Camino Nuevo Corporation: A Little Less Than Honest Again?

Report back from the final meeting held by Camino Nuevo Charter Corporation at Union Avenue School reveals very serious resume padding for Shannon Leonard, CNCA's new Principal of CRES #14.

[CNCA Corporation has] Site Based Councils that include parents, but these councils have no actual decision making power — CNCA's charter says they "provide suggestions and recommendations." Indeed, all real decision making for CNCA, like all corporate charters, lies in the hands of their Board of Directors. CNCA's board is UNELECTED by the public and composed exclusively of investment management executives, high powered lawyers, and other wealthy business types. Not one of them is an actual educator, and none of them have been teachers or principals in a K-12 setting. Furthermore, not one of them lives in Echo Park or Historic Filipinotown. — Robert D. Skeels

I attended the final meeting held by the Camino Nuevo Charter Academy Corporation (CNCA) held at the Union Avenue School, along with another public education activist on June 2, 2011. There were roughly seven to ten people in attendance, not counting the CNCA executives and ourselves. It was a little disconcerting that Los Angeles Unified School District was allowing CNCA Corporation to host their business presentations at public school facilities, especially given the fact that they would be poaching students and causing hardworking teachers with families of their own to lose their jobs.

We were there as observers and to hand out flyers explaining to families that they had a right to refuse attending a corporate charter like CNCA, and they could demand to attend a public school instead. In a surprising and very refreshing move, CNCA Corporation's well heeled CEO Ana Ponce asked for one of the flyers and made the announcement to the small gathering. This was, perhaps, the first honest interaction Ms. Ponce has had with our community.

The most important part of the flyer is reproduced here:

The Education Code of California 47605.5(f) states: "The governing board of a school district shall not require any pupil enrolled in the school district to attend a charter school."

Y tambien en Español:

La ley de educación de Calfornia 47605.5(f) declara: "La mesa directiva de un distrito escolar no puede exigir que cualquier aluno inscrito en en el distrito escolar deba asistir a un escuela charter."

Again, to her credit, Ms. Ponce was very forthcoming about the law. That said, the process to keep a child from being enrolled in a corporate charter versus a public school can be a little bit daunting and the bar of entry slightly high. Several activists have volunteered to help any parents that want their children to stay in public schools with the process. Contact me for more information.

CNCA Corporate executives present other than Ana Ponce included Yolanda Sanchez, Mary Funaoka, and Broad Residency in Urban Education graduate, the businessman Hoa Truong. The was in attendance, as was another CNCA Corporation employee. The presentation consisted of a slick marketing slide show, with the bulk of the presentation focussed on uniforms. Uniforms are part and parcel the current widespread militarization in our society, and are great for discouraging individuality and creativity in young people. While some public schools require them as well, they are a hallmark of corporate charter schools, where strict obedience is demanded and critical thinking is dissuaded.

The latter part of the presentation was on CNCA Corporation's choice for CRES #14's principal, Mr. Leonard. This is where things began to remind us of CNCA's unsuccessful and highly dishonest propaganda campaign to win community support [1] for their plan, before our school was handed over to them by Ana Ponce's good friend Yolie Flores.

The slide presenting Mr. Leonard's resume was impressive, to say the least. In fact, it was somewhat of a monumental list of accomplishments for someone as seemingly young as he is. I joked to my colleague "I have house cats older than Mr. Leonard." I was particularly intrigued by the last line of the slide, where is says Mr. Leonard was:

Professor at LMU's School of Education

That claim seemed a little far fetched given Mr. Leonard's apparent age and limited experience; not to mention the fact, that while he has two Master's degrees, he doesn't have a Doctoral degree. The claim warranted investigation, and I contacted Loyola Marymount University's School of Education to check on the veracity of Mr. Leonard and CNCA Corporation's claims.

LMU's Director of Communications and Media called me back and informed me that he was a "part time faculty member, and had taught one class between 2005 and 2006." I pressed the issue and asked, "so was he a professor of education?" She retorted, "No, he was part time faculty."

In other words, Shannon Leonard was not a Professor at LMU's School of Education. He might be able to claim he was an adjunct instructor or adjunct professor, but claiming the title of professor is just plain dishonest, maybe even mendacious.

I went as far as to discuss the matter with my friend and frequent correspondent, Professor Ralph E. Shaffer. He was actually very generous to Mr. Leonard, given the circumstances:

In Leonard's defense, the term "professor" can be used either as a specific title or as a more generic term. It is not uncommon to refer to part-time instructors as professors. Students do it all the time. On a resume, however, the term takes on a more precise meaning, and it should indicate the exact title the person had at an institution. The latter is what you are concerned with. That's why we often see the title "adjunct professor" when past experience is listed as a means of identifying someone.

Indeed, the slide certainly constituted a resume, and one would hope that CNCA Corporation and Mr. Leonard would offer the Echo Parque/Historic Filipinotown communities a written apology for misleading us, and in the future refrain from presenting Mr. Leonard as something he is not.

