APRIL 25, 2006
VIA FAX AND U.S. MAIL
Andrew Johnson, Director
Charter Schools Division
LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
333 S. Beaudry Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Re: Southern California Academy of Arts and Sciences
Dear Mr. Johnson:
This letter responds to the allegations made by former teachers employed at the Charter School recently submitted to the Los Angeles Unified School District (District) Charter Schools Division. The Charter Schools responses are in no way intended to detract from the ongoing negotiations between the District and the Charter School to amicably resolve concerns regarding the Charter Schools operation. The Charter School has merely provided the following responses in order to present a balanced account of what has transpired at the Charter School since its inception.
Generally, the Charter School denies each and every allegation of the former teachers made to the District. However, the Charter School has provided our office with specific responses to the former teachers allegations as follows:
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School did not provide adequate payroll services. During the first year of operation, the Charter School admittedly experienced some problems and issues. Specifically, payroll, STRS reporting, and activating benefits were among the items that the Charter School struggled with. However, the Charter School worked in good faith to ensure that everyone was treated and compensated fairly. The Charter School responds to this allegation in order to present a clear picture of what it experienced in the first year and perhaps it will lend help to other schools in that lessons can be learned about the needs of charter schools as start-up organizations.
The Charter School began by seeking assistance from the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE). LACOE informed the Charter School that they were not taking on or assisting any more charter schools. The Charter School then sought the assistance of Halilu Haruna, believed owner of Bali Business Management (Bali). He was referred to the Charter School by Peter
Messeijer in the charter office. The Charter School contracted with Bali Business Management Company to assist it with payroll and STRS/PERS reporting. The Charter School found that Mr. Halilu was not handling the issues himself but had hired staff to work with the issues. The personnel there were unable to handle the Charter Schools issues so the Charter School was forced to take care of the issues on its own until it was able to find help. Unfortunately for the Charter School, it appeared the Mr. Halilu was not familiar with schools.
Prior to having any type of payroll software, the Charter School began to process the payroll manually. Admittedly, this was not the best, but the best that the Charter School had in the short time period that the Charter School had to start up. The Charter School was approved late April 2004 by the District but did not have the necessary numbers, etc. to begin true recruitment until after the California State Board of Education meeting in late May.
The Charter School realized how difficult doing payroll was and again sought the assistance of LACOE. The Charter School started the process but was unable to get the process operational by the end of the year (2004). The Charter School went back to Bali after having conversations with Mr. Halilu, who reviewed and processed the schools payroll from the period of September to December 2004. Steve McCray, the Charter Schools Co-Director, worked with Mr. Halilu to reconcile items and thought that they would be able to handle things from there. The Charter School found again that there was little oversight from Mr. Halilu and that the next payroll period was incorrect. The Charter School met several times with LACOE in order to try to move forward but these attempts were not successful. Currently, it appears that LACOEs assistance to charter schools has greatly increased since the time the Charter School was approved.
The Charter School agreed with Mr. Halilu that it would seek assistance from an accountant and that it would try to work with him again in the future. Mr. Halilu agreed to provide services such as oversight, budget reporting, interim financial reporting to the District and the State as well as to complete the Consolidated Application. and things of that nature.
However, Mr. Halilu was not in the office to provide day to day services for the Charter School. Mr. Halilu hired additional staff, reviewed the Charter Schools records throughout the year, audited the Charter Schools records at the end of the year and then referred several audit firms to the Charter School Board so that the final audit for the year could be completed. While Mr. Halilu found a few clerical errors, he did not feel that there was anything wrong with any of the financial records. He has since taken on the completion of most of the Charter Schools accounting procedures. The Charter School was granted the right to also write checks but have required his oversight for the fiscal matters. Mr. Halilus office assists with processing the Charter Schools payroll.
Retirement Benefits Deficiencies
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School did not provide adequate retirement benefits services. STRS and PERS reporting was difficult and Mr. Halilu found that he had problems reporting to LACOE for not just the Charter School, but for others as well.
The medical benefits were a problem at first but have since been resolved. The issue started with securing a company. The Charter School did so in late August/early September 2004. The Charter School was provided services by Regional Employee Benefits. When the Charter School first started with staff coming out to do the presentation in September, the Charter School thought that things would be operational by October. Once the Charter School was registered with the company, it found out that employees would be eligible for benefits 30 days after the beginning of their employment, with benefits being effective the first day of the following month of their eligibility. Further, the Charter School did not inform staff that benefits would be provided from day one of their employment. To the contrary, the Charter School advised staff that as a start-up charter school, some things might take time.
