A few people in the know at PALI Charter dropped us a note a little while ago... something about a "swimming pool to nowhere", piss-poor spending choices and a well-connected
daughter-in-law that somehow became CEO of the whole thing.
Several former teachers from Palisades Charter sent this:
When Palisades Charter High School became an independent charter several years ago, it was anticipated that the school would achieve a huge multi-million dollar windfall by shedding the bloated LAUSD bureaucracy that Palisades would no longer have to support. It was promised by those supporting the independent charter status that the money gained from this windfall would then be used to implement critical priorities for improving education, not the least of which was lessening teacher to student ratio, which had already ballooned 40 to 1 under LAUSD.
Instead, what took place is that Richard Held and his business partner Jim Suhr, who both sat on the Pali Board, made Mr. Held's daughter-in-law the chief executive officer of the school in an action that was clearly an undisclosed conflict of interest. Over the next few years, what Mrs. Held created, with her limited elementary school teaching and LAUSAD clerical experience, was a mini-LAUSD, where the money attained by going independent charter went to creating another bloated LAUSDesque bureaucracy, instead of lessening class size.
Initially, the teachers of the school were brought along in this then reform model by giving them a pay raise or out-of-classroom assignments for less that stellar programs. To pay for this, more students were enrolled and older teachers were encouraged to leave. Five years after becoming an independent charter, when teachers no longer have the option of returning to LAUSD with any of their seniority, things have changed considerably. The affirmative action program which had seen three generations of African American students bused in from the Crenshaw area and other communities with traditionally poor and de facto segregated and low performing schools has been significantly curtailed in favor of increasing the White population of the school. This is a total turnaround from what the faculty and parents initially agreed on when they choose to become an independent charter 5 years ago.
Most of the important actions have been decided behind the closed door in total derogation of the Brown Act, which clearly requires that the business of public entities like Palisades Charter High School be conducted in meetings open to the public where the agenda of these meetings is open to the public and capable of being added to by all parties concerned and not just Ms. Held and her crony Mrs. Rodman who presided over the board until October 2009.
Presently, a clear example of what the contempt for democratic process produces is the new pool construction. The old YMCA pool, just across Sunset Blvd. from the school, could have been refurbished with a fraction of what the new pool costs. However, the Pali leadership has allowed this ever more costly boondoggle to proceed under the less than qualified oversight of Maisha Perry, who was hired more for her friendship with Ms. Held than for her objective qualifications that have not as yet culminated in a college degree. There were a NUMBER of highly qualified people who applied for the position. The original estimate of the construction was $2.8 million. Two years and many manipulations later, its cost is approaching $5 million. Although the school veteran Rose Gilbert gave $2.3 million to fund this project, its present price risks putting the school behind the financial eight ball during these very difficult economic times.
A pool right across the street? Who else knows about this?