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Charter school hearings: Calling all edushysters

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The Washington State Charter School Commission is holding hearings in Seattle today, January 13th.

The commission is to review applicants and decide on charter schools that will be established in our state unless the lawsuit that appears to be proceeding through the courts is successful.

The hearing will begin at 5:00 PM at South Seattle Community College, 6737 Corson Ave. S., Building C, Room C122.

Come early to sign up if you want to testify, all are invited to share their opinions and concerns. If you don’t want to testify, that’s OK too. It’s good for the speakers to have support in the audience during their testimony.

Members of the Seattle Education Association will be there in force and I hope some of my readers will be able to participate also. I’ll be there, notepad in hand.

The applicants who will be presenting their proposals to the board and the public Monday evening will be Washington STEM Academy, CAL Elementary and Sports in Schools Team Charter.

I decided, out of curiosity, to find out what I could about each one of the presenters but had difficulty finding information on the charter schools. It dawned on me after a while that these enterprises are brand new, just out of the box, business ventures.

If there’s money, they will come.

We’ll start with the first  on the agenda, Washington STEM Academy.

I googled Washington STEM and was directed to a website with very nice photos of students in lab coats, interacting with their teacher in a science lab. How wonderful. There are students taking photos with their tablets on a field trip to Woodland Park Zoo. Perfect! On another page there is the Living Laboratory on Mount St. Helens. Wow!

But hold on partner! This Washington STEM Academy isn’t quite the same. They call themselves a “blended learning” environment which means all of the courses are online. No fancy labs or talking with cool teachers about your discoveries while looking through a microscope. Nope. This is sitting down in front of a computer screen and having “conversations” with your teacher via e-mail or special software as necessary.

The big attraction with online learning ventures is that there is little overhead; no school buildings to lease, no auditorium, sports field, cafeteria, janitor or much staff to pay, just the Principal/CEO/Superintendent and some administrative assistants with teachers who check in to see their e-mail as required.

I can see these online classes being of value to students with special physical or emotional needs but that is not the goal of this academy. This is about getting as many students as possible to sign on to sitting at a computer for hours at a time and deeming that as an education.

The application that was submitted for this entrepreneurial venture was filled with the usual buzzwords. (See the definition of “edushyster” below.)

What caught my attention was the section describing the “variety of instructional methods” that “will provide the best opportunities for all students to learn at high levels”:

“Highly qualified teachers — Subject matter teachers, who are highly qualified and certified to teach in their content area, provide assignments, feedback and support to students on an individualized basis.”

At this time we know what is being referred to when the term “highly qualified teachers” is used.  Wendy Kopp, who founded Teach for America, lobbied very hard in DC to have the term “Highly qualified” teachers include her just-out-of-college Teach for America, Inc. recruits who receive five weeks of training and then populate charter schools for much lower pay than experienced and truly qualified teachers.

The term is now meaningless.

On to CAL Elementary.

Question_mark_(black_on_white)

lance-weberCAL Elementary, an enterprise put together by Lance Weber, is a maze that leads nowhere.

I started out by googling CAL Elementary, nothing. Then I decided to google Lance Weber, the Executive Director of this charter school and discovered information about him on Linkedin.

In Lance’s LinkedIn “Overview” he writes that he is:

Principal/ Superintendent at New Bridge Academy (Formerly UBAH Math and Reading Preparatory Academy)

Executive Director/ Lead Developer at CAL Schools

OK, so then I google New Bridge Academy in Columbus, Ohio. Nothing but a line in businessprofiles.com that read:

NEWBRIDGE MATH & READING PREPARATORY ACADEMY was formed on 2012-12-14 in Ohio by UBAH MATH & READING PREPARATORY ACADEMY

Then I found a school locator website that sent me to http://www.ohiobridgeacademy.net/.

The website describes a business called Next Campus for online learning.

Another dead-end.

The only New Bridge Academy I could find was located in Virginia. This is the description of the school:

New Bridge Academy is located in Sandston, VA. It is a private school that serves 98 students in grades K-12. New Bridge Academy is coed (school has male and female students) and is Baptist in orientation. The school belongs to the Association of Christian Schools International.

So then I looked up UBAH Math and Reading Preparatory Academy thinking that would lead me to New Bridge but all I could find was a pdf document that contained no dates or names on it. It was a financial statement titled:

UBAH Math and Reading Preparatory Academy Statement of Receipt, Disbursements, and Changes in Fund Cash Balances For the Fiscal Years Ended June 30, 2010 through 2012, Actual and the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2013 through 2017, Forecasted

Needless to say, I can’t find anything on CAL schools so this is what we have so far on this enterprise:

We have a Lance Weber who states in his LinkedIn profile that he successfully opened three charter schools that I can’t find information on.

