to the laws of the State of Idaho and the demands placed upon them by the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution," Lodge wrote in his 26-page decision. School administrators "simply are not the master of the content of the public school curriculum in Idaho. That responsibility falls squarely upon the Defendants who have acted appropriately."

Charter school founder and board member Mike Moffett said no decision has been made whether to appeal the ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court banned ceremonial school Bible readings in 1963 but said "the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities" so long as material is "presented objectively as part of a secular program of education."

Public schools across the country have traditionally avoided Bible courses and the potential controversy, but hundreds do offer voluntary classes to students.

The judge's decision may not be the last setback for the fledgling academy, which opened its doors last fall and enrolled more than 550 students, making it one of the state's biggest charter schools.

The commission is expected to hold a hearing next month to discuss its intent to revoke the school's charter, a move that could lead to its closure.

One reason cited by the commission for revocation is an allegation the school has not fully complied with the order to avoid using religious texts in teaching. School officials insist they have not used the Bible or other texts as teaching tools since being warned.

School administrators had planned to use the Bible as a primary source of teaching material but not to teach religion. The academy said the Bible would likely be introduced in the ninth grade, when students delve into the history of Western civilization, and taught for its literary and historic qualities and as part of a secular education program.

School officials also announced this week they intend to end classes early after failing to get a federal grant they had been expecting to help cover costs at the end of the year. __

Information from: Idaho Press-Tribune, http://www.idahopress.com

* * * * * *

Nampa charter school due to end classes early (The Idaho Statesman, AP, May 18, 2010)

NAMPA, Idaho — A public charter school that's been at odds with the state over its curriculum almost since it was founded is ending its classes prematurely after declaring a financial emergency.

The Nampa Classical Academy's classes will end Friday for kindergarten through eighth-graders, and May 25 for ninth graders. They had been slated to end June 10. School officials say they'll still meet the statutorily-required instruction time.

The Press-Tribune reported the school didn't get $166,290 in federal Title 1 funding it had been expecting. Title 1 is money for schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families.

On Monday, board Chairman James Lorenzen said not getting the Title 1 funding "creates a dire situation for this academy."

This cash crunch is just the latest furor to surround the taxpayer-funded school, which opened last September with more than 550 students and plans to use the Bible as a primary source of teaching material.

Last year, the school sued Idaho officials in federal court, saying the state illegally barred use of the Bible as an instructional text.

Idaho officials are now planning hearings for June to consider whether to revoke Nampa Classical Academy's charter, a move that would shutter the school, because it has failed to provide the state with financial documents on time.

The announcement of the money woes prompted Nampa Classical Academy officials, parents and teachers to spend several hours Monday discussing the situation - and how to raise money.

Some worry that the cash problems will reflect poorly as the school tries to convince the state to allow it to continue to operate.

One school secretary, Annette Reese, offered $5,000, to help bridge the gap. Another person offered $200 a month. School officials and parents estimated they'd raised more than $13,000 total by the end of the meeting.

The board also set another meeting Wednesday to discuss renegotiating contracts for faculty, given the financial problems.

"Essentially what they're saying is that for programs that are outside the box but working very well they don't qualify," board member Erik Makrush said, on why the school didn't get the Title 1 funding.

Posted by The Perimeter Primate at 4:57 PM 0 comments Labels: *Idaho, 2010, Questionable financial practices, Religious instruction

New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries (AECI)

Rush to create charter high schools in New York City is recipe for cash scam (NY Daily News, January 29, 2010)

Hours after rebuffing parents and voting to shut 19 public schools, education officials announced plans to end most programs at Alfred E. Smith High in the Bronx and replace them with a charter school.

That charter school, however, has its own troubled history.

It's called the New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries (AECI), and it has been in operation fewer than two years.

Last June, a Manhattan federal grand jury charged its founder and chairman, Richard Izquierdo Arroyo, with stealing more than $200,000 from a nonprofit South Bronx housing organization.

Prosecutors say Izquierdo spent the money on designer clothes, fancy restaurants and trips to the Caribbean for his grandmother, state Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, and his aunt, City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo.

Another board member of the school, Margarita Villegas, an employee of the housing group, was indicted with Izquierdo. Both have pleaded not guilty. They immediately resigned from AECI's board and from the board of the South Bronx Charter School, where Izquierdo was chairman.

Virtually all the teachers who began at AECI when it opened its doors in September 2008 resigned within the first year.

This month, 17 of the 19 new staff members at the school filed a state labor petition to have the United Federation of Teachers represent them.

