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Charter School Cheating Probe Sparks Clash with CUSD

Oxford Prep's investigation flouts orders from Capo Unified to let the district handle the case.

A local charter school's effort to investigate allegations that its staff cheated during standardized testing in spring is under fire from the Capistrano Unified School District, which has launched its own probe and questioned the objectivity of the school's investigation.

In correspondence obtained by Patch between the school district and Oxford Preparatory Academy, Capo Superintendent Joe Farley sternly urges OPA chief Sue Roche not to hire a third-party investigator but join the district’s investigation.

“I’m sorry I have to resort to very direct language, but because of your adamant comments about your authority to manage your charter school without oversight of the district, I feel I must specifically direct you not to initiate a second investigation into the allegations of misconduct, and to engage in the one that is going to be done by the district,” Farley wrote to Roche on Oct. 3.

Farley wrote that if OPA did not cooperate with the district, he would be forced to seek help from county and state education department officials.

He added: “It is clearly in the interest of all parties that one fully independent investigation be conducted that may not be influenced by the persons who are being investigated."

Patch compiled this timeline of events based upon several letters between OPA and the school district:

  • Oct. 1: Farley phones Roche to discuss accusations of misconduct at OPA during the Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR, exams. He emphasizes it’s the district’s responsibility to investigate the claims.
  • Oct. 2: Noting the school district had hired its own investigator, Roche writes back that OPA is within its rights to investigate the matter itself.
  • Oct. 3: Farley demands OPA cooperate with the district’s investigation. He also says it would be inappropriate for OPA directors to discuss the allegations or the hiring of an investigator in closed session. That same day, however, the Oxford Board of Directors meets in closed session to discuss the matter and hires a San Diego law firm to conduct the independent review.
  • Oct. 4: OPA’s attorney introduces himself to the district and requests cooperation with his firm's investigation. He also says OPA would not make teachers or students available to the district-hired investigator.
  • Oct. 7: A political blog cites unnamed sources who claim OPA discouraged lower-achieving students from taking the STAR tests.

None of the letters described the alleged misconduct in any detail.

Efforts to reach CUSD's attorney and Roche went unanswered.

Proud Mom October 17, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Antoine - When was the last school closed in CUSD before OPA? It is a known fact that Dr. Farley does not want to close schools, or in other words, be held responsible. I heard it with my own ears, with his very own mouth. He told parents at Barcelona last year that he wouldn't be able to close Barcelona down, so that they wouldn't have to hare a campus with OPA. He said it would take a year to close it down, even though the Barcelona parents would have prefered it and they told him so. The perfect excuse to close Barcelona down was using OPA as the scapegoat. SVUSD has closed several schools down in order to cut back on the spending, and it was down in a few months, not a year. OPA is paying a monthly lease to CUSD for the use of the facility. Taxpayer's children are attending OPA, so in actuality, it is not your money nor the districts it is using. It is ADA money following the student. You have no right in dictating where my money goes, just as I don't have the right to tell you where you want your money to be spent.
The Walrus October 17, 2012 at 11:46 PM
John, my dear boy…it seems like the one doing "anything for money" is you. Hope I’ll-Pay lives up to the hype! As evidence clearly has demonstrated for decades now, Mrs. Roche does not have to "hope" for anything regarding her schools outperforming district counterparts. What you can surely unearth from Mrs. Roche's resume is that each and every year she has led a school (Principal or current role with the charter), the schools have met AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress), which includes participation rate requirements. When Babe Ruth was once asked why he was paid more than President Hoover, he said, "I know, but I had a better year than Hoover." Perhaps when Mrs. Roche's schools no longer annihilate the competition, then and only then should her salary be discussed. I would say, based on sheer results, that she is under paid, and in this case, is the Sultan of Swat, while Farley should go back to selling vacuums! And lets not forget...Dr. Farley has one of the highest salaries for a superintendent in the state…when his top performing school scores nearly 50 points lower than a first year charter. Smells like motive to concoct an ambulance chasing, testing allegation!
Clear Skys October 28, 2012 at 05:01 AM
These are Education Code alleged violations, law enforcement investigates felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions enumerated in the CA Penal Code (crimes). During the course of the investigation, if it is determined other acts took place in the furtherance of these allegations, such as evidence of bribery or anything of intrinsic value, then it is halted and a possible criminal investigation is initiated.
Christopher Roberts October 28, 2012 at 04:40 PM
I am a parent of students in both OPA and CUSD public schools. They are both great. OPA's success doesn't diminish the good things CUSD does. Choice and competition is a great thing and one-size does not fit all. Lets stop being petty and celebrate the great work teachers, students, and parents are doing. Perhaps we can share best practices to make education better for *all* students.
mc hill October 28, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Christopher- Well said. I have two children in public CUSD schools and collectively, we are satisfied with the quality of education they are receiving. However, if I felt differently, I would not hesitate to move them as we did when they were younger. Competition is a great way...the best way in my opinion to raise that academic bar. Funding is not the issue as roughly 54% of the California budget is mandated to go to K-14 public education. Poor performance is the result of three factors; a disinterested and disengaged parental population, utter financial incompetence at the state and local level and the very worst public policy practices for negotiating with the teacher unions. It seems to me that charter schools are effectively addressing all three of these important and challenging issues.

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