Oakland’s school board has revoked the charter of three very high-performing schools on a 4-3 vote, saying American Indian Model Schools board hasn’t acted aggressively to separate the schools from its former director, Ben Chavis. Now a consultant, he’s “accused of channeling millions of dollars to himself and his wife,” reports the Oakland Tribune.
The investigation leading to his ouster began in 2012 with allegations of fraud that led to a five-month investigation by state auditors of the charter organization’s records. They 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’ companies — all while his wife, Marsha Amador, handled the books. At one point, Chavis served on the governing board while he was director.
Under pressure from the school district, the AIMS board gave him notice on Jan. 12 that he could no longer have a role in running the institution. They appointed former OUSD trustee Sylvester Hodges as interim director and produced a thick binder of reforms.
The Alameda County District Attorney is reviewing the case against Chavis and his wife, but no charges have been filed.
Unless the county or state grants a reprieve, the three schools — a K-8, a middle school and a high school — will close on June 30.
These exceptionally successful schools should remain open, writes Cato’s Andrew Coulson in the San Jose Mercury News.
In a 2011 study, I found that AIM is the highest-performing charter school network in the state, by a wide margin. That is after controlling for student characteristics and schoolwide peer effects.
Low-income black and Hispanic AIM students actually outperform the statewide averages for wealthier whites and Asians. AIM even outperforms Lowell, one of San Francisco’s most respected and academically selective high schools.
When AIM started as a school for American Indians, scores were abysmal. Chavis, who’s part Lumbee, took over and transformed the school, then expanded.
The board’s financial mismanagement justifies closure, argues Robert Gammon in the East Bay Express.
It’s time to reboot charter governance, concludes Fordham in a new report.