Under “Contact Lance for” he lists:

  • career opportunities
  • consulting offers
  • new ventures
  • job inquiries
  • business deals

Nothing about education or children just business ventures and all related interests.

There is one piece that I did recognize and that was Imagine Schools. Lance states he was Principal/Superintendent of an Imagine School in Ohio.

If you want to know about charter school scandals, look no further than Imagine Schools.

I’m not insinuating that Lance was part of any fraudulent schemes, but I would have thought twice before mentioning Imagine Schools on a resume.

For more on Imagine, see:

Imagine schools’ real estate deals fuel company growth

When students first entered Imagine Academy of Academic Success four years ago, their school was already entangled in a complex series of real estate deals — ones that would divert dollars from their education.

By the time they were on their first summer break, their brown brick building at 1409 East Linton Avenue had been sold three times, the final price nearly 10 times higher than the first. In the process, the company running the school — along with a small group of other players — cashed in.

Imagine Schools Inc., the nation’s largest charter school operator, runs six charter schools in St. Louis. Together, their performance on state standardized exams is worse than any school district in Missouri.

Nevertheless, those schools are generating millions of dollars for Imagine and a Kansas City-based real estate investment company through real estate arrangements ultimately supported with public education money.

The deals are part of a strategy that has fueled Imagine’s national expansion. In most cases, Imagine sells its buildings to another company that leases them back to Imagine, with the schools themselves shouldering the rent with public funds.

It’s a strategy that includes risk. In St. Louis, it has led to one deal gone sour. It has saddled the schools with lease payments that cost more per student than any other charter school in the city. It has led to land purchases on speculation that a school might open.

To read this article in full, go to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Charter School Scandals has an extensive list of creative accounting that has gone on at Imagine Schools.

From the Washington Post:

Missouri closing six Imagine charter school campuses

Missouri’s Board of Education has decided to close six charter school campuses run by the Virginia-based Imagine Schools Inc., the country’s largest for-profit charter network, saying that it “would be a disservice” to children to keep them open because of academic and fiscal issues.

Imagine, based in Arlington, operates more than 75 schools in more than a dozen states — including Maryland — and the District of Columbia. Its six school campuses in the St. Louis area have been the subject of stories in the St. Louis Post Dispatch that detailed complicated real estate deals through which the schools, which operated with public funds, generated millions of dollars for Imagine and a Kansas City-based real estate investment company.

The decision to close the schools at the end of the school year will mean that about 4,000 students will have to find a new school for next fall. A transition office is being set up to help families find new school placements, a statement from the Missouri Department of Education said.

Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro was quoted as saying inthe statement that the Imagine schools had been “underperforming” academically for years.

To read this article in full, go to The Washington Post.

Other articles regarding Imagine Schools are:

New evidence surfaces on charter school scam

The Imagine Schools “Death Spiral”

Imagine Schools and Romney’s Bain Capital

Or, just google “charter school scandals imagine schools” and you’ll find more examples of fraud and greed.

Update: January 14, 2014

I have been asking people who are excellent at finding information to help me find additional information on all of these presenter because there was such a scarcity of information.

This is what I just received from a fellow Parents Across America member and education blogger:

In the Notice of Intent to Apply, Weber’s partner is Mohamud Dallin. He is a Somali-American businessman, also from Ohio.

Dallin originally incorporated “New Citizen Academy,” a charter school in Columbus for Somali students. Then its name was officially changed to “UBAH Math and Reading Preparatory Academy. Five months after changing its name to UBAH (or Ubah?) the corporation officially changed its name again to “NewBridge Math and Reading Preparatory Academy.”

I cannot yet locate a Tax ID Number under any of those names. (No one else can either.)

Dallin is also involved with other types of businesses. He hooked up with Weber, who fronts as the educator.

Weber’s LinkedIn page says he once worked for Imagine Schools. He is listed on one webpage as the principal of Sullivant Avenue Community School in Columbus. That school is currently being run by Imagine (and called “Imagine at Sullivant”) so that is where he worked. 

Weber also comes up as principal at Caesar [sic] Chavez College Preparatory School in Columbus, another charter. I can’t tell what year, though.

Weber is constantly changing jobs and now he and this Somali businessman are trying to open a charter school in your state. 

At the bottom of the attached doc are some excerpts with info about UBAH’s authorizer, St. Aloysius Orphanage, and the company to which it outsources its oversight.