The angry teachers claim that Victory Schools Inc., the for-profit management company hired by AECI to administer their school, is charging an exorbitant management fee.

Meanwhile, DOE has posted little information on the academic performance of AECI students.

James Stovall, the executive at Victory in charge of AECI, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Irma Zardoya, the retired DOE administrator who replaced Izquierdo as chair of AECI's board.

None of these problems seem to trouble the educrats at Tweed.

One day soon, our city will wake up to discover that Bloomberg's mad rush to create hundreds of independent charter schools has unleashed bigger financial scandals than in the bad old days of community school boards.

At least new city Controller John Liu announced Thursday he would audit how the city decided to close these schools.

The DOE posted a notice on its Web site Wednesday, detailing plans to move AECI into the Alfred E. Smith building in September. Chancellor Joel Klein scheduled a Feb. 24 vote on the plan by the mayor's Panel for Educational Policy.

Amazingly, the vocational programs the charter school will offer when it moves to Smith are virtually the same programs the public school offers.

Smith accepts all students who apply. AECI only takes students by lottery.

At Smith, 21% of the students are in a special education program; at AECI, only 9% are.

At Smith, 71% of the students come from such low-income families that they qualify for the federal free lunch program; at AECI, only 47% do.

What happens to the poorest kids, to that huge special education population, to those who need the most help?

Liu needs to ask tough questions fast. And he needs to follow the money going to charters, because Klein's people are not.

Posted by The Perimeter Primate at 4:43 PM 0 comments Labels: *New York, 2010, Grand Theft, Misuse of funds

Cesar Chavez Academy

Chavez schools ordered to fire finance officer (The Pueblo Chieftan, May 19, 2010)

The Pueblo City Schools Board of Education fired its toughest salvo yet against two charter schools Tuesday night, giving them 48 hours to fire their chief financial officer or possibly have their charters revoked.

The board approved a letter by a 4-0 vote — board member Dan Comden had left the meeting early — putting Cesar Chavez Academy and Dolores Huerta Preparatory High on probation for violating numerous parts of their charter contracts as spelled out in two state-ordered audits.

The toughest language in the letter, though, gave the schools 48 hours to fire Jason Guerrero, the finance manager who worked under the schools’ founders Lawrence and Annette Hernandez and prevent Guerrero from accessing any financial records at the school.

The Hernandezes were fired by the board last fall after their Cesar Chavez School Network that at one time included six schools began to crumble as some schools broke away and the high salaries the three top executives were paid became public.

Stephanie Garcia, president of the city schools board, said that the letter would be delivered this morning to the charter schools' attorneys. The schools recently hired Nick Gradisar’s firm. After they’re letter is delivered, she said, she expected that Guerrero would be gone in 48 hours “or we are going to consider serious action.” She would not say the charters would be revoked immediately, although the letter made it clear the board believed it had that power.

Asked if she thought there was a danger that Guerrero might destroy records, she said, “We’re hearing all sorts of things. We just think it’s time for Jason to move on.”

Guerrero offered to resign last year when the Hernandezes left but the boards asked him to stay on until a financial audit, which was released earlier this month, was complete.

The district’s letter also demands that he be removed with no expenditure of taxpayer funds. It also ordered the schools to discontinue any settlement talks that would use taxpayer money to pay off the Hernandezes, who are suing to get their full year’s salaries. In the 2008-09 fiscal year, Lawrence Hernandez had been paid $339,732 and his wife $210,215 with Guerrero’s pay package totalling $321,585.

The letter went on to order the schools to renegotiate charter contracts, with the possibility of a single charter for both schools, and come up with strategies to deal with making sure teachers were highly qualified, dropout rates reduced, graduation rates improved and that children were better prepared for Colorado Student Assessment Program tests.

It also asked for the names and resumes of all the Cesar Chavez board members. The DHPH board still lacks a quorum because the district board has exercised its veto power over nominees.

Posted by The Perimeter Primate at 12:58 PM 0 comments Labels: *Colorado, 2010, Questionable financial practices

Dolores Huerta Preparatory High

Chavez schools ordered to fire finance officer (The Pueblo Chieftan, May 19, 2010)

The Pueblo City Schools Board of Education fired its toughest salvo yet against two charter schools Tuesday night, giving them 48 hours to fire their chief financial officer or possibly have their charters revoked.

The board approved a letter by a 4-0 vote — board member Dan Comden had left the meeting early — putting Cesar Chavez Academy and Dolores Huerta Preparatory High on probation for violating numerous parts of their charter contracts as spelled out in two state-ordered audits.

