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

Saturday, September 26, 2009

CEOs, Charter Schools, and Scandal - Oh My!

Lavish salaries, restraining orders, and plenty of controversy - no, this isn't from Desperate Housewives, this story comes straight from a charter school chain operating in Colorado. You might recognize the Cesar Chavez School Network for their previous scandals - serious testing concerns, the lock-out of their online school, and 6-figure salaries. The school's CEO was demoted while the CFO resigned - but will their replacements inherit the absurd paychecks?
From the Denver Post:
Chavez School Network board demotes CEO

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.

Instead, Hernandez will interact only with the Pueblo campuses, and his specific role concerning those schools has yet to be defined.

"Right now we have to see what this means for the (Cesar Chavez) Network in terms of its services," Medler said.

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

There was also discussion of redesigning the role of chief operating officer Annette Hernandez, Lawrence Hernandez's wife.

Medler said that he is not sure how he feels about the board's decision, since Lawrence Hernandez's new role has not been solidified.

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.

Board attorney Dolores Atencio told The Chieftain newspaper that a special exception was made to permit Lawrence Hernandez to attend the Friday meeting.

Neither Atencio nor Hernandez could be reached for comment.

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.


  1. Incident with a shutdown of the online school for three days can bring negative reputation.

  2. So this is what the private sector brings to the table. I can see a day when we look nostalgically on the days of public schools and accountability.

    It really does sound like a cheesy TV drama. Amazing stuff.