On the heels of unfounded cheating accusations and bids to expand throughout Southern California, the controversial Oxford Preparatory Academy has a new ally in former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
Since getting approved to start a charter school in the Capistrano Unified School District in March 2011, Oxford has petitioned to launch similar schools in four other districts. Two of the proposals – in Oceanside and Carlsbad – were shot down, and two others – in Pomona and Rowland – are pending.
Meanwhile, the Capo branch came under fire in October just before performance scores were released to the public for possibly cheating on state standardized testing. Both CUSD and OPA launched separate, third-party investigations, and both concluded the accusations were unfounded.
In light of all that, the former Florida governor has added his name to OPA’s petition for a school in Pomona. In a letter to the school board there, he said:
"During my tenure as Governor of Florida, I saw firsthand the important role charter schools play in comprehensive education reform by helping to raise the bar for all public schools. Charter schools have a long history of providing parents with a choice and offering unique learning experiences for students of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds."
The petition in Carlsbad was rejected, according to the North County Times, because "trustees said they had concerns after hearing that projections for enrollment and for teacher interest in the school had been exaggerated." The paper added, "Staff members also said they could confirm only 53 parents who said they would enroll in the school, while Oxford claimed 681 local parents had signed the petition."
A spokeswoman for the charter school said its board hasn’t decided whether to appeal the decision to the San Diego County Board of Education.
Back in Capo Unified, the school district issued a press release – after getting criticized by OPA parents at the last school board meeting – congratulating the charter on achieving the second high score for a public school in Orange County and the highest for an elementary school.
“An investigation did not support allegations of testing irregularities at the school. The students, teachers, and parents at OPA have been, and deserve to be, congratulated for their success on the California STAR tests,” said Superintendent Joseph Farley in a prepared statement.