The Charter School expected that all of the benefits would be intact by October 2004, but found that they were not intact at that time. The Charter School found that it had to have a minimum number of people signing up for benefits in order to qualify for some of the programs. Several staff members were late getting their information in and caused the Charter School to miss one of the first deadlines. Essentially, the company could not process the Charter School as a group until all eligible members had completed paperwork to either take benefits or to decline them and provide proof of insurance.
The Charter School was under the impression that by November 2004, everything would be in place. When it was not, the Charter School was as upset as the teachers. However, the Charter School could not control the delays. The staff was paid the $500.00 payment that would have been applied to their benefits had they started on time.
It is important to note that when the Charter School began processing payroll, it had every intention of being served by LACOE or efficiently served by another company. The Charter School was not aware of how to complete the deductions so it processed salaries as an advance. The Charter School was told by LACOE that this was the best way to do this. LACOE indicated that when they began doing our payroll, they would put in the salaries as an advance, and take out the deductions pay period by pay period to calculate the deductions. The Charter School believed that LACOE would be processing the deductions when it shared this information with its employees. When things did not work out the way the Charter School planned, it worked with Bali to ensure that the proper deductions were made and reported.
Attendance Accounting Problems
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School had numerous problems with attendance accounting. The only time that students absences were ever changed was when they were tardy. Further, teachers did not go back and make corrections to attendance to show when students came in tardy, regardless of the number of times that they have been asked to do so by the Charter School.
Insufficient Lunch Hours and Breaks
The former teachers alleged that they were not given a 30 minute lunch break or a 15 minute daily break without job duties. All Charter School teachers are provided 45 minute lunch periods. Mr. McCray worked with the former Principal to try to get him to develop a supervision schedule that did not require teachers to supervise each day. These efforts were somewhat successful but in practicality, charter school teachers agree to assist and go beyond the call of duty. Charter School teachers were provided a free lunch to assist them in not having to go off campus. If they were truly interested in getting to know students, they would not mind supervising and assisting. This means that teachers may dine with the students occasionally or sit where they can see the students or possibly interact with them in some type of game, etc. To the Charter Schools knowledge, every teacher did not supervise everyday during every off period.
Docked Salaries Due to Tardiness
The former teachers alleged that they their paychecks were illegally docked for being late. The Charter School found that tardiness was a serious problem among its teachers. Most of the teachers are late daily. This puts students at great risk. Students begin arriving on campus at 7:30am, even though parents are asked to not to have their children come until at least 7:45am. However, many parents did not have this option. Consequently, the Charter School asked teachers to arrive 30 minutes before class time. This would allow them to assist with the students as well as prepare for the school day.
The tardies were so excessive that the Charter School had to begin docking pay at some point in order to get the teachers to comply with the requirement they be at work on time. In fact, one teacher, Tya Washington was docked at least $500.00 last year because she was tardy almost everyday. Ms. Del Pino was docked at least $200.00 as well for tardies along with Lewis Nelson. The Charter School believes that getting to work to serve children was not a priority for Charter School teachers.
The Charter School found that other teachers took advantage of being tardy. It is almost as if the District has given them permission to do whatever they want regardless of the effect on students. Since the meeting with the District, most of the teachers have been late daily.
Attendance has also been a major issue with many of the teachers using their 6 sick days prior to the end of the first semester. The Charter School erred in paying them for 10 days. Most of them have been overpaid.
Taking Away Vacation Time
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School took away scheduled vacation time without notifying employees. No vacation time was taken from the employees. The Charter School can provide a copy of the adopted master calendar that was shared with the District prior to the start of the school term. The first internal calendar that the Charter School generated as a staff would not have allowed the Charter School to meet the 175-180 day attendance requirement or the instructional minutes. All staff members were aware of the calendar at the beginning of the school term.
