Backers Fight to Save American Indian Model Schools

Jumoke Hinton Hodge
Rosie Torres
Chris Dobbins

By Post Staff

Supporters of the American Indian Model Schools  (AIMS) are pledging to carry their fight to the county and Sacramento after the Oakland school board voted this week to shut down their charter schools, which have gained a wide reputation for providing top quality urban education.
The board voted 4-3 to close the three schools at a Wednesday meeting.  Parents, community, AIMS board members and staff still can appeal to the Alameda County Office of Education and the state to overturn the board decision.
Trustees Rosie Torres, Chris Dobbins and Jumoke Hinton Hodge  voted against revocation. Agreeing with the position of Supt. Tony Smith, trustees Jody London, Gary Yee, James Harris and David Kakishiba voted to revoke the charter, effective the end of the school year in June.
According to the district administration, under Ben Chavis, the previous head,  AIMS had “repeatedly broken the law, engaged in financial mismanagement, and violated the terms of its charter.  When provided numerous opportunities to reform its practices, AIMS failed to make changes that would address these issues and protect public funds.”
Dobbins said he voted against revoking the charter because there was not enough proof that Chavis was guilty of the allegations.
“We grateful to the three board members who thought we were worthy of staying open,” said Toni Cook, chair of the AIM board since January. She also is an administrator at the College of Alameda and was a former Oakland school board member.
“We believe we have put something in place that shows we are moving in the right direction,” she said “We serve a low-income and indigenous population. They deserve the same opportunities as the kids who can afford to send their kids to Head Royce,” an Oakland private school.
Supporters point to AIMS’ academic achievement. Its students have high academic performance test scores that outperform the rest of the district.
The AIMS board recently appointed former OUSD Boardmember Sylvester Hodges as interim director, who has put into place a number of reforms.
Most of the substantive issues around fiscal management and organization already have been addressed, Cook said. What remains to be seen, she said, is whether the district’s objections “are a reason or an excuse.”