Do Not Revoke The Charter.

“the Oakland school board has known about Chavis’ misconduct for years and yet has repeatedly voted to renew his charter school licenses and extend them” 

Robert Gammon, shows his distaste for the Oakland School Board’s decision to renew American Indian Public Charter School. Despite the school’s amazing academic success, Gammon believes that the school should be closed due to accusations of the school’s Principal, Ben Chavis, for money laundering and misconduct towards students.

Much of American Indian Public Charter School (AIPCS) success and influence on the field of education did not exist until Ben Chavis was appointed principal in 2001. Chavis’ impressive professional experience as an ethnic studies professor and a superintendent of schools prompted the Oakland Native American community to reach out for him to turn around the struggling school in Oakland. AIPCS was an alternative institution for children who could not perform or behave in regular Oakland public schools. In Chavis’ book he reflects on how the students physically assaulted the former principal at AIPCS, smoked during class, and claimed that they “ran” the school. He felt that he could change the direction of the school by reaching the troubled adolescents through strict rules and harsh motivation. Chavis set a militant tone reflective of the direction he was taking the school.

Sean Connelley/ staff 11/12/05 Tribune American Indian School principal Ben Chavis at the Oakland charter school.
Ben Chavis sits on desk in AIPCS classroom.

Use of racial slurs, profanity and public humiliation is not your typical school principle’s tactics to reach academic success. Yet, Dr. Ben Chavis is not your typical principal. He achieved levels of academic success unseen in his city for over 25 years, however his methods of reaching these accomplishments were quite controversial or (as Gammon would put it) “misconduct.”

By 2006 AIPCS earned local and national recognition through the school’s high scores on the Academic Performance Index (API). Katy Murphy reflected on the outstanding scores scores from the students that year, “On standardized tests, Chavis’ kids outscore their Oakland school district peers by leaps and bounds. In 2006, 79 percent of Chavis’ African-American eighth-graders tested at a proficient level or better in reading, compared to 20 percent in district schools. The difference in is even more pronounced for Latino students (82 percent vs. 16 percent.” Compared to the statistics of regular Oakland Public Schools, these stats were unheard of in the district. These scores were so impressive Arnold Schwartzennegger, the Terminator himself, had to come visit the excelling charter school. The following year’s scores eclipsed the prior year and earned national recognition. In 2007 the Charter school had won the prestigious Blue Ribbon Award, and was the first school to do so in the district for over 25 years.

If these “audit” and “fraud” accusations of Chavis are true, then yes, please try him in a court of law. However, regardless of Ben Chavis, allow the school to stay open. It has some of the highest API and standardized testing scores in the state! Why would you want to end that? Many of the children in this school are from troubled communities where public education is a joke. American Indian Charter Schools are THE best public schools in Oakland. Ben Chavis has made a model for these schools to follow which WORKS.

As one of his students I can attest to his cultural offensiveness. He did indeed use racial slurs and sailor like amounts of profanity. Yet he understood that this style combined with his detention and Saturday schools, and no technology system WORKED. Why stop it, because he is possibly guilty of money laundering? Let these schools be run without Ben Chavis. Have you not heard of the achievement gap? Do you know the dropout rate for children from impoverished communities? An institution like this is a miracle in a community like Oakland. Do not hinder progress. Do not destroy a community. Do Not Revoke The Charter. 

Sign for Original AIPCS located in east Oakland
Sign for original AIPCS located in east Oakland

Gammon, R. (2012, June 18). It’s Time to Close the American Indian Public Charter Schools | East Bay    Express. Retrieved November 12, 2015, from  http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2012/06/18/its-time-to-close-the-american-indian-  public-charter-schools

Murphy, K. (2007, June 15). Madman, genius or both? Retrieved November 12, 2015, from  http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/ci_6148011

Oakley, Doug. “Oakland’s American Indian Model Schools Can Stay Open, Judge      Rules.” ContraCostaTimes.com. 30 July 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.    <http://www.contracostatimes.com/contra-costa-times/ci_26245454/oakland-charter-school-can-stay-open-judge-rules&gt;

Parents fight to feep American Indian schools open. (2013, June 5). Retrieved November 12, 2015, from  http://abclocal.go.com/story?section=news/education&id=9128878

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