Accountability California Charter Schools Privatization

Los Angeles: Will the LAUSD School Board Actually Revoke a Charter Because of Financial Shenanigans?

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We have read earlier ( see here and here) about the principal of El Camino Real Charter High School. The school is very popular and academically successful. But its principal played fast and loose with the school’s credit card. While he was moonlighting as a talent scout for a professional basketball team, he flew around the country and charged hotels, first-class air tickets, and meals to his credit card. According to stories in the Los Angeles Daily News, the principal charged about $100,000 to the school’s credit card.

A Daily News investigation published in May found that El Camino’s Executive Director David Fehte had made numerous lavish charges to his school-issued American Express card, including $15,500 at Monty’s Prime Steaks & Seafood in 2014 and 2015, and several personal expenses, such as first-class airfare and luxury hotel rooms. Fehte’s charges also included more than $6,700 for a four-day trip to the Michigan headquarters of Herman Miller, the designer furniture manufacturer, for himself and two other school employees when there was a showroom 25 miles from the school. Fehte has denied doing anything wrong.

My favorite credit card charge: that four-day trip to the Herman Miller showroom when there was a showroom only 25 miles from the school.

Kind of embarrassing. If he were in a public school, he would have been brought up on charges and fired.

The school, which converted to an independent charter in 2011, would have until Sept. 23 to remedy all the alleged violations if the notice is issued, district officials said. If it fails to do so, the LAUSD board could issue a “notice of intent to revoke” the school’s charter and then hold another public hearing. If the board ultimately approves revocation, the school would be forced to cease operations pending an appeal.

The school has been given “multiple opportunities” to review and improve its policies but “has failed to implement such improvements to this day,” leading to “an inability to determine how public funds are being used and identify specific instances of their use for personal expenses,” according to a district staff report on the alleged violations.

Now the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District is giving serious thought to revoking the school’s charter. It seems the principal, David Fehte, was not the only one who used charter funds for personal expenses.

Potential management issues involving El Camino came to light last year. In its latest documents, L.A. Unified accuses El Camino of demonstrating “an inability to determine how public funds are being used and identify specific instances of their use for personal expenses,” adding that “fatal flaws in judgment … call into serious question the organization’s ability to successfully implement the charter in accordance with applicable law and district requirements.”

According to L.A. Unified, a sampling of 425 credit card expenses by five El Camino employees, including Fehte, revealed that “countless expenses were incurred without adherence to any uniform procedure, and without verification of the necessary details.”

The school system also accused El Camino’s board of improperly conducting public meetings by, for example, taking action on items that were not listed on the agendas to be voted on.

In a series of articles, the Los Angeles Daily News reported on Fehte’s spending for such things as wine, first-class air travel and pricey hotel rooms.

Fehte has denied wrongdoing and said he inadvertently charged about $6,100 in personal expenses on his school credit card. He said he reimbursed the school as soon as these charges were pointed out to him.

Some of the expenses were incurred while Fehte was moonlighting as a college basketball talent scout for the San Antonio Spurs, according to the Daily News.

Public school parents might feel some resentment, because while Mr. Fehte was jetting around the country in first class, their own schools were underfunded.

They will just have to get over it. Charter schools are special, and they get special treatment. Especially in California, where the charter school lobby is rich and powerful and underwrites the campaigns of legislators and school board members.

If you want to learn more about charter scofflaws, read this:

http://thewire.k12newsnetwork.com/2016/08/19/a-charter-serves-up-more-kool-aid/

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