Oakland's American Indian School Fights to Stay Open

An Oakland charter school that has high-achieving students but  allegedly engaged in financial improprieties has gone to court to try to keep its doors open.

The Oakland school board voted by a narrow 4-3 margin on March 20  to revoke the charter for the American Indian Model Schools, alleging that  the school hasn't done enough to rectify financial irregularities that were  found in a state audit last year.

The school board's ruling means that American Indian Model Schools, which has 1,200 students at three campuses in Oakland, must close.

American Indian Model Schools filed an appeal of the school  board's decision to the Alameda County Board of Education in late April, but  its lawyer, Gregory Moser, said Wednesday that the charter group is seeking a  temporary restraining order so it can begin its summer classes on schedule on  June 20 and plan to begin its regular school year in the fall.

Moser said time is of the essence because the county board has up  to 90 days to make a ruling or decide not to do anything.

The charter school could then appeal to the state board of  education but that would be another lengthy process, he said.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo heard arguments  on American Indian Model Schools' bid for a restraining order at a hearing on  Tuesday and is expected to issue a ruling at a second hearing this afternoon.

Moyer said a temporary restraining order would assure students,  parents and teachers that American Indian Model Schools will remain open  until Grillo hears the merits of a lawsuit that the charter school filed  against the Oakland Unified School District on May 23.

American Indian Model Schools was founded in 1996 as a charter  middle school and later added an elementary school and a high school.

U.S. News and World Report has ranked it as one of the top schools  in California and the nation, but Oakland school district spokesman Troy  Flint said a state audit last year found financial improprieties by the  school's founders and a separate school district audit found similar  improprieties.

Flint said the school board ordered American Indian Model Schools  to bring in new management and improve its financial practices but the school  failed to made adequate changes.

Flint said, "Our preferred conclusion was to keep the schools  open."

But he said the district had "no choice" except to close the  schools because it believes American Indian Schools engaged in "clear  violations of the law" and misused funds.

"We had a legal obligation to close them," Flint said.

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