The former teachers alleged that teachers were released without prior written or verbal notification. No employee was released without verbal or written notification. Ms. Del Pino was released and had been warned about her failure to complete lesson plans, roll book for roll book check, her continuous tardies and her horrible attendance rate. The Charter School also had spoken to her about returning late from lunch and eating in the classroom instead of teaching. For example, Mr. Del Pino would come back after lunch and eat an entire meal in the classroom. She was initially hired as a Temporary Teacher because the year prior (2004-2005) school term, she simply dropped out. She failed to come to work, to return phone calls, to properly submit grades and attendance. The Charter School did not want to take a chance on having her as a permanent teacher and have her performance continue as it had in the past.
The former teachers alleged that employees were fired based on retaliation. No employee has been fired by the Charter School as retaliation. Two teachers were not asked back this school year. Ms. Del Pino was one teacher. When Ms. Del Pino was hired, she came to the Charter School as a substitute. The Charter School later applied for an emergency credential for her. The agreement was that she would continue in school and work towards finishing her preliminary credential. The Charter School continuously asked for official transcripts and Ms. Del Pino would not provide them. Finally, she provided them but it was too late. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing could not process her application without the transcripts. The transcripts showed that she had not completed units since 2004 and that she had failed several of the classes that she attempted to take. This meant that once the credential expired (if it had been processed), she would not have been able to renew it because she had failed to take the necessary units.
Further, Ms. Del Pino was absent 15 times prior to the end of the first semester. She was also tardy frequently. She did not turn in lesson plans and did not submit grades in a roll book. Also, she refused to submit an explanation of her 20 week grades and to date, has not submitted a roll book for the first 20 weeks of school. The Charter School is still fielding complaints about how she arrived at the grades that the students were given for the first semester.
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School illegally changed an employees salary to that of a substitute rate. The only times that this was done were when a teachers emergency credential lapsed due to his not completing his units in a timely manner (Mr. Convente) and when another teacher was absent without leave and was habitually absent. This provided staff the opportunity to continue to work without the Charter School having to rely on him on a daily basis. He was able to tell the Charter School each day if he was available (Mr. Booker). This provided continuity for the children instead of replacing him.
Independent Study Tracking by Teachers
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School required teachers to mark students on independent study present without authorization. The Charter Schools attendance and fiscal consultant, Ms. Roxanne, has been in constant conversation with the teachers about independent study students and the attendance process. She frequently checks and documents their work. Additionally, the students meet once a week with a staff person. Most of these students take classes on site as well. This was also provided as an option for students who were suspended so that they would not lose instructional time. This was the Charter Schools way of occasionally providing in house suspensions. Furthermore, the Charter School has found that Ms. Del Pino frequently had problems taking roll accurately.
Withholding a W-2
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School illegally withheld an employees W-2 form. No final paycheck or W-2s were withheld. Ms. Del Pino was requested to come in and complete her grades and submit her roll book as part of the check out process. Her check was held until she officially checked out. The Charter School provided her check and W-2 to her although she continued to refuse to submit properly documented grades and attendance for period by period classes. She also withheld four teachers editions to the textbooks.
Failure to Reimburse for Items Purchased
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School failed to reimburse employees for items purchased with verbal authorization. Ms. Del Pino wanted to be reimbursed for items that she purchased. However, upon leaving on her last day, she stated that she would not leave the books for the students. Therefore, the Charter School did not reimburse her. The materials purchased should have been used for the school. The Charter School cannot reimburse her for personal materials she removed from the school.
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School did not have employees paychecks available on the scheduled pay dates. Payroll has never been late at the Charter School. Even if it meant that it had to be handwritten. If the 5th falls on a Saturday, the checks were available on Monday. This seems to be common practice and the Charter School does not see a problem with it.
Administration Family Members on Payroll
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School illegally maintained immediate members of administrators family on the Charter School payroll. Immediate members of the administrator worked and should have been paid just as anyone else. There were very specific duties and these employees were compensated as other Charter School employees would be.
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School illegally contributed portions of employee paychecks into STRS without employee consent. The Charter School understood from LACOE that no employee is exempt from STRS. The Charter School refunded in error all contributions for Ms. Del Pino that had been deducted from her salary. The Charter School later found out that this was inappropriate. However, her contributions had been returned to her.
The former teachers alleged that insurance was promised from the beginning of the school year and was not provided until November 2004. Employees become eligible for benefits 30 days after their start date. Benefits are effective the first day of the month following the employees eligibility date. This information was shared with all staff by Yvonne Sanusi of Regional Employee Benefits when she enrolled the staff in their benefit plans.
