Thursday, January 24, 2013

A trip down memory lane with Oakland’s “American Indian” charter schools & Ben Chavis



Last evening Oakland Tribune education reporter Katy Murphy sent out this tweet: Oakland school board just voted 6-1 to issue "notice of intent to revoke" to three American Indian charters. Final decision in March.

It seemed apropos to take a look back at some memorable news stories about these schools.


11/14/2001
“Beating a New Kind of Drum. East Bay Express (CA)
Martin Waukazoo helped establish Oakland's American Indian Public Charter School, which was created in 1996 with the mission of improving the dismal performance of Native Americans in the Oakland schools... By early 2000, things had gotten so out of hand that the school board seriously was considering shutting the institution down... new leadership took the form of Dr. Ben Chavis...

NOTE: After Chavis arrived, the “American Indian or Alaska Native” (AI/AN) students at AIPCS were systematically eliminated in order to make way for some of the highest performing and most compliant students in the district. The enrollment of AI/AN students at the AIM Schools was 45 in 2001-02 (Chavis’ first year), then 42, 29, 27, 26, 17, 15, 18, 10, 6, and 6 by the time 2011-12 arrived. During that same time period, the three AIPCS American Indian Model Schools’ enrollment climbed from 106 to 698. In 2011-12, OUSD enrolled 109 AI/AN students in Grades 6-12. See this page for the trends.

12/16/2005
"HARD LINE, TOP SCHOOL.” San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
... With parental permission, Chavis cut the hair of a student accused of stealing. A boy who admitted to calling his classmate a derogatory name was pinned with a note that read "I'm an (expletive)" in front of other students...

"My child was traumatized," [Monica Peoples-Brown] said. "It hurt me to sign him out. My child was really learning. But I can't deal with an administration that is a dictatorship."

Some take issue with what they call Chavis' inappropriate use of racial stereotypes, cursing and name-calling to embarrass students at the school. Floundering students become the public targets of labels like "stupid" and "lazy Mexican."...

NOTE: A huge number of these students and/or parents have either been forced out or have become highly dissatisfied and end up leaving. 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%.

5/9/2007
"Too Hot for School?" East Bay Express (CA)
... In a series of complaint letters... a Mills College professor of education, and four of her graduate students, say [Oakland charter school principal Ben Chavis] repeatedly called... a 25-year-old black Mills student, "a fucking black minority punk" during a recent visit to Chavis' middle school. They also claim that Chavis... screamed that he was going to kick the grad student's ass, and called him a "worthless piece of shit."

The letters... allege that Chavis, who says he is an American Indian with some black heritage, also remarked to a white female Mills student: "You look like a mix breed." When the student responded that her ancestors came from throughout Europe, Chavis said, "Well, your people sure fucked around a lot." He also referred to his minority students as "darkies" and allegedly called a parent of one of his students a "prostitute."...

Some educators, however, are quietly questioning whether Chavis' success may hinge upon a dramatic demographic shift...

NOTE: The enrollment figures for 2006-07 reflect an enormous spike in the number of AIPCS students reported as “Multiple or No Response.” Since the school’s first year, the number of students in this category had been zero. In 2006-07, that number jumped to 46 (26.4%). This is indicative of public records manipulation because, in the following years, this group’s enrollment was 11.1%, 2.7%, 2.1%, 1.1%, and 1.6% in 2011-12. See this page for the trends]

6/6/2007
“Chavis in Hot Water.” East Bay Express (CA)
The Oakland Unified School District has launched an inquiry into several explosive allegations leveled against Ben Chavis, the celebrated principal of American Indian Public Charter School. As first reported here last month ( "Too Hot for School?," 5/9), Mills College prof Sabrina Zirkel and four of her grad students accused Chavis of calling grad student Unity Lewis "a fucking black minority punk" during the group's visit in March. They also complained that Chavis had asked one of his own female students if a certain boy "was still trying to suck your titties."

More allegations have now surfaced. A black parent complained that the school told her there was no room for her son, even though Chavis was accepting applications from white students. A former teacher accuses the principal of pushing her down the school stairs while calling her a "fucking bitch." Yet another cites a story that Chavis manhandled his own niece, threatened her, and called her a "slut."...

