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Controversial charter school principal Ben Chavis pulls up stakes

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.eastbayexpress.com/2007-07-25/news/bye-bye-ben/ Bye Bye, Ben Controversial charter school principal Ben Chavis pulls up stakes and leaves his school
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 25, 2007
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      http://www.eastbayexpress.com/2007-07-25/news/bye-bye-ben/

      Bye Bye, Ben
      Controversial charter school principal Ben Chavis pulls up stakes and
      leaves his school to someone else.

      By Robert Gammon
      Published: July 25, 2007

      Under fire recently for his heated run-in with a Mills College professor
      and her grad students, foul-mouthed educator Ben Chavis has resigned as
      principal of American Indian Public Charter School. Chavis, who won
      national accolades for his school's test scores and local scorn for his
      controversial teaching methods, said he moved to Tucson, Arizona to spend
      more time with his grandkids. "I had a great experience there," he said of
      American Indian. "I never had so much fun fighting liberals in my life."

      Full Disclosure learned of Chavis' resignation after receiving a packet of
      documents sent by American Indian Public Charter School to the Oakland
      Unified School District as part of the district's inquiry into Chavis'
      behavior. Included in the documents were the minutes from American Indian's
      March 15 board of trustees meeting, which included this bombshell: "Dr.
      Chavis has noted that he will work part time next year, 2007-2008 ... This
      will also be his last year as the director of American Indian Public
      Charter School." The board meeting occurred just hours after the Mills
      College incident.

      Chavis said his resignation had been in the works for years, and had
      nothing to do with the Mills run-in. "Everybody has known about it for two
      years," he said. He also said that he will make himself available to work
      part time this upcoming academic year, but he doesn't think the school will
      need him. He said he has been replaced by Isaac Berniker, a graduate of
      Dartmouth College. American Indian board president Rose Hing-Lee had no
      comment.

      Over the past half-decade, Chavis has become the most celebrated educator
      in the East Bay. Last year, American Indian scored a perfect 10 on the
      state's Academic Performance Index, and was named by the Bush
      Administration as one of the best 250 schools nationwide. But as first
      reported here in May, Chavis got in hot water after Mills College professor
      Sabrina Zirkel and several of her grad students accused him of calling grad
      student Unity Lewis "a fucking black minority punk" during a March 15 visit
      to American Indian. The Mills group also said Chavis had asked one of his
      own female students if a boy "was still trying to suck your titties."

      Though he readily admits to motivating students with racially charged
      language and humiliating taunts, Chavis denied making the "suck your
      titties" comment. He said he called Lewis "a dumbass minority" and "an
      embarrassment to his race."

      Because American Indian is a charter school, the Oakland school district
      had no direct authority over Chavis. But after the Mills allegations, the
      district launched an inquiry and demanded that the school's board members
      fully investigate the incident. In a June 4 response letter to the
      district, Hing-Lee acknowledged that Chavis' actions were not "appropriate
      or professional." She said the board fined Chavis $700.

      But Kirsten Vital, chief of accountability for the school district, said
      last week in a letter to American Indian that the charter school board's
      investigation "was insufficient." Vital demanded a more thorough review and
      said the district planned to continue its inquiry. However, with Chavis now
      gone, it's unclear what will happen next. School district spokesman Troy
      Flint said district officials were not aware of Chavis' resignation.

      Vital also said in her July 13 letter to American Indian that she and other
      district officials observed "inappropriate and offensive" behavior by
      Chavis during a June 6 school visit. Vital said Chavis, in front of
      students, described a former employee as a "white bitch" because she did
      not do her work. Vital also said that one student said she was forced to
      clean the boys' bathroom as punishment for misbehaving. District officials,
      Vital said, considered the latter incident "to border on the line of
      something which would need to be reported to Child Protective Services."
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