King-Chavez Arts Academy

$4 MILLION FOR TINY CHARTER: YOUR DOLLARS AT WORK: San Diego school shouldn't be on failing list; November 8, 2010; Thoughts on Public Education
…Sure enough, it’s hard to fathom how state officials could recommend – and the State Board of Education could approve – $4 million for King-Chavez Arts Academy, a tiny, 131-student charter school in San Diego. That they did points to the need for a review of the whole SIG process to avoid squandering money if the feds again offer big bucks to improve the supposedly worst schools. The selection criteria, which the Legislature meddled with, were flawed. The state’s rules for parceling out the money were inflexible. And the State Board of Education’s approval was largely pro forma. All in all, a bad combination.

McRae believes that several other small schools and, in San Francisco Unified’s case, the district office, ended up getting way more than they should have – to the tune of about $25 million. Add to that $70 million going to schools that were not among the lowest performing 10 percent of schools, and it’s close to $100 million, or a quarter of the total for California, that was imprudently allocated.

And it could have been worse. Had Los Angeles Unified and Oakland Unified not complained loudly that all of their schools had been denied money, prompting the state to make room for them, some tiny schools might have gotten $6 million in SIG dollars. King-Chavez had sought $5 million before state officials belatedly capped its grant at $4 million…

But due to a quirk in accountability rules, the starting point for the Arts Academy was its 2005-06 score of 631. The school went through turbulence in 2008, when it replaced the principal and the entire teaching staff. Because its 2008-09 score – 17 points below the year before – hadn’t gained 50 points in three years, it was eligible for a SIG grant. (This year’s score, reflecting that changes have taken hold, rebounded to 708, 51 points higher, but that didn’t affect the application.)

That’s the background as to why it qualified. How will it spend this embarrassment of riches? According to the application, $2.7 million will be spent at the school, with nine teachers and a principal, and $1.1 million will go to the charter operator for the three schools…

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Less than a year after a Barrio Logan charter school discarded its director and cut loose nearly all of its teachers with little warning, teachers in its system of schools are taking their first steps toward forming a union.

Six out of eight teachers at King/Chavez Arts Academy were dismissed last summer, shortly after its director was replaced. The jilted teachers, many of them relatively new to teaching, said they received little explanation of why they were let go.

Tim Wolf, the chief executive officer who oversees the five King/Chavez schools, declined to explain at the time why the teachers were dismissed but alluded to the lower scores of the Arts Academy. Wolf declined to comment for this article.

The exodus of teachers aggravated some parents who pulled their children out of the school. It suffered a significant drop in enrollment at the beginning of this year, while other King/Chavez schools saw their numbers increase…

It also made many of the remaining teachers fearful of losing their jobs, especially after another teacher from the same school was fired in the middle of this year. Some were galled that the principals and administrators judging them had not been classroom teachers themselves. So they kicked off a union drive across all five — soon to be six — of the King/Chavez schools.

Thus far the teachers have formed an organizing committee and are working with the San Diego Education Association, the union that represents teachers in San Diego Unified, to sway a majority of the schools' teachers. Less formal efforts to pin down procedures for teacher evaluation are also underway at the school, but some teachers were skeptical that those policies would translate into real protection for employees. All of the current teachers interviewed declined to be quoted by name in this story, fearing retribution from their administrators…

If teachers sign off and the King/Chavez schools are unionized, they would become part of an emerging trend. While unionized charters are still an anomaly, more charters are unionizing as workplace issues erupt, said Betheny Gross, a senior researcher at the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. Some are unionized from the start…

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

if you do a little digging at voiceofsandiego.com, you will find that the ceo's decision to fire those teachers did not help the students achieve higher/learn more. in fact, the scores plummeted. when the STAR scores for 2010 come out, maybe improvement will be shown. there is a lot of doubt, however.

this school is not on the precipice of closure. the ceo had to make a dea with the district i order to stay open for a year or so more, under the auspices of the management org. that runs 5 other king/chavez schools.

there is a slimier, grittier story here that may or may not involve test fraud, systematic mistreatment of employees, and opportunistic practices amongst san diego's most vulnerable - poor, minority students being used as ADA cash cows by the white and wealthy.

Anonymous said...

This school should be closed down. The students that come out of this school are like little gangsters.

Anonymous said...

Agreed to poster from 2010. #1 names for an investigative journalist: Tim Wolf and David Wilson. Not sure what you can prove since they were refusing to release financials back in the day.