Cesar Chavez School Network (~2150 students, five schools)

This network operates five schools in Colorado
1. Cesar Chavez Academy (original K-8 school in Pueblo)
2. Dolores Huerta Preparatory High (in Pueblo, see HERE)
3. Cesar Chavez Academy-North (in Colorado Springs)
4. Cesar Chavez Academy-Denver
5. GOAL Academy (online school)

Lawrence Hernandez, who founded Pueblo’s Cesar Chavez Academy with his wife Annette, has settled a lawsuit against the boards that fired him, his wife and another administrator.

The three will share a total payout of $145,000, according to documents provided by the boards’ attorney Nicholas Gradisar under the Colorado Open Records Act.

Lawrence Hernandez, Annette Hernandez and Velia Rincon sued the board of directors of Chavez and its companion high school, Dolores Huerta, after the boards of the two charter schools fired them in October 2009…

Gradisar, reached at his Pueblo office, said the amounts are being paid by the schools’ liability insurance carrier and refunds on “key man” insurance policies formerly held by the schools for the Hernandezes and former chief finance officer Jason Guerrero. Such policies are not uncommon in the business sector to cover losses if top executives move on.

In May, Pueblo City School District 60, the charter authorizer for CCA and Huerta, sent a letter outlining deficiencies to the charter school boards that, among other items, prohibited them from using any federal, state or local tax money to resolve pending litigation.

The district’s letter came after an audit of the charters’ finances found nepotism, unchecked spending and excessive salaries for the Hernandezes and for Guerrero…
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A blistering independent audit of a Pueblo-based charter school network released Wednesday has been forwarded to the Pueblo district attorney's office for review of whether laws were broken.

Colorado Education Commissioner Dwight Jones called for "swift action" in a strongly worded news release about the findings of the report, which was ordered last year to examine the troubled Cesar Chavez School Network, which has two schools in Pueblo and one in Denver.

Jones also encouraged the Internal Revenue Service to review the network.

"Leaders of Cesar Chavez School Network squandered taxpayer money, ignored basic legal requirements, overcompensated senior staff, engaged in nepotism and failed to provide accountability over the resources entrusted to them," Jones said.
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Less than one week after Lawrence Hernandez was demoted as chief executive officer of the Cesar Chavez School Network in Pueblo, he was fired from his new, diminished position.

School board members of the Cesar Chavez Academy and Dolores Huerta Preparatory High School, one of the networks schools, acted late Friday to fire Hernandez, along with his wife, Annette, who was Cesar Chavez Academy's chief operating officer, and academy executive Velia Rincon…

Beginning in 2001, Hernandez founded and started two charter schools in Pueblo, two in Colorado Springs, one Denver school and one online school.

Nearly 2,150 students attend the Cesar Chavez School Network along the Front Range.

Hernandez came under scrutiny in May after the network was trying to close one of its schools because of financial problems.

Shortly thereafter the salaries of Hernandez, his wife, and Jason Guerrero, Cesar Chavez Academy chief financial officer were disclosed.

Other allegations made against the Hernandezes include questions about students' test scores on the Colorado Student Assessment Program — the CSAP— and whether proper procedures had been taken while tests were administered.
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CHAVEZ SCHOOL NETWORK BOARD DEMOTES CEO; September 26, 2009; The Denver Post (CO)
After months of altercations, the Cesar Chavez School Network board decided Friday night to demote its chief executive and accepted the resignation of its chief financial officer.

At a raucous public meeting, the board decided that CEO Lawrence Hernandez would no longer have administrative power over all the network's schools, said Alex Medler, board chairman of the state-run Charter School Institute…

At the end of the five-hour meeting, the board accepted the resignation of chief financial officer Jason Guerrero, Medler said…

The meeting convened about 3 p.m., just hours after Pueblo Chief District Judge Dennis Maes issued temporary restraining orders against Hernandez and his wife. Both are barred from having contact with the board president or the principal of Dolores Huerta Preparatory High School, according to The Pueblo Chieftain.

Maes' decision came after he heard testimony from board president Dennis Feuerstein and Dolores Huerta principal Richard Mestas, who both alleged that the Hernandezes and members of their family had threatened and intimidated them over the past few days…

The Colorado Charter School Institute decided Wednesday to look into the possibility of permanently closing Cesar Chavez Academy North in Colorado Springs and the online GOAL Academy in Denver. Together, the programs educate about 900 students. Both schools, along with others, are part of the Chavez network.

