Dickinson Proposing New Charter School In Adelanto

Michael Dickinson, whose efforts at bringing the Public Safety Charter Academy into existence was widely lauded until he was ignominiously sacked as chief executive officer of that school last year amid charges he was exploiting it for personal financial profit, is attempting to start another charter school in Apple Valley under the aegis of the Adelanto Elementary School District.
Confidently predicting a start-up enrollment of 400, Dickinson in April submitted to the Adelanto Elementary School District a charter petition for True North Preparatory Academy, seeking $2.6 million from the state to run what  he described as a K-12 vocational training and college preparatory school in the 2012-2013 school year. His application projected steady growth in enrollment calling for the charter’s proposed budget to grow to $3.4 million in the 2013-2014 school year. When queried, his associates posited they would need $4.4 million in the 2014-2015 school year.
Dickinson, a one-time arson investigator, in 1999 initiated what at that time was an unaccredited educational seminar for teenagers pertaining to fire science. The seminars broadened to include law enforcement issues, and with the assistance of others, Dickinson established a campus at the former Norton Air Force Base. In  2005, the school received accreditation and Dickinson made a petition to transform the school into a charter academy under the sponsorship of the San Bernardino City Unified School District, achieving that goal in 2006.  The academy  found a niche among students who aspired to careers in the field of public safety.  Nevertheless, under Dickinson the Public Safety Academy fell short of both educational and accounting goals over the several years of its operation, then plunged into chaos last year. Four years ago a financial review revealed the school had not kept accurate payroll and accounting records and had spent $164,000 that was not budgeted for. There were also questions about $20,000 worth of expenditures for laptops that were either never delivered, misappropriated or stolen.  In January of last year, a report commissioned by the district found the academy’s accounting practices deficient and cataloged arrearages with regard to accounts payable.
Last spring, Michael Dickinson’s wife who served as a principal at one of the school’s campuses, Susan Dickinson, fell under the charter school board’s focus after a report surfaced that she had crossed the line in prepping her students for questions contained in the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting exam by showing them some of the questions contained in the test. When the charter school’s head principal, Kathy Toy, recommended that the board of trustees terminate Susan Dickinson, Michael Dickinson dismissed the board of trustees before they could do so.
On June 20, 2011 the Public Safety Academy board, led by Peggi Hazlett, filed suit against Public Safety Academy Inc., an adjunct to the academy set up and controlled by Michael Dickinson, who received $121,000 per year in salary for his services. That suit sought to restore the authority of the board that Michael Dickinson had terminated. In July, the court ruled that the board had legal authority to run the charter academy. The board then terminated the contracts of Michael Dickinson, as the chief executive officer, and Dickinson’s hand-picked chief financial officer, Mike Davis, who was paid $120,000 per year.
While the application with the Adelanto Elementary School District is being processed, district officials are skeptical of the application and Dickinson’s true motive on several particulars.
Adelanto school board member Jermaine Wright said it appeared to him that Dickinson was more committed to generating revenue than educating students through the establishment of a new charter academy.
“I believe they are trying to use the Adelanto School District, which is known for being a charter friendly district, to open up another charter to be a money grab. That sort of thing has been going on for a while with charter schools. People who can’t make money anywhere else are opening charter schools and trying to cash in.”
Wright said he found Dickinson’s claim of having an enrollment of 400 suspicious.
“That has to be the second biggest joke on the planet,” Wright said. “It took nearly ten years for him to reach 400 students at the Public Safety Academy. Now he has lost his position there and he is trying to get a charter school here. I don’t know of any charter school that could open the first year with 400 students.”
Moreover, Wright said, the numbers and details in the petition are dubious. “They talk a good game but they have nothing to back up what they are saying. They could not defend their budget. They said it was a K-to-12 school, but everything they had was geared to being a high school. Their budget numbers were incomplete. They are required by the educational code to have a three-year budget but what they had was for two years and their numbers were so far off. The numbers added up to 600 student but they project 400 students. Charter schools always show a low number and pray for a higher number. They did it the other way around.”
Most troubling of all was that Dickinson was a no-show at the May 1 school board meeting at which a public hearing for the True North petition was held, Wright said. Instead, a few of Dickinson’s associates stood in for him.
“He didn’t even take the time to come up and talk to us,” Wright said of Dickinson. Wright said he thought that maybe Dickinson thought he could selectively present his history to the school board, emphasize his success in getting the Public Safety Academy accredited and chartered and keep the derogatory information under wraps.
“He knew that we had closed Sheppard Middle School and he and his people saw we had an empty building, saw a way to get in somewhere and grab money. Those are just my personal thoughts on this. I have concerns they are coming to our district because we are a charter friendly district and they think we are not watching things very closely. Anybody who comes to our district should be subject to a thorough background check,” Wright said.

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