CVUSD Board Relents On Charter Proposal & Comes To Terms With Employees

In the final month of 2017 the Chino Valley Unified School District took three significant steps that will shape the tenor of district operations for the next couple of years.
On December 14, the school board voted to give tentative approval to the creation of a charter school to operate during the 2018-19 school year. That school will likely be located at the El Rancho Elementary School campus, where for the last seven years the academically successful but financially challenged Oxford Preparatory Academy had been located. A firm commitment on locating the school there has yet to be made.
Oxford Preparatory had soared into rarified scholastic atmosphere after it was chartered by the school district in 2009 under the guidance of Sue Roche, who had established her instructional bona fides as the principal at Rhodes Elementary School, the highest-performing school in the Chino Valley Unified School District consistently over a number of years. The application of Roche’s formula utilizing studious intensity, old fashioned book learning and parent involvement resulted in Oxford’s students consistently outperforming all other schools in San Bernardino County over the next six years. In late 2015, district officials learned that Roche, through the creation of an academic service and supply company and an academic management corporation which she then arranged to have the district enter into contracts with, had diverted into her own bank accounts or those of her associates something approaching $3 million. In March 2016, the school board, at superintendent Wayne Joseph’s recommendation, voted against renewing the Oxford Preparatory charter beyond June 2017.
Oxford’s board, administrators and the parents of its students made a series of appeals to the Chino Valley Joint Unified board, the county school board and the California Department of Education, pleading at every level to allow Oxford to remain in place. But their insistence that the charter school had ended its relationship with its founder – Roche – and that it had instituted a host of administrative, governing and financial reforms did not persuade any of the decision-makers to relent in their resolve to see the charter academy closed. Subsequently the ever determined parents of Oxford students and Oxford staff members and other supporters put together proposals to revive Oxford, with Oxford Rise Academy being one of those and a school dubbed Allegiance Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math Academy – Thrive, also referred to as Allegiance STEAM – Thrive, being another. Those proposals were presented to the Chino Valley Unified School District. In November, the school board took up the Oxford Rise application.
The district brought in La Verne-based certified public accountant Paul S. Horvat to make a critical examination of the proponents’ claim that Oxford Rise would perform financially in accordance with state guidelines. Horvat’s verdict was that Oxford Rise was essentially a new version of Oxford Preparatory Academy that was virtually indistinguishable from its predecessor. District staff made a further finding that many of those involved in the Oxford Rise proposal had connections to the now-discredited Roche and were what was referred to as her “loyal followers.” By a vote of 4-1, with James Na dissenting, the school board rejected the request to charter Oxford Rise.
It thus appeared that the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive alternative to be considered last month had not even a ghost of a chance. A resolution prepared for the board’s endorsement that was indeed ratified by the board laid out reason after reason why the charter school should not be permitted to operate under the district’s auspices.
According to that resolution, “The Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petition, as submitted, presents an unsound educational program for the pupils to be enrolled in the proposed Allegance charter school’s charter petition, and supporting documents appear to be copied from a variety of internet sources without consistency of purpose or any sense of how it all fits together as a whole, and Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s “STEAM-focused instructional program” is not likely to be of educational benefit to Allegiance STEAM – Thrive pupils without adequate STEAM professional development for Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s teachers… The Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petition because the charter petition presents an unrealistic financial and operational plan for the proposed Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter school… The Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Budget presents a Year 1 reserve of 0.3%, which fails to meet the legally required financial reserve of 4.0%… The August 24, 2017 charter asset management funding commitment letter of $4.5 million is based on receivable factoring, is not a legally binding commitment, and is specific to the 2018-2019 school year only… Because successful factoring for amounts budgeted by Allegiance STEAM – Thrive is dependent upon Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s likely overstated enrollment, Allegiance STEAM – Thrive may have insufficient cash flow to meet Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s Year 1 financial obligations… The Allegiance STEAM – Thrive budgeted special education encroachment is understated by $100,835, which increases Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s budgeted expenses in equal amount, thereby reducing Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s 2018-2019 Year 1 fund balance to a financially flawed deficit/negative ending fund balance of $89,650. As a result, Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s Year 1 Fund Balance Reserve is reduced to a negative 2.0%… The Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petition because the ASA charter petitioners personally lack the necessary background in California kindergarten to 8th grade charter school curriculum, instruction, and assessment… The Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petition fails to contain a reasonably comprehensive description of the proposed Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter school’s governance structure because Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s governance structure fails to ensure there will be active and effective representation of Allegiance STEAM – Thrive parents and guardians… The Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petition fails to contain any description of the qualifications to be met by Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s speech language pathologist assistant, instructional aides, PE aide/proctors, and world language teachers, in addition to the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petitioners’ failure to provide a reasonably comprehensive description of the qualifications to be met by Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s teaching staff and director of business services.”
