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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.