Insufficient Learning Resources
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School did not provide students with sufficient learning resources, such as facilities, textbooks, and classrooms. Teachers were given the opportunity to spend funds and get reimbursed by making requests through the office for orders. Additionally, there were resources that the teachers never attempted to use. They did not use the overhead projectors, rarely used computers (although several of them checked them out for use), and rarely used audiovisual materials (such as the digital projector and films/movies) to enhance instruction. Textbooks were provided for every student in the school for the following subjects:
? Math: Saxon/ 6th grade through Algebra 2
? Social Studies: Houghton Mifflin Series
? English: Both grammar and literature books Prentice Hall Gold, Bronze and Silver Series
? Science: Science and Tech Plus
The Charter School believes that the teachers did not take care of anything. The Charter School replaced one half of the math textbooks after the first year of instruction. Upon asking the Principal to inventory the books at the end of the first semester, the Charter School found that at least one third of the books for the current year had been lost. The Charter School had books donated to it and the school purchased more current books for use. The Charter School encouraged the teachers to be creative in their use of instructional materials. .
The Charter School clearly provided sufficient instructional materials but could not control the structure of the building.
Insufficient Amount of Teachers
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School was understaffed and did not have enough teachers. The Charter School had 200 students at one point. At that point, the Charter School had 8 certificated staff members and at least 2 support people, a non certificated person to handle P.E. and several consultants who provided performing and visual arts classes.
Failure to Utilize Appropriate Teachers
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School did not call for substitute teachers and had non-qualified personnel monitor classrooms. Many times, Teachers on Reserve could not provide substitute teachers so the Charter School had to use in-house support people (Magana and Condley) to assist, as well as administrative staff. No maintenance person has ever monitored a class. Furthermore, the Charter School utilized non-qualified teachers as appropriate and does not believe that the former teachers can appropriately assess the qualifications of school personnel.
Lack of Separate Faculty Bathroom Facilities
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School did not have separate bathroom facilities for teachers or staff. There were and currently are separate faculty bathroom facilities. In fact, the Charter School tried to keep as many restrooms as possible available for the students. The Charter School Principal, Mr. Stiger, wanted the Charter School to give him his own restroom. The Charter School did not do so, as this would have prevented the Charter School from having enough restroom facilities for the students and staff.
Free and Reduced Price Lunch Issues
The former teachers alleged that students who should qualify for Free and Reduced Price Lunch were being overcharged for lunch. The former teachers are in no position to determine who qualifies for free lunch. The Charter Schools program has been audited by the California Department of Nutrition and Food Services. Any errors were corrected.
Furthermore, Charter School students receive more than the allocated amount for lunches. Regardless of cost to prepare lunches, $1.00 does not cover the cost of personnel, etc. to prepare and serve food. The Charter School believes it has a successful and quality food service program.
Failing to Pay Stipends to Teachers
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School illegally failed to pay promised stipends to teachers for performing extra services. No stipend was offered or requested for Student Council to the Charter Schools knowledge. Nothing was done by Student Council prior to the end of the first semester. The Athletic Director/Coach (Louis Nelson) quit prior to the end of the first semester. He was compensated for the time worked. Mr. Condley took over the duties and was paid the remainder of the stipend.
Inadequate Kitchen Facility
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School kitchen was not an adequate facility. The kitchen has passed the necessary inspections by the California Department of Education staff and the health department.
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School publicly chastised employees for speaking about the legality of having work breaks. The Charter School had very little to say directly to staff in a public forum. Mr. Stiger, the Charter Schools Principal, covered most interactions with staff. No one was publicly chastised.
Failure to Provide Educational Resources
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School failed to provide promised resources, such as computers, sports, etc., to teachers and students. Staff members and students checked out the computers that the Charter School had available. Others were set up in lab format but not until second semester. However, the failure of the Charter Schools landlord to secure a permit for the building usage resulted in the lab not being utilized.
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School improperly executed student expulsions. However, no students have been expelled .
Threats to Withhold Pay
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School would threaten teachers of withheld pay if they didnt turn their sign in sheets in on time. The Charter School told teachers their pay would be late because they rarely turned in time sheets in a timely fashion and would frequently fail to calculate their time properly. If the Charter School didnt get the information into the accounting office on time, the accounting office would find it difficult process payroll in a timely manner.