The resolution also took issue with the charter school’s admission requirements and its public random lottery preferences for admitting students.
Nevertheless, on a 3-2 vote on December 14, the school board, after hearing Sadie Burroughs, Andrew Vestey, Troy Stevens, Vanessa Okamoto, and Eric Hasanoff implore the board to grant the charter, approved giving Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy conditional clearance to operate as a kindergarten through 8th grade school, the administration for which will initiate in July and which will open to students in August for the 2018-19 school year.
According to the resolution, “The Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education recognizes the extensive public support for the charter petition at the November 9, 2017 public hearing, and that charter schools may assist the district in offering diverse learning opportunities for district students. The board of education has carefully considered the potential of the proposed charter school to provide Chino Valley Unified School District students with an education that enables them to achieve their fullest potential.”
The resolution states, “Whereas, despite the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy charter petition’s material failures as set out above to comply with Education Code 47605 and California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 11967.5.1, which the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education hereby finds are sufficient for denial of the charter petition, the board of education believes that all of the deficiencies in the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy charter petition can be addressed and remedied to the board of education’s satisfaction in separate memoranda of understanding to be entered into between the district and Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy.”
One of those memoranda states, “Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy shall hold harmless, defend, and indemnify the district, its officers, agents and employees, from every demand, liability, claim, causes of action, suits, or liabilities of whatever nature or kind, including, but not limited to actions or investigations by state and federal agencies to recover funds, attorney’s fees and litigation costs, that arise out of or relate to any actual or alleged act, omission, or crime on the part of Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy, or its current and former officers and employees.”
Another memoranda states, “Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy shall not have the legal authority to enter into any contract that would in any way bind the district, or to extend the credit of the district to any third person or party.”
Among other commitments, the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy proponents said they would credentialize the director of educational programs and employ an educated and experienced director of business services, submit to the Chino Valley Unified School District staff an employee recruitment plan, a student recruitment and enrollment plan, job descriptions including employee qualifications for speech language pathologist assistants, instructional aides, physical education aides and proctors, and world language teachers, along with certificated job descriptions including employee qualifications for elementary teachers, math teachers, science teachers and classified job descriptions for secretaries, custodians, clerks, health technicians and instructional aides.
The approval of the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive school plan, including the use of the El Rancho campus, is conditional and provisional, based upon the proponents meeting all of the conditions outlined in the memoranda and resolution, as well as a determination that the El Rancho campus will be available.
The board voted 3-to-2 to grant the charter, with members James Na, Andrew Cruz and Sylvia Orozco prevailing and Pamela Feix and Irene Hernandez-Blair dissenting.
A second issue resolved by the school board last month was the settlement of labor agreements with both the Associated Chino Teachers and California Schools Employees Association bargaining units. For sixteen months the district’s contract with its teachers had been expired. The agreement arrived at December 5 took that issue out of suspension.
According to Associated Chino Teachers President Steve Ball, who spoke at the December 14 school board meeting, the agreement is retroactive to July 1, 2016 and runs through June 30, 2019. It left intact the previous salary structure through June 30, 2017 and entails a salary increase of two percent effective July 1, 2017 for the current school year, augmented by a further two percent increase for the 2018-19 school year. The same increase will be applicable to annual stipends granted to those teachers who are involved in extracurricular work, such as coaching, student tutoring workshops and supervising or chaperoning after-school events and activities.
According to California Schools Employees Association President Denise Arroyo, her union, which represents the district’s non-teaching and non administrative employees, has reached a similar tentative agreement with the district.
Also occurring at the December 14 school board meeting was the elevation of Pam Feix to the position of board president. A former English instructor who taught at Kolb Junior High School in Rialto, Redlands High School and who occupied administrative posts in the Redlands, Burbank and San Gabriel school districts, Feix rounded out her career with the Chino Valley Unified School District, teaching at Canyon Hills Junior High School in Chino Hills until her retirement in 2014. Not quite two months later, Feix filed for candidacy on the school board and was elected in November 2014. She was the board vice president in 2017. The board also designated James Na, who was twice previously board president, to serve as vice president. Irene Hernandez-Blair was appointed board clerk.
-Mark Gutglueck

Leave a Reply