Trouble regarding the network has been brewing for months. In May, at the same time the network was trying to shutter one of its schools due to financial problems, it was first disclosed that Hernandez was earning $261,732 a year, making him the highest paid public-school superintendent in the state. His wife made $134,826, and Guerrero, the CFO, earned $247,797.

Citing the financial problems, along with allegations of recruitment improprieties and testing abuse, Pueblo's school superintendent asked for an audit, which was then ordered by the state.

Since then, the struggle between the institute and the network has exploded, culminating this week with a shutdown of the online school for three days.

Additionally, after network officials were warned Wednesday by the Colorado Education Commission not to destroy records, the officials said some employees had unwittingly already done so.

The day before, Hernandez allegedly told staff members they should sign loyalty oaths to the network and give their computer user names and passwords by the end of the day or risk being fired.
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After schooling at Stanford University and teaching at Harvard University, Lawrence Hernandez returned a conquering academic hero to his working-class hometown of Pueblo. In 2000, he embarked on a journey to create a school marked by both its extraordinary diversity and opportunity.

Nearly a decade later, Hernandez has it all. Five schools in his Cesar Chavez School Network. A diversity of apparent scandals. And plenty of opportunity for his own financial gain.

Possible CSAP abuses

…Robert Vise, PCS executive director of assessment and technology, says he stumbled upon some eyebrow-raising information regarding the 2008 Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) test scores at Pueblo's Cesar Chavez Academy. According to data Vise received from the state, more than 60 percent of the Academy's 684 third- through eighth-grade students were given special accommodations for the test, such as extra time to complete it. These accommodations normally are afforded only to children with established physical or developmental disabilities.

All 220 students in fourth and fifth grades were given special accommodations in the test's reading portion, Vise says, and all but two also received special accommodations on the math portion…

Vise delivered the information to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), which informed him it didn't have an investigative division to pursue the issue…

Colorado State Board of Education member Peggy Littleton says the state does its best to make sure tests are honest and accurate, but it's up to school districts to investigate any scandals.

John Brainard apparently tried that once. In 2005, Brainard, then the Pueblo district's director of assessment and research, documented four phone calls from concerned parents of CCA third-graders, all relating the same story: Their children said CCA staff had brought them into a "CSAP review" following the test, and encouraged them to change some answers.

Along with staff from CTB-McGraw-Hill, CSAP's creators, Brainard was allowed to examine written answers on CSAP reading tests for Chavez's third-graders. Although no one ever accused the Chavez kids of cheating, significant erasures or changes were found in 62 percent of the tests, and some new answers appeared to be done in different handwriting.

Despite the evidence, the test results were never revised. Brainard's requests to talk to more parents and kids were thwarted when Hernandez intervened, telling families he would be the sole contact on the inquiry, according to a report Brainard wrote…

More than NYC money

In fiscal year 2007-2008, Hernandez brought home $220,629 in salary plus a $41,103 benefit package. His wife, Annette, who serves as chief operating officer, made $107,457 plus a $27,369 benefit package. Chief financial officer Jason Guerrero made $212,569 plus $35,228 in benefits. All of that to run a five-school network that had 2,171 students in 2008.

Departing Pueblo City Schools superintendent John Covington, who manages 36 schools and about 18,504 students, makes $185,710 with $9,600 in benefits…

Then there's Joel Kline, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, the nation's largest school district. Kline oversees more than 1,500 schools, 1.1 million students, 136,000 employees, and a $21 billion operating budget. He's salaried at $250,000 a year, less than the value of Hernandez's annual package…

Other conflicts

Hernandez has money for other needs. Like handing out gift cards and conducting raffles for cars to lure more students into his Pueblo schools before the state student head count that determines state funding to schools. He did that last year ("Life takes Visa," News, Dec. 11).

Appalled, Rep. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, pushed through a law banning such incentives in public schools…

Hernandez also had enough dough in his wallet to sue PCS and a community group that opposed him. In one of his most publicized legal actions, Hernandez sued Pueblo City Schools and the Colorado Department of Education five years ago, accusing them of underfunding Dolores Huerta, and demanding $900,000 for a building. In April, the Colorado Court of Appeals decided in favor of PCS and CDE. Hernandez's attorney apparently plans to appeal. PCS has spent $31,745.80 defending itself in the case…

Hernandez also filed suit against members of a Pueblo community group in 2005. The group questioned Hernandez's business practices, including hiring family members. After many delays, and settlements by all but one defendant, that case will be heard in the fall…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why haven't any charges been brought upon the Hernandez for their actions with Cesar Chavez Academies?