Thursday, October 29, 2015

ICEF under investigation by LAUSD CSD Oversight Team

ICEF public charter schools under investigation by LAUSD Charter School Division Oversite Team
ICEF under investigation
Last week, I received an email from the LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD) informing me that CSD Petition Oversight Team would be investigating complaints against ICEF for the following:

1.      ICEF Vista students have been accepting items under and through the Stoner Avenue Elementary School fence on almost a daily basis;
2.      ICEF Vista school lunch server leaving ICEF Vista on the Stoner ES campus with two large bags filled with food;
3.    ICEF automated schoolwide phone call (i.e. robo-call, connect-ed) earlier this year soliciting donations and gifts for a baby shower for ICEF Vista Director Kristen Buczek. The baby shower was held on campus.
4.      ICEF inability to comply with the California Public Records Act
5.      ICEF home office denied access to inspect the Parent Volunteer logs
6.      ICEF use of public funds for defamation and libel.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

ICEF Vista breaks rules and puts campus safety at risk

ICEF Vista Elementary Charter School Academy puts students at risk by using unsecured canopy on campus in violation of safety rules
ICEF Vista uses unsecured canopy in violation of school safety rules
Little did I realized that the incident about ICEF Vista smuggling items on to the Stoner Avenue Elementary School campus would result in a second complaint.
  For quite a while now, ICEF Vista has been using a canopy shade all over campus.

   What's the problem with that?

    Well, last year, Stoner ES parents met with LAUSD officials to discuss shade options for the campus like trees, overhangs and canopies.  One of the things that parents were told was that due to safety reasons, canopies could not be used on campus. The structures were not secured and could easily blow over and hurt someone. It might sound ridiculous, but them's the rules and everyone on campus needs to abide by the rules for the safety of all.

    Yet, for quite sometime ICEF has been following its own rules and has used the canopy not only in the ICEF lunch area, as pictured, but also in the play yard where the danger of this unsecured structure blowing over and hurting someone was even greater.
ICEF Vista canopy since September

    A col-located charter school should not be able to put people on campus in danger to have a special advantage over the regular school.
      Even something as simple as shade is a resource that should be evenly distributed. The ICEF side of campus should not have special privileges to make their own rules.

Friday, October 23, 2015

ICEF community smuggles items on to Stoner ES campus

ICEF students accepting items through and under school fence
ICEF students handed items thru fence while
ICEF staff is only a few feet away

    For a few weeks now, Stoner Avenue Elementary School parents have been concern that ICEF Vista students are accepting items through and under the school fence on almost a daily basis.

    Presumably, it is just ICEF parents bringing their children lunch, but if it is, then why are the parents not going to the main office to drop of the lunch, or signing in at the office so that they can go on campus and hand their child the lunch. Something about smuggling "lunch" under the fence on to my children's campus just doesn't feel right.

ICEF students accepting items
under the school fence
    Considering that there was a recent incident where a gun was brought on to an ICEF campus, Stoner parents are greatly concerned that ICEF might not be following all safety protocols while co-locating at Stoner ES this year.

   Even more concerning is that this smuggling is done in plain view of ICEF staff. Does ICEF really believe that this practice of handing items through the fence is acceptable?

     Stoner ES parents are greatly concerned. They don't know if what is being smuggled on to campus is a gun, contraband or a baloney sandwich. Parents are demanding that this practice be stopped immediately.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

