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Cheating Investigation Cost OPA 100 Times More than CUSD

Oxford Preparatory Academy and Capo Unified commissioned separate reviews into whether the charter school cheated on standardized tests.

Investigating the cheating allegations that were ultimately determined to be unfounded cost the targeted charter school 100 times more than it did the Capistrano Unified School District.

Both Mission Viejo-based Oxford Preparatory Academy and Capo Unified hired independent investigators to look into accusations that teachers at the charter school cheated to help the students earn high marks on standardized testing.

The students’ scores helped the 1-year-old charter land the highest marks for an elementary school in Orange County.

In the end, both investigators came to the same conclusion: They could not substantiate the allegations.

But OPA paid much more dearly for that third-party review.

“The cost of direct billed expenses to date is approximately $57,835,” said Sue Roche, OPA’s executive director. “This does not include additional time and resources, as well as indirect costs.”

By contract, Capistrano Unified only spent $529.20, said Beverly De Nicola, spokeswoman for the district. That’s because Capo has a $45,000-a-year contract with private investigator T. Davis & Associates of Dana Point.

“T. Davis & Associates do a wide variety of confidential investigations for us, everything from parent complaints to current or former employee investigations, student issues, etc.,” De Nicola said in an email. “In a big district like this, there is always something.”

Erica Cox December 14, 2012 at 02:40 PM
That is so sad and disheartening. Money that we should have spent on our kids and their programs. And yet, we still have no public apology or congratulations to our school. With the lawyers on contract, will they continue to "investigate" every anonymous claim that comes there way? When will the persecution stop?
Corrine K December 14, 2012 at 05:02 PM
I am neutral on the topic of charter schools, but I am confused by this issue. It's my understanding that the district investigated the allegations that were made by school parents and teachers. The findings showed no wrong-doing. So why are the parents asking the district to apologize? Didn't they do what we elected and hire them to do? Should the charter school the thanking them for doing their job efficiently?
randy December 14, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Good point. Beyond critical thinking. I want to know what problem is, especially OPA spent $50k to prop up its reputation, and they should thank Capo for inflating OPA positive publicity than ever. Why other districts abruptedly rejected and backed off OPA charter petition proposal? Monday night, Trustee Bryson regretted that no one can understand. Like you, I'm neutral as well, but it sounded like some charter operators can be classified as from certain movement, extremism to traditional philosophy roots. I'm researching on other states having similar experiences that tangled up the school trustees on children's behalf. In Texas, the charter operators compete each other against themselves find me pondering about the trustees, dealing with sharks eating other sharks in peaceful way.
Capo Parent Too December 14, 2012 at 05:45 PM
OPA didn't have to do its own investigation, they made that choice because they didn't trust the District and fought them about doing an independent investigation. They could have easily saved that money if they'd only let CUSD, which is the chartering agency to do one investigation. But because they refuse to think of themselves as part of CUSD it's adversarial and very much an us vs them mentality, this is what cost the school money. No one forced them to conduct their own investigation, if they were really so confident of being exonerated, they would have simply complied with CUSD doing one investigation and saved 50 plus thousands dollars. Now, they want to play the victim some more, but this was their own doing, they chose to spend this money on their own.
Shripathi Kamath December 14, 2012 at 06:37 PM
"Investigating the cheating allegations that were ultimately determined to be unfounded cost the targeted charter school 100 times more than it did the Capistrano Unified School District." More like "For investigating the cheating allegations that were ultimately determined to be unfounded the targeted charter school paid 100 times more than the Capistrano Unified School District."
Riffed December 14, 2012 at 08:04 PM
I don't think the calculation in the article is correct. Paying a $45k annual retainer doesn't mean every job done by that firm is "free" - it means the OPA investigation cost a proportionate share of that retainer. Also not included in the CUSD cost (but was included in the OPA cost) is CUSD's legal representation in the matter. I don't know what that cost is, but judging from the body of work I'd estimate $25-50k. It would be nice if instead of going for the punchy headline, the reporter could investigate the TOTAL CUSD cost (pro-rated portion of investigator retainer + legal fees associated with the investigation) so that it's an apples-to-apples comparison instead of just selectively picking amounts and then doing a mathematically inaccurate comparison in order to get a headline. Doesn't mean that good points aren't made by the commenters, but let's make sure the underlying information is correct before extrapolating off of that to form opinions.
