EDITOR'S NOTE: Story updated at 5:20 p.m. with comments from the district and OPA officials.
Amid allegations of cheating during statewide standardized testing, Oxford Preparatory Academy has hired a law firm to investigate the matter.
The Mission Viejo-based charter is expected to earn near-perfect scores on California’s Academic Performance Index to be released later this week. However, the school’s board of trustees voted to hire a law firm to investigate the testing after Capistrano Unified School District’s Superintendent Joe Farley informed OPA officials that the school’s charter could be revoked in the face of misconduct.
Capo spokesman Marcus Walton said there was little he could discuss publicly.
"The district cannot discuss this issue publicly, but will fulfill its obligations with any charter school for which it serves as a charting agency," he said.
OPA Superintendent Sue Roche said she knows the allegations will go unsubstantiated. Farley's letter was the first she had heard of them.
"Not one allegation has ever been stated to me at all," she said.
Still, the charter's own board of directors, acted immediately to investigate the claims, Roche said.
Attorney Gregory Moser says in his letter to CUSD that his firm has been retained by OPA officials to conduct a third-party investigation into the matter. Moser sent a letter to the district, asking CUSD officials to detail the allegations in writing.
"We hope that the district and OPA can work cooperatively to determine whether the allegations of misconduct have any merit," Moser wrote.
On the other hand, should CUSD decide to run a separate investigation, OPA officials "will not grant the district separate access to its teachers and/or students," Moser wrote.
As first published at the Orange Juice Blog Sunday, Farley notified OPA last week that there may have been some misconduct at Oxford Preparatory Academy during the May Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR, exams. The letter did not include specifics about the allegations.
In August, the state released the STAR results, and based on those results, OPA officials calculated what the school’s so-called API (Academic Performance Index) at .
At the direction of the OPA school board, Moser said, his firm, Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch of San Diego, has tapped another attorney to “examine these claims and direct corrective actions, if necessary.”
Moser told Patch the letter is authentic.
"We expect the allegation made by the accompanying post to be disproven when testing data for Oxford Prep is publicly released by the state for this spring," he said. "Participation by at least 95 percent of the school's students is required under California's testing rules for scores to be valid."
Oxford opened in September 2011, sharing a campus with Barcelona Hills Elementary in Mission Viejo at the school district’s direction. Earlier this year, trustees decided to close Barcelona and allow Oxford to expand its K-8 student population.
Just this weekend, the charter announced that it will now apply to become a K-12 school in Capo. School officials have encouraged OPA supporters to attend to tonight’s CUSD school board meeting to show support.
Meanwhile, through the Orange Juice Blog, the Capistrano Unified Children First organization has called upon its supporters to also show up to tonight’s school board meeting. The blog predicts hundreds of parents will show up to demand the district conduct its own investigation into misconduct allegations.
The board meets 7 tonight at the district headquarters, 33122 Valle Road in San Juan Capistrano.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The manner in which Superintendent Joe Farley informed Oxford officials of possible misconduct is not clear from the OPA attorney's letter. The article has been edited to reflect this ambiguity.