What’s going on with authorizers in Ohio is totally crooked.

Now moving on to the last presenter in the charter school hearings, there is Sports in Schools.

Basically, this entrepreneur’s idea is to take “low performing” minority students and focus them on sports.

I have a real problem with this one because this is yet another shiny new and untested idea, predicated on some, what I feel, are prejudices of low expectations for poor minority students.

Also, the irony has not been lost on me that with school funding at an all time low, schools have had to cut out physical education, some sports and even recess in some cases and now we are looking at entrepreneurs to make money offering sports to our students again.

Back to Sports in Schools, there is nothing to find on the internet about this venture except a website featuring minority students playing b-ball. So again, off to LinkedIn where I found the creator of Sports in Schools, Kyleen Niccolls, who can be contacted for “new ventures”, not education, nothing about students or learning, just business ventures.

On her LinkedIn profile she states that Sports in Schools was started in 2009 and her statement reads:

“Enriching the lives of kids by increasing athletic opportunities in schools”

That sounds good but there is no activity recorded on the website about anything that she or others associated with her organization have done in terms of outreach to students in any real way or involvement with communities in terms of sports activities in the last four years since she established Sports in Schools but she has been active in terms of financial involvements.

She established “Real Investors Corp” and “WK and Company, LP” in 2011.

Her other work experience includes Fundraising/Event Planning/Finance Disclosure for statewide and local political campaigns and as a marketing professional for Starbucks Coffee.

Kyleen is an investor and salesperson with no background in education and she thinks it’s a really great idea to have all of those underperforming minorities focus on sports.

I have no problem with people wanting to make a buck but not someone who has no experience in the education of children using our tax dollars to implement what they think is a really cool idea on kids who deserve more.

The image that was presented in the expensive ad campaign paid for by the WalMart Waltons and Bill Gates pushing for charter schools was of parents and educators getting together and developing a school based on their community’s needs (like what we already have with our option/alternative schools). It was also the same idyllic picture painted by our local Stand for Children and the League of Education Voters crowd. But that’s not the reality. It’s all about the bucks and people’s misguided and uninformed ideas on what education is.

It’s no wonder why charter schools on average fare worse than public schools in educating our students.

To share your thoughts and concerns with the board, the e-mail contact is Joshua.halsey@charterschool.wa.gov.

Dora Taylor

From the website edushyster:

EDU.SHY·STER EJ-OO/ˈSHĪSTƏR/ N.

From the Urban Dictionary: Someone greedy, of questionable honesty. A crook or con artist. As in: “You’re not getting a penny from me, you @#$% shyster.” The edushyster seeks to profit off of public schools and their students and is almost always aided by state and local politicians who find the shyster’s faddish jargon irresistible.

16 comments on “Charter school hearings: Calling all edushysters

  1. Anonymous
    January 14, 2014

    This is all good background, but I do want to point out that a few of your research points are a little flawed.

    First, Washington STEM, the great local nonprofit organization, is not the organization proposing the Washington STEM Academy. So the website with kids in lab coats should not even be noted when reviewing the applicant’s merit, as they aren’t related at all.

    Second, you reference LinkedIn profiles, which is a great place to find past careers. However, the “contact X person for” category is simply a LinkedIn checklist that one cannot customize. So it is a tad unfair to say they didn’t say to contact them about education, students, or children.

    I appreciate greatly that people are scrutinizing the applications so thoroughly. I just wanted to provide caution about a few of the points you made.

    Thanks!

    • seattleducation2011
      January 14, 2014

      In terms of STEM Academy, it would then seem to me that the folks heading up the “real” STEM need to ensure that their brand is not adulterated by others using the name.

      As with the other applicants that presented last night, there was little to no information about the individuals involved or their enterprises except for websites filled with photo’s of happy kids and the use of phrases like “innovation” more than enough times.

      I have no issue with the STEM program. I don’t know how it’s working out in Seattle but I do know that it is project-based learning and the Principal at STEM worked with the Principal at the option school, Nova, to learn how it has been successfully used for at least 20 years at that school. So much for a lack of “innovation” in our schools.

      As for LinkedIn, there are a lot of options that can be used to present your interests and work related experiences on that site. The reason I looked at LinkedIn is because there was very little information about the “programs” presented last night and in terms of the work experience that related to the proposed projects.

      I spent the greater part of my Sunday peicing together what I could on the presenters and their experiences and interests to understand their motivation for proposing their charter schools. I came up with only an interest in business ventures which in itself says just about everything.

      Dora

      • Anonymous
        January 15, 2014

        Will you be attending tonight’s forums as well?