No Employment Contracts
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School never gave teachers written contracts or employee handbooks that listed vacation or sick time. Teachers received offer letters that served as their contract. Handbooks were given to teachers both last year and this year. A master calendar was given to each teacher to outline vacation time. Sick time should have been allocated at 6 days per year but the Charter School erred in providing 10 days per year.
Adherence to Report Card Dates and Failure to Inform Teachers of Duties
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School never adhered to report card dates of the quarter and semester cut-off dates. Teachers refused or failed to submit grades on time so that report cards could be generated in a timely manner, regardless of the amount of time provided (minimum days or extra preparation time) to complete grades. Grades are due every 5 weeks.
The former teachers also alleged that the Charter School did not inform teachers of when to turn in grades and that they never received written responsibilities. Responsibilities were covered with all staff.
Failure to Provide Adequate Lunch
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School did not serve an adequate and timely lunch to its students. Lunch is served daily by 11:55am. Lunch begins at 11:50am. Lines were a bit long as the Charter School had a new software system. Students are served meals that are just like home cooked meals. Sandwiches are served not more than once a week. All other days are hot lunch days.
Utilization of a Campus Camera System
The former teachers alleged that the Charter School utilized a prevalent camera system to constantly watch the teachers. Teachers are not being watched. Cameras are provided to ensure everyones safety. There are many nooks and crannies in the buildings. Teachers fail to supervise so cameras are necessary for staff to be able to assist in ensuring safety.
Specific Concerns Regarding Mr. Franciosa
A former teacher, Christopher Franciosa made numerous allegations against the Charter School in his March 23, 2006 letter to the District.
Mr. Franciosa raised concerns regarding the insurance program at the Charter School. No one at the Charter School had personal responsibility for the insurance not being effective. Yvonne Sanusi at Regional Employee Benefits might have information to provide if this is something that the District requires. The Charter School believes that the insurance program contained a requirement about everyone having their paperwork in to be recognized as a teacher. Without the credential, Ms. Santana could not occupy a certificated position which resulted in the Charter School not having the number of people necessary to sign up for coverage.
Mr. Franciosa alleged that the Charter Schools payroll system was lacking. The Charter School intends to explain in detail information for the District on Mr. Franciosa and his payroll issues later with attachments. The Charter School must have a detail printed by Bali because it has not retained those records electronically. The Charter School currently has some of the information to share but wants to share it in a complete manner.
Additionally, when the Charter School advised Mr. Franciosa about LACOE taking over its payroll, the Charter School was under the impression that securing LACOEs assistance was a viable possibility. The Charter School met with the LACOE office staff several times in order to try to get this to happen but unfortunately found that it was too much on the Charter School staff to set things up and too much on LACOE to take the Charter School on.
Mr. Franciosa raised concerns surrounding his release of employment from the Charter School. Mr. Franciosas firing was not a firing but a reduction in staff. Mr. Franciosa presents this as though the Charter School was doing something negative to him. As one can imagine, during the first few weeks of operation of the first school year, various credentials etc. led to several staff modifications. All staff modifications were made with the best interest of the Charter School students and staff in mind. While modifications to the staff at the Charter School were not easy, they were necessary at the time. Despite this, the Charter School also had to take into consideration the fact that Mr. Franciosa was verbally abusive and combative in meetings. The Charter Schools Co-Director, Steve McCray, was unable to tolerate Mr. Franciosas disruptive behavior every time that the Charter School had a meeting. Mr. Franciosa was not only this way with Steve McCray but also with Dr. Pam Porter, a consultant who assisted with Professional Development of the teachers at the Charter School.
Mr. Franciosa stated that the benefits system at the Charter School was deficient. Despite Mr. Franciosas allegations, his benefits costs were covered. Chiropractic care was not a covered expense by the Charter Schools insurance. Furthermore, the Charter School believes that all of the deductions were clearly defined for Mr. Franciosa. The Charter School intends to ask Bali to recalculate in order to ensure that everything was calculated properly. Mr. Franciosa was angry and has not contacted the Charter School since. The Charter School would have been happy to work on his issues to ensure that things were taken care of successfully.
The Charter School is currently attempting to find the receipts Mr. Franciosa references. Mr. McCray does not recall a conversation about paying for Mr. Franciosas personal belongings. Anything that appeared on a receipt that was consequently reimbursed was for school use.
