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CHAMPS in jeopardy of losing charter over credit card theft

Vanessa Romo | April 21, 2014

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imgres-2The Charter High School of Arts – Multimedia and Performing, better known as CHAMPS, is at risk of losing its charter after school administrators failed to act aggressively last year when learning that an employee used a school credit card for her personal use.

As a result, the LA Unified School Board has put the Van Nuys school on notice that if could lose its charter if school administrators have not properly remedied the violations.

According to a Notice of Violations by LA Unified’s Charter Schools Division that will be presented at the school board tomorrow, CHAMPS’ Director of Fund Development allegedly made $27,000 of unauthorized credit card charges on a school credit card, and the school’s board of directors sat on the information for four months before reporting the theft to police or taking any disciplinary action against the employee.

Meanwhile the director continued to work at the school until resigning in January. It was only then that the school reported her to police, launching an investigation.

A police report outlined in the document found that the director had previously been arrested for grand theft.

The “Notice of Violations” calls into question the school’s fiscal mismanagement and “material violation” of the terms of the school’s charter.

The board is giving CHAMPS until May 2 to provide evidence it has addressed the issues raised. What the school must do to satisfy the board’s concerns is not entirely clear. It could just be a matter of making good on the money stolen, or it might also require proof that the school’s management has been restructured in such a way to prevent such occurrences in the future.

The choice of what to present to the board is the school’s, after which the board will make its own decision on revoking the charter.

It may not be as simple as forcing the former employee to make restitution.

The board’s Notice of Violations says LA Unified’s Charter School Division “has serious concerns regarding the demonstrated lack of capacity and accountability demonstrated by the CHAMPS Board and administration in handling this matter, and which raises larger questions about their ability to exercise sound judgment and conduct fiduciary oversight of their school.”

Other items before the board tomorrow are much more benign: Proclaiming April as World Wide Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, recognizing this month as Autism Awareness Month, declaring May 5-9  as Teacher Appreciation Week and spending the entire month of May celebrating Asian/Pacific Heritage while simultaneously affirming the district’s commitment to the School Discipline Policy and School Climate Bill of Rights.

For those wishing to address the board on the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) presented to the board earlier this month, they will have an opportunity during the public speaking portion of the meeting before the board moves into closed session, where labor negotiations with the district’s union partners is on the agenda.


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