Shripathi Kamath December 14, 2012 at 08:16 PM
"Capistrano Unified only spent $529.20" tells me that in addition to the $45,000 contract, the district spent some more for this investigation. " let's make sure the underlying information is correct before extrapolating off of that to form opinions." Oh great! Now I have to spend some of my disposable income on a private investigation that a Patch report on the costs of investigation conducted by OPA and CUSD is accurate before I can "extrapolate off of that to form opinions" Sigh! Commenting on hyper local news site articles is no longer the cheap fun it promised to be.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) December 14, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Actually, Riffed, I did. Here's my exact request: "I'd like to make a new request under the California Public Records Act to find out how much the district has spent on pursuing the investigation of Oxford Preparatory Academy cheating allegations. Such expenses should include, but are not limited to, expenditures on attorney fees and to T. Davis & Associates." I got back what I got back. I have asked about the retainer. No response yet.
Capo Parent December 14, 2012 at 11:51 PM
CPToo Wow, OPA doesn't trust CUSD, I wonder why. As for OPA conducting its own investigation, do you really think it was a coincidence that the cheating allegations came out right towards the tail end of recent CUSD board election? Do you think CUSD is looking for any nonfinancial reason to deny OPA a charter renewal? You're either got your head up Farley's caboose or you're really naive.
Capo Parent Too December 15, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Nice, really no way to respond, OPA had every right to conduct their own investigation but to whine about the cost when they didn't have to is ridiculous. They could have saved that money by having one investigation. I'm neither naive or the other alternative, which adds nothing to the discussion, it's like responding to a fourth grader.
OC Parent December 15, 2012 at 09:28 PM
CPToo - where in the article does it state that OPA is whining about the costs? And in regards as to why OPA would do an investigation independent of the one CUSD well perhaps it is because CUSD leaked a confidential letter from the firm representing OPA to Dr. Farley. That leak should be investigated at the district's expense. Furthermore T Davis is not a law firm but a private investigator. Yet the CUSD paid report will not be released as the district is claiming attorney-client privilege yet the tax payers of this district paid for the CUSD investigation. So the lack of transparency CUSD has demonstrated in this matter should be of concern to all.
randy December 15, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Thought it was said that OPA leaked to OJ blog site, not CUSD. Am I correct?
OC Parent December 15, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Randy as reported by the Patch earlier this week: "Later in the evening, Trustee Anna Bryson said the initial report of the cheating allegations, which were first published in a blog, most likely came from a school board member. “It would have to come from a trustee. We don’t know why,” she said. “It was not done at the request of anyone. We regret it very much.” http://missionviejo.patch.com/articles/cusd-s-contentious-election-season-put-to-rest
randy December 15, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Penny? I think she is a documentation queen. I remember she mentioned about this twice and I thought it was CUSD at first.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) December 16, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Randy, I don't have documentation on WHO leaked the letter to the OJ Blog. The blog itself only says it came into possession of the letter. It doesn't say from where. The only thing we have is Trustee Bryson's comments. I did not get the letter leaked to me (and had I, I would protect my source). I saw it on the OJ Blog like everyone else and had it authenticated before writing a story about its contents. The letter was from the OPA attorney to CUSD.
Interested December 18, 2012 at 01:33 AM
"You got back what you got back." Really? Is that seriously your answer to this questionable information you were fed? It sounds to me that there is something more going on with CUSD only having spent $529.20 in addition to the $45,000 contract...wait, contract? What district has a contract with an investigator? It is definitely unheard of, legitimately speaking, for a district to have a contracted investigator. It would be wise to dig further into information you are given before simply reporting whatever you just happen to "get back". Thanks.
Capo Parent December 18, 2012 at 09:13 PM
CPToo Responding to a fourth grader is way over your head. Maybe you can handle a preschooler, but not a fourth grader.

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