In March 2014, teachers and parents of Harriet Tubman Village Charter School filed into a school board meeting to plead their case.
Aimee Nimtz, president of the school’s parent-teacher committee, led the charge. Tubman teachers, in matching blue shirts, clasped hands behind her.
Parents and teachers could stand no more of the school’s divisive leadership and high teacher turnover, Nimtz told the board. One by one, teachers backed her story. The principal was such a bully, staff members said, one teacher suffered a stress-induced seizure, complications from which she later died. Something had to change.
That night, the charter was up for renewal, a kind of review process that happens every few years. School board members look at the school’s test scores, and see whether school leaders are keeping the promises they laid out in the school’s founding document. If so, the school stays open. If not, the charter can be revoked.
Defending herself, Lidia Scinski, then-principal, told the school board: “I cannot apologize for putting children first, because that is what I signed up to do.”
Scinski pointed to the teachers union as the source of trouble. Unlike most charter schools, Tubman teachers are unionized. Scinski accused the union – the San Diego Education Association, or SDEA – of disrupting harmony by planting toxic messages.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
The teachers of Tubman unionized specifically because of the bullying of the principal. And the principal fired the union rep right after that even though she was a highly effective teacher. She didn't know her place and dared to defy the principal but organizing the teachers to join the union. The union's sole job is to protect the rights of teachers under their contract. If the principal was violating that contract, then it was the job of the union to protect the teachers. If the principal is complaining about the union, that's a red flag.
You cannot put students first by putting teachers last and disrespecting them.
Sounds like they got rid of King Louis only to end up with Napoleon.
A shining example that a school is more than it's test scores.
This school met it's criteria and is still dysfunctional. It's amazing any teaching and learning happens in such an environment.
Just another example of the amateurs running the show and telling the professionals how to do their jobs.
@mlaiuppa Not one board member has any educational training. The one who did left due to the dysfunction.
Checks and Balances: Counterbalancing influences by which an organization or system is regulated, typically those ensuring that political power is not concentrated in the hands of an individual or groups.
It does seem, that since the school district grants the charter, that the district should have some regulatory position in supervising charter schools.
As it stands, due to laws written by irresponsible, politically biased groups, these schools are only regulated by the very biased school site boards. Many of the charter board members in San Diego, sit on more than one schools site board.
In the case of Tubman, a very unprofessional and punitive principal was unleashed on the teachers. Most board members were personal friends and supporters of Ms. Scinski, so she ran the school like a dictator.
Checks and Balances could only be applied by the district, when she violated the Brown Act, regarding conducting open meetings and keeping adequate minutes of meetings. Also the school district checked into charges of erasing test answers and changing them to improve scores.
Another charter school ran into difficulty this week.
Old Town Academy...which has been frequently written about in VOSD as a model of a good charter.
The school site board there, hired a corporation in Livermore, CA to run the administrative position in the school.
Maureen Magee had an interesting story about this in the UT, saying, POLICE CALLED, PARENTS KEPT OFF CAMPUS, LAWSUITS AND THE PRINCIPAL FIRED.
Problem with the whole concept of charter schools, inadequate oversight, ensuring that political power is concentrated in the hands of too few.
I don't know if I ever called OTA a model of anything, @francesca. I did write favorably of its instruction. The problems at OTA were around its governance structure, not its teaching and learning. What I wrote at the end of this story about Tubman, holds true for OTA as well: the school is taking steps to restore order, and now it also needs to protect its image and reputation. Time will tell if it's successful on that end.
It's not quite accurate to say the district doesn't have any regulatory power. The district visits charter schools once a year, more in cases like Tubman, which generate complaints. The district's charter school office monitors charters' financial and academic data, and can move toward revocation if problems arise which charters don't take action to fix. What the district doesn't do is step in and get involved in daily operations at a school. If it were to, then it would really switch from being the authorizer to the operator. And at that point, it really wouldn't even be a charter school anymore.
Yes, I think I did say that the district could step in when charters violate the Brown Act or have complaints, (and photos) of tests being altered to improve scores, and visit "once a year." Very limited oversight...
"Problems around it's governance structure" at Old Town Academy?
I think I read that the solution was to use a professional charter corporation to run the administrative duties at the school, a corporation in Livermore, CA...but who made that decision? Will they send their corporate principal here?
A tale of two schools, Tubman and OTA, left in chaos, by lack of school district support, due to the way the charter law was written, district support that could handle these problems, before they negatively impact the children.
Police presence, parents locked out, legal challenges, a principal fired, control turned over to a corporation hundreds of miles away...That has to frighten the children.
The corporation OTA hired, Tri Valley Learning Corporation is not liked by all. Check out "Friends of TVLC" Facebook page.
YOUNG, MINNEY & CORR, LLP
Sacramento, CA. 95825
It is to their benefit to support and befriend whoever is in power and they do. First it was Principal Scinski, now it is Ms Nimtz. There is an open communication line between Nimtz and Stroud that no other board members are allowed. That money would be going to the students if the school were run in an open, professional, and democratic manner.
No one person should have absolute power over what happens at this school. All of the decisions made will be based on her personal preferences and what she wants for her own children I can't imagine how or why this has been allowed, and why the district cannot step in and end the dictatorship.
Mario doesn't mention it in the article, but is Ms. Nezbit a credentialed teacher or administrator? I thought Charters had the right to ask teachers to give up their union affiliations in order to be hired? If the teachers at this school did not give up their union affiliation then the school and their board have to follow the contract that the district signed with the union. I still don't understand how the union is to blame for this mess.
In this day of teacher bashing why anyone would want to become a teacher is beyond me. I can just see where an experienced teacher is teaching a lesson and in walks a board member and demands that the teacher change their lesson and how it is taught. Ya, that's a good one.
@richard brick No, Aimee Nimitz isn't a credentialed teacher or administrator, which is some of what's driven the complaints. The school has a relatively high number of first and second year teachers, so even if though the contract with the union is recognized, teachers still on probationary status don't have the same protections as those afforded permanent status employees. Still, there are complaints that the appropriate dismissal process haven't been followed, some of which is being litigated.
@richard brick When this charter started it was an at will charter. It was only after several years of abuse by the former principal that the teachers organized and voted to join the union. Just because they are in a charter they do not give up there right to organize.