His school is at capacity, the parents are worried, so Carpenter Community Charter Principal Joe Martinez is trying to be as upfront and informative as possible about how his school is combating students who are fraudulently attending the school.
Not only is there an important Governance Council meeting on Thursday at the school where some decisions could be made, but the principal will be going to the Studio City Neighborhood Council meeting on Wednesday night and last Friday, a representative of Los Angeles City Council member Paul Krekorian’s office attended an Enrollment Committee meeting. (See meeting places and times below.)
“This is an important issue and something that will be going on at charter affiliate schools throughout the district,” Martinez said. “It is important to let people know what we are doing about it.”
Martinez is a victim of the school’s success. When the school became a charter-affiliate school in 2010, the parents and teachers had some autonomy with enrichment programs, but they were still restricted to contracts under the Los Angeles Unified School District and with some of the limits set by the district.
For example, even though the parent-faculty Governance Council set a capacity of the school at 940 students, LAUSD said the capacity is 1,020 students. That increases class sizes and affects the extra enrichment programs that the school is noted for around the world.
“Of course this increase has affected our enrichment programs, there’s no way it can’t,” Martinez said.
Meanwhile, the school’s scores increased incredibly, and more parents wanted their children to attend the school.
New Kindergarten parent Erich Gerencher, who is on the Enrollment Committee, noted that last year, 144 new students were expected at the school. They got 210, which was a 10 percent overall increase in the school's population.
The year before, 162 new students came to the school.
This year, even before Spring, the school received 145 Kindergarten applications.
The committee said they estimate that about 12 percent of the school population, or 120 students, are in the school fraudulently.
Already new students are being reassigned to the schools that they are supposed to attend.
“We are right now in the process of getting students to their proper school,” Martinez told a group of 60 concerned community members, including Geoffrey Yazzetta, the Studio City representative for Councilman Krekorian’s office. LAUSD policy is to send students to their appropriate school immediately, but rules about charter-affiliate schools are muddy.
Parents are worried that they moved to Studio City in order to get into the public school, but they may not be able to get in to their resident school.
“There have been rumors and gossip that some families entered the school under fraudulent terms and we are trying to deal with that, and others have said that our number of classes will be cut, but none of that has yet to be figured out,” Martinez said.
Some parents are now applying to private schools, because they fear their child won’t make it into their neighborhood school and be shipped off to another school. Even if Carpenter is forced to a lottery system, local residents will get priority, Martinez said. “If you live here, we want you to go to school here,” he insisted.
The school is using LexisNexis database to check names against public records and see if a family member is being used for an address improperly. That will not be the sole determination for fraud, the committee members said.
“The use of LexisNexis is limited, and we are the first school to ask LAUSD for permission to check our records for new students,” Martinez said. “I am checking with other charter-affiliate schools to see if they see a need for this. This is a potential problem for all charter-affiliate schools.”
Oona Hansen, on the Enrollment Committee said there is some concern that the LAUSD rules about charter-affiliate schools insist that the school be more open to outside applicants. “It could mean that we may not serve our own community anymore,” Hansen said. “We are hoping that LAUSD sees that we are a conversion school that is already in the community, and they should not throw a monkey wrench and have such a community impact. People are not happy witth the way the charer office is handling the situation.”
There is also some talk about changing district lines around Studio City, but nothing has been decided.
“There are some things I just don’t have answers for right now,” Martinez said. “But I hope to have them soon.”
Martinez is scheduled to speak at the Studio City Neighborhood Council at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the CBS Radford Studio.
The school’s Governance Council meeting is on Thursday at 2:45 p.m. at the school’s Cafeteria West.
Both meetings are open to the public, and Governance Council President Heather Tonkins said, “I want to encourage anyone who has any concerns to come and have their voices heard.”