Prospects Dim For Oakland’s American Indian Model Schools
by Barbara Grady, Oakland Local
Prospects are dimming for the American Indian Model Schools continuing on, after the Alameda County Board of Education voted this week to uphold a revocation of its charter and school officials noted that student enrollment has fallen by half in the midst of the uncertainty.
Academically, the three American Indian Model Schools are among the very best in the state as well as the nation, based on test scores, college enrollment and AP class success. Yet operationally, the AIMS organization was found to have misappropriated taxpayers’ money for the founder’s personal gain, among other improprieties. The findings of alleged misappropriation and conflict-of-interest business transactions, found in an audit last winter, caused the Oakland Unified School District to vote to revoke the AIMS charter in March.
AIMS officials appealed the decision to the county and also asked a Superior Court judge for an injunction against the district’s closure of the schools. Tuesday night, the county Board of Education agreed with the OUSD determination that the financial misdeeds were too egregious, and that revocation of the charter should proceed. Its vote seemed to stem from an audit the board commissioned from the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team. “FCMAT has found a number of instances of operational fraud, conflict of interest, and fiscal mismanagement serious enough to warrant immediate action by the County Superintendent,” the county Board of Education staff said in an agency report.
However, the AIMS organization still has a favorable Superior Court to hope for. It won a temporary injunction against the closure from Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio M. Grillo a few weeks ago. A hearing before Grillo on a request for a permanent injunction is scheduled for July 8.
Meanwhile, AIMS director, Nabeeha Shakir, said enrollment has fallen to about 600 students from 1,200 a year ago.
“We’ve done what they asked for,” Shakir said. “On May 18, we hand-delivered 16 binders, documentation to prove that there was no misallocation of funds.” She said she believes the county board acted on the basis of politics rather than evidence. She said the main consideration for a charter application is supposed to be academic performance.
“We think an an API score of close to perfect for almost 10 years far outweighs any allocation-of-funds issue.” The American Indian Model School 1 had an API of 981 this year, while its Charter School 2 had a score of 974.
Not helping AIMS’ cause was the fact that the California Charter Schools Association president sided with OUSD in a letter sent to the county. “While AIMS has a tremendous track record of academic success, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and ACOE are acting appropriately in revoking the schools’ charters. In this situation, academic performance is not enough to overlook the mismanagement of public funds and the unwillingness of the AIMS board to satisfactorily address the legitimate concerns raised by OUSD,” wrote the association president, Jed Wallace.