Big Payday for Ex-Charter School Executive Forced Out in Cheating Scandal

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) staff didn’t want to shut down Crescendo charter schools in 2011 after learning there had been widespread cheating on state exams that accounted for remarkable student improvements at its six campuses.

But the day after the Los Angeles Times ran a story about the recommendation, District Superintendent John Deasy revised the presentation to the board and proposed an investigation. Instead, board members voted to begin the lengthy process of shutting the charter down.

Crescendo President Anthony Handy admitted that teachers were providing test answers to students ahead of time at the instruction of their principals, and allegations swirled that the principals were acting at the direction of Crescendo founder and chief executive John Allen.

Crescendo’s board of directors fought to stay open. It threatened to sue LAUSD, let go all the principals, pledged to cooperate with Celerity―an organization hired to manage the schools―and fired Allen, who sued for wrongful dismissal.  

It looked like Crescendo was going to win reinstatement when it became known in July 2011 that Celerity had one of the fired Crescendo principals on its payroll, a violation of an agreement signed by both. Celerity said it had signed the principal after the no-hire pact had been inked, but Superintendent Deasy said he had been “directly lied to” and the board voted to move ahead with charter revocation.

Crescendo closed at the end of the 2010-11 school year.

Charter schools are part of the public school system but privately managed. They are attended by choice, do not charge tuition and are governed by state-authorized charters. The schools sometimes have a particular focus of study, like math, science or the arts.   

California authorized the creation of charter schools in 1992, applied collective bargaining laws seven years later and has continued to nurture their growth with funding and legislation. The California Department of Education has 1,459 charter schools in its database.     

Charter schools have become a center of fierce debate as public schools continue to decline. But the controversy over them extends beyond how to improve education. The debate includes the role of public education in society, oversight of schools, the influence of unions, the choice of curricula, civil rights, funding and privatization.  

Accountability lies at the heart of many of these issues.

In April of this year, the Crescendo board settled accounts with Allen and gave him a lovely parting gift: a $245,000 settlement and a confidentiality clause that would have kept the deal secret if the Times hadn’t asked about it.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Fired Charter School Executive Receives $245,000 in Settlement (by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times)

L.A. Unified Board Votes to Shut Down Charter Schools Accused of Cheating (by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times)

History and Development of Charter School Policy in California (Legislative Analyst’s Office) (pdf)

L.A. Officials Unexpectedly Move to Shut Down Charters Implicated in Cheating (by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times)

L.A. Unified Set to Renew Charter Contract Despite Evidence of Cheating (by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times)

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