ICEF Vista uses public resources to throw a baby shower

Stoner Avenue Elementary School Orchestra shines at Del Rey Day 2015
Stoner Avenue Elementary School Orchestra shines at Del Rey Day 2015
    This weekend, Del Rey held its annual Del Rey Day celebration at Glenn Alla Park.  The event was awesome!  There was good food, good friends and great music.
     The Stoner Avenue Elementary school orchestra was one of the featured performers. The orchestra was great. It was exciting to see how the music program has evolved and grown since it began last year.
    While chilling at the event, I was talking to a group of neighbors who are also ICEF Vista parents.  I don't know if it was for my benefit, but the parents began complaining about the ICEF administration. The parents complained about the inexperienced staff at the school and home office, the lack of responsiveness from the administration, and the continual requests for donations and volunteer hours.
   Then one parent mentioned that they were most disturbed by the request for gifts for a baby shower for ICEF Vista Director Kristen Buczek. The others agreed and said they were very annoyed and peeved about this solicitation of gifts for the director.
   I was stunned and asked what happened. The parents complained that earlier this year, ICEF had sent a school wide automated telephone message (i.e. robo-call) to all parents soliciting gifts for Director Buczek's baby shower which was being held on campus. They said the solicitation was similar to all the others solicitations for donations that they had received and so many parents contributed without realizing that they did not have to. Parents were told the sex of the baby, preferred colors and even given suggestions on gifts.
   The parents said that they felt that if they did not donate to this or the many other ICEF Vista donation drives and pleas for volunteer work, their children might face bullying from other students for "not supporting the school." They claimed that some parents donate money or serve minimal volunteer hours just to avoid problems for their children.

.......and, so, the Adventures continue!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

ICEF board meeting Oct 15 - $200K for lawyers, 3 expulsions & a gun on campus

On October 15, I attended the monthly ICEF Board meeting to complain about issues related to the co-location at Stoner.

ICEF Public Charter School Home office
ICEF Home office reception
When I arrived the meeting was still in closed session. I took a seat in the waiting area. As I waited, one ICEF parent began complaining loudly that she had requested a copy of the agenda the previous week from ICEF CEO Parker Hudnut, but received no response. She was quite indignant and decided not to stay for the meeting.

    As I continued to wait, another ICEF parent complained to ICEF staff member Linda Christiansen regarding an incident where a gun was brought on to an ICEF campus. Linda looked at me and then told the parent not to say the name of the school because she already knew what incident she was talking about. Linda mentioned that the school was not randomly "wanding" the students like they were supposed to. The parent said she was very concerned, but oddly did not bring this up at the meeting.

    The actual meeting was pretty dull. It started with ICEF summarizing the closed door session. In the closed session, ICEF Board approved to expel 3 students.  This was only a few week into the school year. I wondered if this had anything to do with the gun on campus.
    The meeting continued and at one point, ICEF mentioned that they were setting aside $200,000 for legal fees for this year. I don't know if the amount was mentioned to put me on notice, but all it did was give me a minimum suggested budget.

ICEF Board Meeting October 15, 2015 - Park Hudnut, Greg Brendel, Linda Christiansen
ICEF Board Meeting October 15, 2015
    At the end of the meeting was the public comments section. During my comments, the ICEF Board sat and listened but did not seemed to care at all what I was saying. It just looked like they wanted me to hurry up and finish so the meeting would end.

    End it did, and I was just left with more questions. So, I have been submitting more public records act requests in search of answers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

LAUSD SSC Training turns in to charter co-location complaints

    This past weekend, LAUSD held training for School Site Council members at Horace Mann Middle School.
    You might remember Horace Mann was mentioned on this blog a year ago when COW Mar Vista was offered co-location space on that campus.  COW refused the space. I wonder if it had anything to with the fact the Horace Mann is a block away from Florance and Normandiae, where the LA Riots started in 1992.
    I personally thought the school looked great.  There were awesome murals on every inch of the hallways and the LAUSD staff went out of their way to make the visit to Horrace Mann a great experience. might be saying to yourself, that's great, but what does that have to with the co-location adventures today.
    Well, after getting a coffee and sitting at a table, I waited for the opening session of the training to begin. I started talking to the other parents around me and we weren't two minutes into the conversation when 2 parents began complaining about charter school co-locations at their campus. Everyone else at the table joined in an related their charter school horror stories.
   Sometimes, I think I maybe the only one who is concerned with the injustice that charter school co-locations create, but after meeting so many involved and active LAUSD parents at the training, I came to realize that the charter problem is something just about every LAUSD school is dealing with.
   Parents had various complaints from charters cherry picking students, to the loss of resources and classroom space to the separate and unequal conditions created by the charters.
   It was quite sad to hear these complaints, but it was also heartening to listen to all the parents who wanted the best for all students in LAUSD and were willing to work hard for to make this happen.