7/25/2007
“Bye Bye, Ben.” East Bay Express (CA)
Under fire recently for his heated run-in with a Mills College professor and her grad students, foul-mouthed educator Ben Chavis has resigned as principal of American Indian Public Charter School...

Full Disclosure learned of Chavis' resignation after receiving a packet of documents sent by American Indian Public Charter School to the Oakland Unified School District as part of the district's inquiry into Chavis' behavior. Included in the documents were the minutes from American Indian's March 15 board of trustees meeting, which included this bombshell: "Dr. Chavis has noted that he will work part time next year, 2007-2008 ... This will also be his last year as the director of American Indian Public Charter School." The board meeting occurred just hours after the Mills College incident...

7/26/2007
Principal Ben Chavis of the American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland - who has shocked parents not only by his use of threats and humiliation in teaching, but by his success at sending inner-city test scores sky high -- has stepped down after seven years.
The departure follows a dust-up with a Mills College group visiting the autonomous public school that prompted new scrutiny of Chavis by the Oakland Unified School District...

Meanwhile, complaints about Chavis' style have also percolated for years, largely overlooked and tolerated because the school delivered such outstanding scores...

Lately, the complaints have escalated...

... In a July 9 letter to the school's governing board, [Kirsten Vital, accountability chief for the Oakland school district] said she had visited the school in June and observed incidents bordering on educational malpractice, and that came close to child endangerment.

These included an interview with a girl who said she was forced to clean the boys' bathroom as punishment for misbehaving; Chavis' "repeated use of the words 'whities' and 'darkies' in the presence of students"; and Chavis' reference to a former employee as a "white b -- -," also in front of students...

10/30/2008
The five local schools that use the American Indian Public Charter model might be among the highest-scoring public middle and high schools in Oakland (not to mention the state), but tonight, the state administrator stopped a new one from opening...

The problem, [David Montes de Oca, Oakland’s charter schools director] said, was that the petition contained flaws relating to enrollment processes, recruitment, special education, and arts education (Here’s the report. If you can’t open that, go to the board agenda under N)...

4/5/2009
... Here's more on the confrontation between [New York City Council member, Charles Barron] and Ben Chavis...

Chavis observed Barron berating one of the conference organizers, bringing that person to tears, and didn't like it one bit -- he thought Barron was being a bully, so and went up to him and, face only inches from Barron's, started RIPPING him, saying (I'm not making this up): "You're a mother f-ing black pimp, you're f-ing our kids. Come to the reservation and I'll beat your ass. You want our kids to take Home Ec? YOU should wear a dress!"

Barron replied, "Well we're here, so let's do it right now."  Chavis said OK and started heading for the exit.  Barron, seeing Chavis was dead serious about fighting him, quickly wimped out and instead threatened to having Chavis kicked out of the hotel. They shouted obscenities at each other, with Chavis getting the last words as they separated, saying "You're a pimp! You're a pimp!"...

5/31/2009
... "What we're doing is so easy," said Ben Chavis, the man who created the school's success and personifies its ethos, especially in its more outrageous manifestations. (One example: He tends to call all nonwhite students, including African Americans, "darkies.") Although he retired in 2007, Chavis remains a presence at the school...

Under Chavis, the school also relied on humiliation to keep students in line, ridiculing miscreants and sometimes forcing them to wear embarrassing signs...

... De-Zhon and his mother had been fairly happy with American Indian...

But on Jan. 20, De-Zhon stayed home to watch the inauguration with his extended family... According to De-Zhon's mother, [principal Janet Roberts, who took over from Chavis] said the boy would receive extra work as punishment and that she might rescind his recommendation to a private high school.
That, said Grace, "took it to another level for me. . . . I felt that was evil." She pulled her son out of the school...

10/2/2009
Founded by Ben Chavis in 2006, American Indian Public Charter School is already the fourth highest performing public high school in California. Its students are almost all African American or Hispanic, and poor... *

NOTE: CATO's description is wrong. In 2009-10, the schools enrolled a total of 462 students: 255 (55%) were Asian, 99 (21%) were Hispanic, and 69 (15%) were Black. In 2011-12, the schools enrolled a total of 698 students: 473 (68%) were Asian, 118 (17%) were Hispanic, and 70 (10%) were Black. See this page for the trends.