Specific Concerns Regarding Ms. Washington
A former teacher, Tya Washington made numerous allegations against the Charter School in a letter to the District.
First, Ms. Washington begins by referring to information about the failure on the Charter Schools part to provide benefits. Ms. Washington maintained benefits from her previous employer during the beginning of the school term. Prior to her benefits being provided by the Charter School, the Charter School reimbursed her and or paid directly the company that she was currently enrolled in for medical benefits. The Charter School will have to research the name of the company that was paid, however the provider was Kaiser Permanente. Their records can be checked to see that there was not lapse in coverage because of COBRA and then coverage provided by the Charter School. Additionally, the way that the benefits work is that employees are hired and they start work sometime after being hired. They are eligible for benefits 30 days after their start date. Their benefits begin on the first day following the month after they have been eligible for benefits. This is not a rule that the Charter School made. It is the policy of the carrier.
As previously indicated, the benefits were scheduled to begin a month sooner. There were errors in the Charter Schools application as an employer and errors in the staff members applications through simple failure of staff members to turn in their applications in a timely manner. This resulted in a delay of the Charter Schools benefits beginning. In order to compensate the employees for the delay, they were all provided $500.00 to cover necessary medical expenses by the Charter School. The Charter School believes that the employees were also reimbursed for any medical treatments received during that time. The Charter School must point out that there was no malice or ill intent. The situation was part of the start up process and was beyond the Charter Schools control.
Charter School Student Syria Sylvers
Ms. Washington also raised concerns regarding a Charter School student, Syria Sylvers. The Charter Schools Co-Director, Melonka Renaldo, had her children begin attending school at the Charter School with all of the other students. However, the teachers made it very difficult for them to be there. The fact that Ms. Renaldo had to evaluate the teachers also made it difficult. Often Ms. Renaldos children would have to study upstairs or stay with other staff members and do their work because of the terrible way that they were treated by some staff.
Ms. Washington believed that Syria was niece of the Charter Schools Co-Director, Melonka Renaldo. She has fair skin and looks like she could be related to Ms. Renaldo. The student called Mr. Renaldo Auntee. Syria was tardy often and frequently would not go to Ms. Washingtons classes because of the mistreatment that she received. When Syria was late for school (which was often), Ms. Washington would refuse to correct her roll book to show the tardy. Ms. Washington was rude to anyone connected or believed to be connected to Ms. Renaldo. The Charter School did not falsify the documents but made them accurate because of Ms. Washingtons refusal to properly complete the students attendance.
Fees Charged to Parents
Ms. Washington also raised a concern regarding the alleged payment of a $100.00 fee by parents in order for their child to receive after school care. Charter School parents were not made to pay a $100 fee. They were requested to pay the fee to help to defray costs of visual and performing arts staff as well as extracurricular activities. As part of the funds, students were also enrolled in the Boys and Girls Club. It is true that the fee to the club was only $5.00 per student. However, the fee expired at the end of the calendar year and had to paid for the students again in January of the following year. This was above board and was shared and discussed with Peter Misseijer at the District.
This fee did not determine whether a student could attend the Charter School or determine whether the student could participate in activities. Additionally, the parents of Charter School students are required to perform 50 hours of service to the school per year. They were also able to use the $100 donation to cover volunteer hours. All funds were deposited and accounted for. Everyone did not make the donation of money or time. No difference was made whether the volunteer work was done or if the donation was made.
The Charter School did not charge parents. The amount was optional and helpful to ensure that students started the school year with the necessary supplies. The Charter School did not start operations with a start up grant. It was started with free labor and deferred/no payments for time from the Charter School Co-Directors, family members and a few friends. The initial supplies were purchased as a result of donations and personal funds of Melonka Renaldo, as well as the funds of Steve McCray.
Ms. Washington expressed concern regarding the Charter Schools lunch program. The lunch program did not exist as a free or reduced program that was approved by the State until February 2005. The Charter School did not begin receiving reimbursements for anything served prior to March 2005. The Charter School provided lunch as long as it could at no cost to the students. When it began to create a hardship, the Charter School required students to bring their lunch but also provided an option for students to purchase lunch. When the Charter School was approved, it worked with two vendors to provide lunches. Additionally, several staff members, Kris Turner, Raylene Mendez and Melonka Renaldo cooked for the students and prepared snack for them during the time that the school did not have an official program. Volunteers helped the Charter School to serve lunch.