      • seattleducation2011
        January 15, 2014

        If I can get a ride I will but if I can’t make it, Melissa Westbrook is planning to speak to this issue.

        Dora

  2. Anonymous
    January 13, 2014

    Thanks Dora, Incredible stuff. Only in America is the corruption so evil. I do have a comment on the sports solution.

    Take all inter-school sports out of public education Pre-K-12-College. Create sports clubs like in Europe, sponsored by business foundations. According to the USA today of the top 229 Universities in the country 24 make a profit on sports, only 6 refuse a subsidy from the public (i.e. student fees and taxes) and the other 223 Universities receive $2 billion in public subsidies. I can only imagine the true cost to public from the hundreds of other schools not on the list.

    It would be interesting to know the Seattle School’s budget for inter-school sports.

    David

    • Ken Mortland
      January 14, 2014

      School sports programs do a great deal to build school spirit and provide a lure to the athletic but not very academic students. Putting all those programs outside the public schools would weaken the overall fabric of the institution and leave the non-academic athlete with little motivation to pursue his/her education. So, I’m more than just a little skeptical of the value of this plan.

      • seattleducation2011
        January 14, 2014

        Ken,

        A teacher at the hearings last night pointed out that the problem the student might be having is not due to a lack of motivation but because of cognitive issues and the proposed program did not address the issue.

        From what I saw and heard last night, the applicant’s husband plays sports and they think that he can bring his sports skills into the program. They were both very naive in terms of understanding the big picture.

        Dora

      • Ken Mortland
        January 14, 2014

        Dora: Having read their initial statement of interest in applying for authorization, I would agree without objection that they are naive and I would discourage the commission from authorizing them. My reaction was to “Anonymous’s” proposal to move sports out of the schools and only to that thought.

  3. Puget Sound Parent
    January 13, 2014

    Dora,
    Superb work here. I will try to get more people to turn out for the meeting this evening. Thanks so much for your diligence and for your informing the rest of us.

    • seattleducation2011
      January 13, 2014

      Great, the more people the better.

      Many will probably have signs and from what I’ve heard, there will be materials available on site to make one if you choose to.

      Dora

  4. seattleducation2011
    January 13, 2014

    Here are a couple of articles on online schools published in the NY Times:

    Troubled Online Charter Schools

    Charter schools, which receive public money but are subject to fewer state regulations, are operating in 40 states. A growing body of research shows that charter schools generally perform no better than traditional schools and are often worse as measured by student test data. This is particularly true of online charter schools, which educate more than 200,000 full-time students and are spreading quickly across the country.

    The need for closer scrutiny of these schools by state officials is underscored in a report published last week by the National Education Policy Center, a research center at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The study found that only 27 percent of privately managed online schools achieved adequate yearly progress on standardized tests, as defined by the federal government, in the 2010 school year as opposed to 52 percent of privately managed brick-and-mortar charter schools.

    A recent investigation by The Times focusing partly on K12 Inc., one of the biggest online learning companies, and on Pennsylvania, which allows full-time online students, found that some high school teachers complained of managing too many online students. The overall picture was one of low student achievement and high turnover rates. These complaints are similar to those made about the for-profit college industry, which has been criticized for recruiting students who have no hope of graduating.
    Despite lower operating costs, the online companies in some states collect nearly as much money as brick-and-mortar charter schools. In Pennsylvania, for example, the per-student cost for online charter schools was about $10,000. By all indications, taxpayers are getting very little for their money. A study released last spring by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that students in eight Pennsylvania online schools performed far worse in math and science than their traditional school counterparts.

    More at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/11/opinion/troubled-online-charter-schools.html?ref=k12inc

    Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools

    By almost every educational measure, the Agora Cyber Charter School is failing.
    Nearly 60 percent of its students are behind grade level in math. Nearly 50 percent trail in reading. A third do not graduate on time. And hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll.

    By Wall Street standards, though, Agora is a remarkable success that has helped enrich K12 Inc., the publicly traded company that manages the school. And the entire enterprise is paid for by taxpayers.

    Full article at http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990DE1DB143BF930A25751C1A9679D8B63&ref=k12inc

    Dora

  5. Kathy
    January 13, 2014

    Today a student returned to our SPS school, after having moved to the Highline district some months back and being enrolled in the online school, an experience she did from home. She didn’t like it at all and luckily the family was able to move again within SPS boundaries and get her re-enrolled. There’s likely an interesting story there!

  6. Ken Mortland
    January 13, 2014

    Has anyone in Seattle thought to copy EduShyster’s comments on the two schools and send them to the Charter School Commission?

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