"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cesar Chavez School Network: From "Island of Excellence" to Cesspool of Corruption

Move over Eva Moskowitz and Kathy Reidlinger--there is another candidate for the dishonor of Top Charter School Crook of the Nation. How many hundreds or thousands more of these corporate school sewers must be dug up before Dunc gets the message? No oversight, no public governance, no accountability--same result.

Story from the Colorado Springs Independent. A few clips (HT to Monty Neill):
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.

. . . .

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.

"I've never had a whole grade level at a school have accommodations," Vise says.

The figures were jarring, particularly because Vise's own records suggested a small fraction of the children had qualifying disabilities, and a significant number were actually classified as being "gifted."

. . . .

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. Colorado Springs School District 11's new superintendent, Nicholas Gledich, oversees 59 schools and his base salary is $180,000.

. . . .

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.

"It'll basically prevent any public school from bribing kids to come to their school," Merrifield says. . . . .

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