Photo by Nicholas Eckhart via Flickr Creative Commons

Hanson’s Charter School – Steering Our Community into Dangerous Waters

By: Greg Gadams

February 10, 2010, is a day that will live in infamy in the eyes of local educators. It was the day that Superintendent Michael Hanson and the Board of the Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) passed a motion to establish the Dailey Campus as their own independent charter school. This single motion brazenly violated their contract with the Fresno Teachers Association (FTA) and created a non–teachers union school with public funds, causing 20 teachers in FUSD to lose their jobs. It also created an elitist school that is designed to exclude the city’s socioeconomically challenged children.

The Hanson/School Board Dailey charter school is to be run by their self-created charter company called Fresno Innovative Schools. This charter’s five-person governing board will include not only Hanson but also School Board members Carol Mills and Janet Ryan. They will pick two community members to join them on the board. This action is in conflict with the spirit of the law, which states that “a” district person can sit on a charter board as a liaison. The singularity of “a” is clear: There was never any intent for a district to run its own independent charter.

Districts can have their own district-dependent charters, where all employees would still be part of that district. It is obvious this “independent” charter was concocted to give the illusion of being an outside entity, while contracting back to the district for all union employee services except one: the teachers. Obviously, this is nothing but a blatant attempt to exclude the teachers’ union, which is even more onerous considering Hanson has stated that he would like to have 6–7 additional charters under the federal Race to the Top program.

The shenanigans do not end there. Hanson had FUSD personnel working on this “independent” charter during their regular workday and even had the audacity to have them step to the microphone during the School Board meeting to make his charter company’s proposal. The Board and the superintendent continuously refer to this charter as part of the district, while claiming it isn’t as far as union teachers are concerned.

If all this doesn’t sound bad enough, throw into the mix that they intend to annually contract all of the following services back to the district for only $92,000: accounting, food, payroll, purchasing, transportation, technology support, student tracking, expulsion, professional learning support and site maintenance operations. Sounds like a great deal, but it gets even sweeter when you realize the district had already planned to budget $600,000 for site operation expenses alone when Dailey was to reopen as a regular school. Why the drop in costs when it was changed to Hanson and the Board’s own charter?

The financial shell game continued when Hanson and the Board gloated that their charter money would stay in a separate district account but that FUSD wouldn’t really lose the funds. What they neglected to reveal was that revenue generated by each school is actually put into a shared account, where it is used for general expenses and to implement specialty programs. Dailey’s separate account would allow it to keep all the money it generates, while shifting its contributions to specialty programs to other schools.

Teachers were outraged to find Hanson allowing educational best practices at his charter school; these are the same practices that he prohibited in the regular schools. Further evidence that Dailey isn’t about students can be seen in Board member Mills’ comment that struggling students, including special education students, would hurt the school’s chances to receive IB accreditation. In response, district personnel stated they would counsel these students to go to less rigorous programs.

When the final charter proposal was voted on, the clauses that guaranteed a random selection lottery into Dailey were omitted as well as the guarantee that the school would reflect the ethnic demographics of the surrounding schools, which are 70% Hispanic.

The FTA recognizes that the community has long been denied a voice in education in FUSD. We held Educational Town Hall Meetings at Hoover, Bullard, Roosevelt, McLane, Edison, Sunnyside and Fresno high schools on March 24 to gather community input on what is needed to provide better programs for all students. We will use this information to create a Blueprint for Successful Schools, which we will advocate to be used in FUSD to provide better opportunities for all students. For more information, call 559-224-8430.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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