High-Performing Oakland Charter Schools Could Close

High test scores but financial questions at American Indian schools.

By Chris Roberts
|  Tuesday, Feb 19, 2013  |  Updated 1:48 PM PDT
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No one says that students at the American Indian charter schools in Oakland aren't smart and performing well in school and on tests.

It's the accounting practices of the schools' leaders that are in question.

Real estate deals that funneled $3.8 million in taxpayer cash to school founder Ben Chavis and his wife, plus consulting deals and other "conflict of interest and ethical issues"  may lead the Oakland Unified School District board to vote to shut the schools down, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The schools must address the accounting issues, prove there are no conflicts of interest, and "prove all public funds are being, and will be, spent appropriately," the newspaper reported. If they don't, the 700 students at a middle school in Chinatown and a middle and high school in Oakland's Laurel neighborhood may be shut down.

A hearing is planned for Feb. 27 and a vote is scheduled for March 20, the newspaper reported.

Schools "cannot take the public's money" and use it inappropriately, according to Jody London, a school board member.

Last year, Chavis was revealed to have owned the Chinatown campus's space, and charged the schools nearly six times the going rate for floor space, the newspaper reported. And as both the landlord and the school's leader, he signed checks to himself, the newspaper reported.

The schools are known for good testing scores but also "rigid teaching methods and harsh discipline" at the hands of Chavis, who retired in 2007.

He was known for "humiliating students, swearing at them, and calling them names," the newspaper reported. He was also known for boosting their test scores.

About 70 percent of the American Indian schools' students are Asian.
 

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