Minnesota’s got one. Virginia and New York too. Add Caliph-ornia to the list. Your tax dollars at work. via FAME School Gets Extension of Its Charter Despite Audit – NYTimes.com.
A Fremont charter school that was the subject of a highly critical state audit will be allowed to operate, despite a continuing review by the Alameda County district attorney’s office.
The Alameda County Board of Education voted 5 to 0 Tuesday night, with two members absent, to extend the school’s charter for five years, regardless of the concerns expressed by the Alameda school superintendent that the school’s director may have engaged in unethical and inappropriate behavior.
Those facts, seemingly at odds, underscore the unusual status of charter schools. Intended as laboratories for educational innovation, they have broad latitude in many of their operations, and the authorities are often unclear or in disagreement about the extent of their oversight powers. The case of the FAME Public Charter School — its formal name is Families of Alameda for Multi-Cultural/Multi-Lingual Education — illustrates the bureaucratic no man’s land occupied by the schools.
Last year, state auditors pinpointed dozens of irregularities, including unusually high compensation of more than $336,663 for FAME’s director, Maram Alaiwat, for whom the school also bought a $75,000 Mercedes.
In interviews with The New York Times, former employees have described a climate of intimidation punctuated by capricious firings, and a purchasing process so haphazard that textbooks and writing materials were sometimes in short supply.
FAME, which had a budget of about $11 million in public money last year, may be an example of the management issues that can arise when a school’s primary overseers are part of a self-perpetuating, unelected four-member board, three of whose members have had family members either employed by the school or doing business with it.
The family relationships violate no law, but can raise questions about board members’ objectivity.
Among FAME’s 1,490 students are immigrants and local children, Muslims and Christians, and about half are home-schooled.
Half of the charter school’s students are home-schooled?
In interviews, she said that some aspects of FAME’s operations “seem unethical and inappropriate,” but that she had no authority to intervene.
Bruce Fuller, professor of education and public policy at the, said: “Once you get that charter, you’re exempt from almost all state education codes. You’re as free as a bird to operate outside the normal regulatory structure.”
Even critics of FAME praise its effort to educate children, particularly Muslims, who may feel alienated in regular public schools.
The obligatory statement of victimhood to justify the crimes.
The school’s reputation as a haven for Muslim students spread quickly. And yet one mother who brought her family here from the East Coast in 2005 so her children could attend FAME has become Ms. Alaiwat’s most prominent accuser, telling the authorities — and repeating in extensive interviews with The New York Times — that school money was used inappropriately.
That woman was also a school clerk. She said that over time she had become concerned about how public money was being used, and on May 8, 2008, she sent a signed six-page complaint to Superintendent Jordan with accompanying documents.
Ms. Jordan said that after finding the accusations “compelling,” she requested an extraordinary audit, which disclosed questionable school payments to Ms. Alaiwat, including some not reflected in her original W-2 tax forms. Ms. Alaiwat said this week that revised tax forms had been completed last month.
…the most serious accusation: that Ms. Alaiwat bought a condominium in Fremont and installed the employee’s family as rent-paying tenants.
Before Ms. Alaiwat bought the property, the woman said, she had told Ms. Alaiwat that she and her family could afford to pay rent of only $1,800 a month.
Then, the woman said, Ms. Alaiwat promoted her to office manager, from clerk, increasing her pay to $45,000 a year from $15 an hour. Ms. Alaiwat set her rent at $2,500, payable in cash, the woman said.
Ms. Alaiwat added that she had allowed the woman and her family to stay in the condo because she had said she was “going to be left homeless.”
The former employee denied those assertions, and provided records supporting her own account. She also provided The Times with bank deposit slips and e-mail messages to Ms. Alaiwat reflecting the rental payments for the condominium.
The employee was not alone in complaining about Ms. Alaiwat.
Ten former FAME employees interviewed described Ms. Alaiwat as having an explosive personality. “My dad was a cop,” said June Delane, a history teacher from 2006 to 2008. “I’m a good-size person, and she scared me.”
Many of those interviewed said Ms. Alaiwat fired employees capriciously. Alvin Burns, a former dean of student affairs who was fired by Ms. Alaiwat, said, “This woman was controlling this charter with an iron fist.”
Ms. Alaiwat said she and the board “do not tolerate incompetence and take active measures to remove staff who are not working in the best interest of our students and their families.”
Some of these former employees said that at the same time Ms. Alaiwat’s yearly compensation was rising — it is now $240,000 — school supplies like books were scarce.
“I think the teachers were sincere about trying to do things, but they were handicapped by not having books and supplies,” said Jerold Preston, a school principal in 2005.
Former employees said a crowd of teachers often gathered around the copy machine. “Teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade were Xeroxing books,” Ms. Delane said.
Ms. Alaiwat denied the teachers’ claims. Ms. Jordan said that she had never heard about a shortage of books but that she had heard numerous complaints about Ms. Alaiwat’s volatile behavior. But, she said, “we do not have the authority to make personnel changes.”
Despite the reported problems, Ms. Jordan said she had no choice but to recommend that FAME’s charter be extended after the school complied with the auditors’ recommendations.
You had a choice, you chose not to make it. Dhimmi.