The toughest language in the letter, though, gave the schools 48 hours to fire Jason Guerrero, the finance manager who worked under the schools’ founders Lawrence and Annette Hernandez and prevent Guerrero from accessing any financial records at the school.

The Hernandezes were fired by the board last fall after their Cesar Chavez School Network that at one time included six schools began to crumble as some schools broke away and the high salaries the three top executives were paid became public.

Stephanie Garcia, president of the city schools board, said that the letter would be delivered this morning to the charter schools' attorneys. The schools recently hired Nick Gradisar’s firm. After they’re letter is delivered, she said, she expected that Guerrero would be gone in 48 hours “or we are going to consider serious action.” She would not say the charters would be revoked immediately, although the letter made it clear the board believed it had that power.

Asked if she thought there was a danger that Guerrero might destroy records, she said, “We’re hearing all sorts of things. We just think it’s time for Jason to move on.”

Guerrero offered to resign last year when the Hernandezes left but the boards asked him to stay on until a financial audit, which was released earlier this month, was complete.

The district’s letter also demands that he be removed with no expenditure of taxpayer funds. It also ordered the schools to discontinue any settlement talks that would use taxpayer money to pay off the Hernandezes, who are suing to get their full year’s salaries. In the 2008-09 fiscal year, Lawrence Hernandez had been paid $339,732 and his wife $210,215 with Guerrero’s pay package totalling $321,585.

The letter went on to order the schools to renegotiate charter contracts, with the possibility of a single charter for both schools, and come up with strategies to deal with making sure teachers were highly qualified, dropout rates reduced, graduation rates improved and that children were better prepared for Colorado Student Assessment Program tests.

It also asked for the names and resumes of all the Cesar Chavez board members. The DHPH board still lacks a quorum because the district board has exercised its veto power over nominees.

Posted by The Perimeter Primate at 12:55 PM 0 comments Labels: *Colorado, 2010, Questionable financial practices

Opportunity Charter School

Manhattan's Opportunity Charter School accused of using disciplinary goon squad to beat problem kids (NY Daily News, May 19, 2010)

A Manhattan charter school stands accused of letting its disciplinary team turn into a virtual goon squad that cracked down on troublemakers with violent beatdowns.

Students at Opportunity Charter School were punched, thrown to the floor and even dragged around by their hair, according to the city's Special Commissioner of Investigation.

School leaders not only "condoned assaults" - they tried to cover them up, the report charges. The smackdowns were never reported, in violation of school policy.

Investigators were tipped off to the harrowing abuse at the Harlem school by anonymous tipsters.

During the 2009-08 school year, the report alleges, Opportunity's "behavior management specialists" were called to manhandle unruly kids:

* A team of "specialists" put a 12-year-old student in a headlock after he became "disruptive" during a science class in May 2008. He ended up with a bloody nose and black eye.

* One specialist pulled a 15-year-old girl's head off her desk and dragged her out of the classroom by her hair.

* Another specialist pushed a 15-year-old student into a door jam head-first.

* A 14-year-old boy was thrown to the ground and pinned down after he refused to remove what staff referred to as "gang beads."

A call to the school was not immediately returned.

Opportunity Charter School was founded in 2004 for high-needs students. Special education students make up about half the student body.

Co-directors Betty Marsella and Leonard Goldberg and administrative director Brett Fazio, who supervised staffers when the alleged abuse took place, are still running the school.

Last year, Education Department officials renewed the school's charter for an additional two years.

They said they were aware of the charges but believed significant changes had been made in the last two years.

* * * * * *

This story also appeared in The New York Times on May 19, 2010: Report Faults Use of a Restraint at a Charter School in Harlem

The use of physical restraint at a Harlem charter school that serves special education students was not reported properly and “could be considered condoned assaults and abuse of schoolchildren,” a city investigation released on Wednesday said.

The city’s special commissioner of investigation, Richard Condon, began investigating the school, the Opportunity Charter School on West 113th Street, after receiving an anonymous accusation of physical abuse in 2008, according to a report released by his office.

The investigation found that the charter school’s administrators failed to properly report at least three instances during the 2007-8 school year in which staff members used physical force to control students. In at least one of those cases, a student reported receiving injuries. The school reported nine instances of physical restraint, the investigation found. Three administrators cited for improperly supervising staff members still work for the school...



Comments:

May 22, 2010 at 12:09 PM

By: Jim Vail

Great Report!

What is the website for this group? What's its URL? It's wonderful!

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