Charter School Students Ian and Carol Turner
Ms. Washington also expressed concern regarding Charter School students, Ian Turner and Carol Turner. Ms. Renaldos son, Ian Turner was not removed from the Charter School but was removed from Ms. Washingtons class because she made a difference in him. The Charter School believed that Ms. Washington screamed at him in the presence of other students (while in the classroom) and told him from the very beginning of school, Carol Turners name can be verified if necessary and the District will see that there was no attempt to falsify her name on record. Students grade levels are determined by the number of units that they have. Her middle name was not being used on any records.
Carol was a student at the Charter School and Ms. Renaldos daughter. She was made to feel very uncomfortable by Ms. Washington. At first, Ms. Washington called her dumb because she was having difficulty in her class. Then she befriended Carol. Carol reported that she invited her to come out and play basketball with her on the weekend with her other lady friends. She reportedly stared at Carols breasts. She made inappropriate passes at Carol by saying that you are the only one in your family that I like.
Upon hearing that, Ms. Renaldo took Carol out of her class. While Ms. Renaldos children were not instructed to be rude to Ms. Washington, they were instructed not to be alone with her. Her lecherous glares at my daughters breasts were too much to handle. Ms. Renaldo spoke to Ms. Washington about how uncomfortable she made Carol feel and Ms. Washington tried to dismiss it. Ms. Renaldo did not want to make a big deal out of it so she just made sure that Carol did not participate in anything with Ms. Washington.
Ms. Renaldos children were made to feel very uncomfortable and if anyone has suffered, it has been them. They had to deal with teachers mistreating them anytime that they had a problem with anything that Ms. Renaldo said or any action that Ms. Renaldo took. Susan was not Ms. Renaldos assistant but she came there to assist with the school. Carol and Ian were enrolled in the school, completed work and did not receive special treatment regardless of Ms. Renaldos position. In fact, their needs were put off so that Ms. Renaldo could focus on getting the Charter School together.
Time Period of October, November and December
Ms. Washington presented issues regarding the time period of October, November, and December at the Charter School. Master Scheduling is no easy task for the Charter School. It is especially difficult when there are limited numbers of teachers with appropriate credentials. Mr. James Carey was brought in as a consultant who worked with the students in the area of History. Ms. Renaldo helped in the classes as a credentialed Social Studies teacher. Mr. Magana did not teach History but however, worked with the students in the area of Art. When students were assigned History related Art projects, he worked with the groups. This was part of the Charter Schools creative instructional process during its first year of operation. This is exactly what the Charter School attempted to get staff to do in the second year of operation. No one was mis-assigned or assigned to teach classes that they were not qualified to teach.
The Charter School had difficulty with the schedule and did have the same changes that any school would have at the very beginning of the semester or school term. There are many variables to scheduling which are not always easily fixed. Ms. Renaldo never told Ms. Washington that anything was a mess. They did not have the type of relationship that allowed them to speak on anything unless it was in a purely professional manner. Ms. Renaldo believes that Ms. Washington made a pass at her daughter. Ms. Renaldo had to maintain professionalism because she did not want to make accusations. Doing so required restraint on Ms. Renaldos part and she did well to maintain professional interactions with Ms. Washington.
Ms. Renaldo never wanted teachers to alter their grading system. However, the teachers failed students without assisting them or informing parents that children would possibly fail. The Charter School openly discussed the need to encourage students and not to just use test scores as a measure of grades. Ms. Washington believed that Ms. Renaldo wanted her to lower her standards. Ms. Renaldo did not, but Ms. Renaldo did not want parents and students to become extremely discouraged. Ms. Renaldo would question a letter because Charter School staff was capable of writing anything and saying that it was from Ms. Renaldo. Ms. Renaldo would want to refer to an original document to ensure that it matched the copy submitted by Ms. Washington.
Ms. Renaldo never told Ms. Washington that she didnt care about what Ms. Washington did with the children during the last period of the day. It was quite the opposite. Ms. Washington rarely wanted to teach the class and she hated the high school students. She refused to do anything more than play around with her friends who worked at the Boys and Girls Club during the class time. The Charter School continuously tried to get Ms. Washington to complete a school newsletter or newspaper during this time but she resented the assignment so mush that she often failed to provide anything that was instructionally sound during this period of time.
