Yesterday was the Charter School Institute board hearing on Cesar Chavez Network's request to combine Cesar Chavez Academy-North and Cesar Chavez Academy-Central. The Network operates three charter schools. The two they're asking to combine are both in Colorado Springs. Lawrence Hernandez, the CEO of the Network, asked the CSI board to suspend the Central charter and allow the Network to combine the Central and North students on one campus, under the North charter.
CSI board members acknowledged there being a problem with the current contract being with the Network rather than the individual charter schools. Some of the lessons learned by CSI since it began in 2004 was that charter contracts should be with the individual charter school boards, not a management company.
After media reports that Lawrence Hernandez earned $261,732 last year, CSI board members asked for detailed financial reports from all three Network schools, the Cesar Chavez Academy Foundation and any other affiliated entities. Van Schoales, a CSI board member stated the salaries of senior leadership in the Network was inappropriate. Chief Financial Officer, Jason Guerrero, reportedly earned $247,797 last year and Lawrence Hernandez's wife and Chief Operating Officer, Annette Hernandez, made $134,826.
Lawrence Hernandez and Dennis Feuerstein, Network board President, also asked the CSI board for approval to change their bylaws and to allow each individual charter to have its own governing board, independent of the Network board. Hernandez said each charter school would have a parent representative on the Network board under the new plan.
At the end of the hearing, the CSI board asked the Network to put their plan into writing for consideration at the next regularly scheduled meeting. Hernandez stated they'd notify their Central parents that they should sign up for the lottery at North in the event the two schools are combined. There was consensus that the Central charter would be surrendered, rather than held in abeyance.
After Lawrence Hernandez said he didn't have any problem with providing financial information about salaries, he stated that he's used to being a target because he's "shaking up the system." Van Schoales responded that this wasn't about shaking things up, instead it was about "transparency and our undertanding of your finances."
Update: A Denver Post editorial is here.