Bending the truth and lies of omission seem to be a strong part of Camino Nuevo Charter Corporation's culture. Who can forget their boasts of a 96 percent graduation rate and a 73 percent college placement rate, but with no mention of abysmal remediation rates of 94 percent? Who doesn't remember the CNCA Corporation's flyer that stated "Camino Nuevo schools: are run by, and designed, for each local community," when in reality all their schools are run by their UNELECTED board composed exclusively of investment management executives, high powered lawyers, and other wealthy business types, none of whom live in 90026? On that last point, an area parent shared with me how she recently confronted Ms. Ponce about parental input, asking her what kind of power did Site Based Councils actually have. Ponce's condescending response was, "I let a group of parents decide where the drop off point was for their kids." Now that's some real parental and community power! Run by the community indeed. There are more examples of CNCA Corporation being less than honest, but we don't need to belabor them all here.

Suffice it to say that the dishonesty over Mr. Leonard's background is disconcerting and should remind us all that we need to watch CNCA Corporation as closely as possible. Camino Nuevo Charter Academy Corporation have a history of duplicity and deceitfulness, and our community deserves far better.

[1] An interesting side note. One of the board members from CNCA Corporation's sister 501C3, Pueblo Nuevo Development, who was unwilling to accept the broad, multiracial, and multicultural resistance to CNCA Corporation seizing a public school in our community, tried to paint all public school supporters in Echo Parque with the following sardonic statement:

"It seems Robert is advocating for these out of town hipsters who rolled up to the community meeting (Union Elementary) in their Audi's and BMW's mistaking me for the janitor."

While I share some of his sentiments toward gentrification, the class reference was specious and unfair. Imagine my amusement, then, when I saw CNCA's Corporation's Mary Funaoka leave the meeting in what appeared to be a well appointed late model BMW X5. Apparently it isn't only hipsters driving Audi's and BMW's. That alone speaks volumes to the real motives and class status of CNCA board members and executives.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

M. V. June 18, 2011 at 11:18 AM
Luckily, the loud voices who are NOT parents of children who will be attending the school will be limited to blogs and will not be on the campus. Your blogs are quite harmless because I imagine that most of us are intelligent enough to recognize that the points that you are making—such as that "professor" is not ALWAYS indicative of a full-time professor—has absolutely nothing to do with our children's education, and, come the start of the school year, we will be too busy focusing on helping our children and school community to read and respond to this nonsense. MV
Robert D. Skeels June 18, 2011 at 05:16 PM
@M.V. "where in the world are you getting information to support the claim that charter schools demand strict obedience and dissuade critical thinking" Here are two papers discussing another prominent charter chain that might help answer your fairly rhetorical question: No Excuses: A Critique of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) within Charter Schools in the USA http://www.scribd.com/doc/24518615/No-Excuses-A-Critique-of-the-Knowledge-Is-Power-Program-KIPP-within-Charter-Schools-in-the-USA What Makes KIPP Work?A Study of Student Characteristics, Attrition, and School Finance http://www.scribd.com/doc/52882362/What-Makes-KIPP-Work-A-Study-of-Student-Characteristics-Attrition-and-School-Finance There's much more published on the subject, but I'm sure you're aware of that. Your bluff has now been called. Lastly, there's a vast difference between a minor semantic mistake, and claiming a post as important as Professor of Education. You're clearly literate enough to know the difference, and are embarrassing yourself by trying to cover for their mendaciousness. While we're glad that your satisfied with the school, your condescension about my wife and I being childless rings hollow. Everyone whose tax money is going into CNCA executives' pockets has a right to speak out on this issue, sorry if my dissent speaks to their wealth and privilege.
Yoon Jung Cindy Lee June 20, 2011 at 11:21 PM
Thank you for standing up for our community against these corporate bullies.
Windy O'Malley June 21, 2011 at 01:01 AM
I agree, Robert you are getting attacked because you are telling the truth and yet the truth seems so so CRAZY it's hard for someone to believe it. I know you volunteer and work tirelessly as an activist and that you are actually out there making a difference with your own two hands, besides writing the truth. I see the cres#14 campus every day and it makes my heart break. This community did not want another school built, but our neighbors homes were torn down anyway and up it went. The community voted for a school that would serve all the community and share it's resources with all the local schools. We didn't get it. Echo Park /Silver Lake did not NEED a new school, Camino Nuevo DID need a place to expand. They got what they wanted and the community LOST out. The children who attend the school will be just fine and the parents just make the best choice they can. The other community schools and all those children will suffer immeasurably. It's heartbreaking. It's easy to lick our wounds and hide our heads and just it will be FINE. Thank you Robert for keeping your eyes open and reporting the truth. I wish it weren't true. :( It is....
Robert D. Skeels July 25, 2011 at 10:36 PM
@M.V. here's yet another article for you on the "strict obedience" question. Of course, you're so hopelessly right wing and reactionary, that you've probably never heard of the Southern Poverty Law Center and the work they do. http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2011/07/nola-penal-pedagogy-exemplar.html


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