The students that Ms. Washington refer to with IEPs had not presented their IEP to the school at the time that the test was required. The parent had failed to advise the Charter School that the child had an IEP. No one tried to cover up the fact that the Charter School had students with IEPs. Had the Charter School received the IEP, it would have been great. The Charter School did not know about the IEPs. The Charter School later found that P.B. had an IEP and that it was late coming to the Charter School from the previous school. In fact, the Charter School never received the Welligent information or an actual copy from the previous school. The Charter School received a copy after requesting it from the students mother. Missy did not offer to test anyone. The students mom did not want her tested because she did not feel that she should be in special education or have an IEP. Ms. Renaldo was not familiar with an audit being performed on the Charter School as it relates to special education.
STRS payments were a problem. It took the Charter School a year to get the reporting process corrected. The Charter School worked on it throughout the year. When the Charter School advised teachers that the STRS payments were being worked on, it was.
Sign In Sheets
Ms. Washington alleged that she did not receive copies of sign in sheets to verify. Staff members were able to obtain copies of sign in sheets on their own. Ms. Washingtons attendance was so poor that she was by far, the most difficult person to keep up with in terms of payroll.
Ms. Washington raised concerns regarding a Charter School student, Aaron Johnson. Aaron was admitted regardless of his ability. The Charter School was not provided a copy of his IEP until the end of Summer 2005, after the initial school year ended. The Charter School did accept him and he was brought to the Charter School by the parent of another student. The Charter School did its best to try to provide services to Aaron.
When the Charter School realized the level of his deficiencies, we worked with him one on one. Ms. Washington was calling him dumb and would make fun of the way that he read. Aaron sat out of her class most of the time and received individualized instruction from Ms. Renaldo or other staff or volunteers because his skills were extremely low. Aaron had been tossed around a lot in familial situations and the Charter School wanted to provide a safe haven and quality instruction for him.
Aaron deserved instruction just like everyone else and did not have any reason not to be admitted to the Charter School. Ms. Washington came to the Charter School from teaching at a Parochial School in an affluent area. She believed that no one who was deficient should be enrolled or allowed to stay at the Charter School.
If Aaron was not tested, it was due to a parents request, not due to anything else. No one at the Charter School recalls if he was tested. The Charter School did not operate on the premise that students who were below basic were bad for the school or test scores. The Charter School saw year one as a baseline year. If students scored well or poorly, it just statistically gave the Charter School a starting point. The Charter School focused on so much more with its students.
Ms. Washington alleged that students were given the CAT6 test unfairly because they were not given courses in History/Social Sciences. All classes on the students schedules existed but Social Studies classes that were taught by Ms. Renaldo were not considered to be taught because Ms. Washington indicated to staff that Ms. Renaldo was non-existent as far as she was concerned. She bad mouthed Ms. Renaldo continuously to the students and staff and to anyone else that would remotely listen.
Ms. Washington stated that she would not sign attendance rosters because they were improperly compiled. Unfortunately, Ms. Washington continuously refused to sign anything that the Charter School gave to her. She was not forced to sign anything, especially when it pertained to Ms. Renaldos children. Ms. Washington was not given information about Ms. Renaldos children or who they studied with, other than what she was able to observe
Specific Concerns Regarding G. G.
A Charter School student, made numerous allegations against the Charter School in a letter to the District. The Charter School had problems with Eunice Oby, the aunt of G. G. and an employee from 75th Street School from the very beginning. G had some valid points about how the teachers failed to teach. It was a continuous work in progress with the Charter School staff. The Charter School was happy to have G check out to seek what she felt that she needed. She lived in Compton and her family did not want her to attend school there. They used her unhappiness at the Charter School to get her to another school in the District. They were pushing for King Drew Medical Magnet, but were unsuccessful. The Charter School is happy that she was able to get instruction elsewhere. The Charter School felt that her aunt was ridiculous and harassed staff daily, using her work time to email the school, call the school and hang up, come to the school to curse at Charter School staff. G had higher level skills that most of her peers. It was difficult to ensure that the teachers were meeting her needs when so many of their students were below basic while she was on grade level.
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The Charter School remains willing to resolve any further concerns raised by the District or brought to the Districts attention. The Charter School appreciates your time and attention to this matter.