Friday, October 16, 2015

ICEF Amateur Hour - ICEF denies access to inspect public records

Sometimes I can't help but laugh at ICEF's amateur hour follies. They are almost too predicable...

Today, I finally had sometime during ICEF office hours to inspect the ICEF Vista charter school Parent Volunteer logs I've been trying to get my hands on.

August 17, I requested access to the logs.
September 11, ICEF's lawyer wrote in a postal letter that the documents would be available for inspection on Sept 22 at 10:30 PM.

    Yet today when I went in to inspect the records, ICEF CFO/CCO Greg Brendel denied access to inspect the records. At one point, frustrated and upset, Brendel shouted "I done playing games with you."
       That's funny, I didn't know he was playing games. I have a serious interest in reporting on ICEF since ICEF has moved in across the street from my house on the same campus that my children attend. The only way I can provide accurate reporting is to have access to ICEF's records which are public records. Under the California Public Records, these records should be available for inspection at all times during office hours.
     What does ICEF have to hide? Why are they not making these records available as they are supposed to under law?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

ICEF removes "volunteer" requirement after complaints from this blog

ICEF Vista allows parents to complete  "volunteer" requirement by donating good
ICEF Vista allows parents to complete
"volunteer" requirement by donating goods.
      In previous years, ICEF Vista required its parents to sign an agreement that they would complete 40 hours of required volunteer service for ICEF.  If parents could not provide the 40 hours, they were allowed to donate goods to complete their service requirement.
    This volunteer requirement is a violation of both California Constitution Article 9 sec. 5 and Education Code § 49011(b)(4) and creates an undue burden on the parents of a public school.
    In August 17, I submitted a public records request to see the ICEF Vista Parent handbook for 2015/16. ICEF responded and said the handbook was at the printers and would be available on August 28.
    When I spoke with ICEF's lawyers on Friday, August 28 regarding another records request, I mentioned the required volunteer hours were a violation of state law. Suddenly, there was a delay in the release of the handbook book because ICEF claimed there were type-o's in the handbook that need to be corrected.
    When ICEF finally release the handbook on September 22, the volunteer requirement was mysteriously gone from their handbook.
    Unfortunately, by this time, many parents had already donated goods to cover the hours they thought they were required to complete.  The picture below is from the first day of school. On that first day, many parents showed up with bags full of supplies for the school.
ICEF Vista parents donating goods on the first day of school  to complete the "volunteer" requirement
ICEF Vista parents donating goods on the first day of school
 to complete the "volunteer" requirement
      I spoke with some of the ICEF parents, and many of them were still under the impression that the required volunteer hours had to be completed and so they donated goods on the first day so that they could complete the requirement. Some ICEF parents were quite upset when they learned that they did not have to complete the "volunteer" requirement.
     I am glad that ICEF removed the "volunteer" requirement, but it's disturbing that it took investigative reporting from this blog for ICEF to comply with the law.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

ICEF Vista co-location: "definite divide" = separate and unequal

       When the idea of a co-location of ICEF Vista Charter School on the Stoner ES campus was presented to the ICEF Vista community, administration promised a "definite divide" between the Stoner ES students and ICEF charter students.
Definite divide: ICEF Vista students coned off from the rest of campus
Definite divide: ICEF Vista students coned off from the rest of campus
     We have seen this "definite divide" all over campus.  Whether it is our children being told to not use the bathrooms near the charter, the cones on the play ground,  the security guard on the ICEF side of campus, or the white versus blue shirt collars, signs of the separate and unequal "definite divide" are present all around on Stoner campus.
    ICEF parents, who wouldn't send their children to Stoner ES because Stoner is the school across the street from the projects, are more then happy to send their children to the same campus under the guise of a charter school.
   It is sad to see the parents, who were at Stoner a year or two ago and wouldn't even donate 10 minutes of their time to improve Stoner, switch over to ICEF where they are willing to sign an agreement to provide 40 hours of free work to the charter or if they can't work for 40 hours, they can pay for the volunteer time by "donating" supplies.
   This divide is not lost on the children.  The children can see the separate and unequal conditions on campus and disturbed by what they are living through.
   Many in the community are call the co-location a new segregation with separate and unequal conditions for students on the same campus.