1/11/2012
An AIPCS teacher recorded this meeting to document the presentation of her concerns. Chavis was a board member at this time. He arrives late to the meeting and kisses the teacher’s video camera lens (1:15 min.) and makes another kissing gesture to the camera after she reads her statement (9:15 min.).

NOTE: Ben Chavis on the tardiess of a graduate student who was visiting AIPCS: "I told him he's a dumbass idiot," Chavis recalled. "An embarrassment to minorities. That's what I said. He came late. White people are on time. What does he think, there's black time? Mexican time? Indian time?” (per the San Francisco Chronicle)

6/3/2012
There is some evidence that the controversial, and highly vaunted school, may be cherry-picking the best students for admission in violation of district rules...

But there's evidence to suggest that the school's high scores aren't the result of an unusually high caliber of teaching or organization, but rather the educational equivalent of bringing in ringers — in this case, from nearby Lincoln Elementary, a public school that is, in many ways, a beacon for the district, consistently churning out some of the highest test scores in the city... up to three-quarters of its students flock to American Indian Public Charter II, according to Lincoln principal John Melvin...

... According to Melvin, the school appears to be asking parents to submit test scores as part of their student's applications — which would be a direct violation of district rules, which mandate a blind-admissions lottery. Another principal... said that parents request report cards, grades, and test scores of students... though he doesn't know whether the requests are for application purposes, which is against the rules, or post-admission assessment and tutoring, which is not...

NOTE: Lincoln Elementary, located in Oakland’s Chinatown, has had a majority Asian student body for many years. For example, its enrollment has been 85-92% Asian for the past five years.

6/14/2012
The founder and governing board of three controversial Oakland charter schools could face a criminal investigation into allegations of fraud, misappropriation of funds and other illegal activities outlined in an official audit report released Wednesday.

The allegations against American Indian charter schools officials include $3.7 million in payments to businesses owned by founder Ben Chavis and his wife, including money for rent, storage fees, construction projects and the administration of summer school programs...

9/26/2012
The governing board for Oakland's American Indian Model Schools -- which boast some of the highest test scores in California -- has been put on notice: If they don't make swift changes to the way the organization is run, it could be shut down.

A 1,080-page document from the Oakland school district cites numerous violations, from financial fraud and financial conflicts of interest to nonexistent board oversight. It gives the organization 60 days to remedy the problems and provide a written response or have all three charters pulled.

The violations -- and much, if not all, of the evidence -- compiled in the thick document stem from a report published in June by the state's Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team. The inquiry was prompted by whistle-blower complaints from former employees.

Investigators found that founder and director Ben Chavis, his wife, Marsha Amador, and their numerous real estate and consulting businesses received about $3.8 million in public funds between mid-2007 and the end of 2011. And the organization's governing board, which is responsible for ensuring the proper use of public money, did nothing to prevent it from happening, the report concluded...

NOTE: The “Notice of Violation to American Indian Model Schools” was served by the Oakland Unified School District on 9/20/2012.

1/21/2013
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...

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...

1/24/2012
... On Wednesday night, the Oakland school board agreed, putting American Indian's three charter schools -- which boast some of the highest test scores in California -- one step closer to closure.

"I am not swayed by the fact that this school has great test scores," board member Jody London said. "It does not change for me that the people who operate this school have violated the public trust."...

A public hearing is set for Feb. 13, and a final decision will follow, possibly during a special meeting on March 20, said board President David Kakishiba...

The five-month state investigation by the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team came in response to a whistle-blower complaint of fraud. Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan requested an investigation and later forwarded the findings to the District Attorney's Office, which has yet to file charges...


Stay tuned for the rest of the story!

2 comments:

The Perimeter Primate said...

"A public hearing is expected on Feb. 27 [2013] and a final vote on March 20 to decide the fate of the three schools, which include a fifth- through eighth-grade school in Chinatown and a middle and high school in the Laurel neighborhood."

http://www.sfgate.com/education/article/3-top-Oakland-schools-at-risk-of-closure-4288834.php

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