Eagles Peak Charter School (4000 students)

FORMER SCHOOL DIRECTOR GETS $1M.  North County Times (San Diego County, CA) 20 Aug 2010 
A jury awarded the former executive director of the now-defunct Eagles Peak Charter School $1 million this week in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed after the administrator was fired in 2008, an attorney said Friday.

In the lawsuit, the former executive, Rich Alderson, accused the school’s board of directors of firing him after less than a year on the job for refusing to retaliate against employees who had criticized them.

The jury determined that the school acted with fraud, malice or oppression, according to Bob Ottilie, Alderson’s attorney…

In his lawsuit, Alderson claimed that trustees had asked him to do something to keep the employees from speaking up, which he refused to do…

A few months earlier, disagreements between the board and former Executive Director Kathleen Hermsmeyer caused the school to split in two. Hermsmeyer and most of the other administrators moving to the newly formed River Springs Charter School based in Riverside County.

Before the division, the school was the largest in the region, with nearly 4,000 students. It catered to parents who primarily taught their children at home and had learning centers throughout San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties.

The school closed last year after the school board at the Julian district decided not to renew its charter. At the time, the district’s superintendent said the move was spurred in large part by Alderson’s firing.

In September, Mountain Peak Charter School opened with many of the same programs, employees, students and the same board president as Eagles Peak.

The new school is sponsored by the Mountain Empire Unified School District and serves more than 500 students in San Diego, Riverside, Orange and Imperial counties with learning centers in Vista, Chula Vista and San Jacinto…
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REPORT DOCUMENTS PAST PROBLEMS AT CHARTER SCHOOL. North County Times (San Diego County, CA) 07 Dec 2007
VISTA -- A county report released this week says poor judgment and lax oversight led to several problems at North County's largest charter school, where allegations of money mismanagement, nepotism and conflicts of interest erupted into an ugly power struggle last year.

The controversy at Vista-based Eagles Peak Charter School has since subsided; the massive academy split into two separate schools in early 2007. No criminal charges were filed against anyone at either school.

The county report says problems from the past could continue to haunt Eagles Peak, including the possibility that the school will have to return roughly $7.3 million in state funding. The school that branched off, River Springs Charter School, is not included in the audit and would not have to share that burden.

The report was released Tuesday by the San Diego Office of Education, which hired an auditing firm to look into 12 allegations against former administrators at the school that had been lodged by its board of directors. The report specifically studies what it describes as the actions of six top administrators who have since left Eagles Peak…

The report doesn't place all of the blame on former administrators. The school's board of directors contributed to the problems by not keeping an eye on expenses, the audit states. Before last year, the school board "provided minimal monitoring, at best," according to the report.

The report specifically examines several decisions and transactions by former Eagles Peak Executive Director Kathleen Hermsmeyer and her management team, including $18,284 worth of food purchases, $32,458 in balance transfers onto school credit cards and the lease of a beach-front condominium for visiting administrators…

Because school officials never asked for documentation of those credit card expenses, the auditors say it's impossible to determine exactly where that money went. When Hermsmeyer parted ways with the school earlier this year, the Eagles Peak board signed an agreement saying it would not seek to recoup any money…

Eagles Peak runs sites in San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties; River Springs operates schools throughout Riverside County.

Each organization has more than 2,000 students and caters to parents who home-school or want more involvement in their children's education than traditional schools often offer…
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TEMECULA -- As the largest charter school serving Southwest Riverside and North San Diego counties continues its split into two autonomous entities, the board overseeing half its operations fired the school's longtime executive director after a five-hour meeting Tuesday night.

Citing several contentions, including misappropriation of money and conflicts of interest, the board overseeing the Vista-based coastal operation of Eagles Peak Charter School terminated the employment of Kathleen Hermsmeyer, who has been on administrative leave from the coastal division since November.

Hermsmeyer remains director of Eagles Peak Charter School Inland Empire. She did not return phone calls Wednesday.

The decision to fire her came as coastal board members said they are grappling with a projected deficit of $2.4 million for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The board members said they largely blamed Hermsmeyer for much of the debt, contending the school has been mismanaged…

The votes came after three teachers resigned, citing concern over the school's direction and what they contended was the board's misguided agenda. Several parents also pleaded with the board that certain academic programs run at the Temecula campus should be spared. Several parents shed tears over the school's Montessori program, saying their children needed it.

About half of Eagles Peak's students are home-schooled, and the others are enrolled in various academic programs the school offers, ones that often include a mix of home-schooling and time spent at one of the campuses, dubbed learning centers, under the direction of teachers…

Each organization has a separate charter and roughly 2,000 students. The coastal school is chartered through the Julian Union High School District and the inland school is chartered by the Riverside County Office of Education. They are public schools and do not charge tuition…

Other reasons cited for Hermsmeyer's firing included her alleged decisions to:
- Allow a top administrator to earn $64,500 on loans the school took out without board approval.
- Lease a $43,000 sport utility vehicle, albeit partly for school use, an action the board called needlessly excessive.
- Lease a beachfront condominium in Oceanside for two top administrators to supposedly attract quality employees, an action the board called "tantamount to a gift of public funds."
- Give a "substantial pay raise" to employees last year without board approval and despite the school's negative operating balance at the time of $655,000, raises the coastal board contends benefited Hermsmeyer as well as her husband and sister, who were also employees.
- Work as a teacher while also working as executive director, and collecting two salaries, "constituting a self-dealing transaction and a violation of the Political Reform Act."…

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VISTA – Nearly 230 kids shut out of their charter school when city officials closed it Thursday will go to class at Green Oak Ranch for two weeks while school officials figure out what to do.

Citing unsafe conditions such as narrow hallways that could impede fire evacuation, Vista Fire Marshal Phil Paige served operators of Eagles Peak Charter School, 450 W. California Ave., with eviction papers Thursday…

"It's likely we won't be able to do what the city needs us to do in two weeks. We'll need to find a more long-term facility or facilities for these kids," she said.

Assistant City Manager Rick Dudley said the city received a complaint Tuesday saying the school was unsafe. He said school officials put their pupils in the building without consulting the city on building codes.

"Schools have different standards for construction and access than say a commercial business," Dudley said. "You can't just throw school kids in an old commercial building and call it good."…

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