Lassen County: Charter school called to task denied request to keep records private

The Westwood Unified School district has demanded that Westwood Charter School take immediate steps to correct alleged violations of California law and to provide an extensive list of documents concerning management, the budget, personnel, and student progress. -db

April 27, 2010

Westwood Charter School must provide all requested documents, take steps to cure and correct alleged violations of California law and make sweeping and significant management changes if it hopes to keep its charter, according to a Notice to Remedy issued on March 19 by the Westwood Unified School District, its chartering agency.

In the Notice to Remedy, the WUSD board demanded WCS remove its superintendent, Henry Bietz, as an employee, officer or director of the charter school; cease doing business with any business entity that employs Bietz or his spouse, Karen Bietz; provide an accounting of all state funds paid by WCS to Bietz or Bietz Consulting; reimburse the state for all funds paid by WCS to WCSS, Bietz or Bietz Consulting that result from transactions tainted by a prohibited conflict of interest; provide an accounting for all state funds paid by WCS to Karen Bietz that result from transactions tainted by a prohibited conflict of interest; and, demonstrate that WCSS, Inc., is an appropriately structured for-profit corporation that is a wholly owned subsidiary of a non-profit public benefit corporation.

According to the Notice to Remedy, the tainted funds received by Bietz amount to at least $267,031.60. The WUSD reserves the right to increase the total amount due upon the receipt of further documents and information.

Last month the California Attorney General’s Office filed a felony complaint in Lassen County Superior Court alleging Bietz, the superintendent of Westwood Charter School and superintendent/principal of the Westwood Unified School District, violated conflict of interest and perjury laws while working for the two schools at the same time.

The criminal complaint charges Bietz with felony violations of Government Code section 1090, conflict of interest, and Penal Code section 118a, perjury.

According to count 1 of the criminal complaint, between Oct. 1, 2004 and Oct. 31, 2005, Bietz, “while in his official capacity as superintendent of the Westwood Unified School District, became financially interested in a contract made with Westwood Charter School.”

Government Code section 1099 provides that a public official may not participate in making a contract in which he has a financial interest.

Ironically, the WUSD created WCS in 2001, based in large part on Bietz’s efforts.

According to the court file, Bietz’s income from WCS was reported on IRS 1099 forms as $28,000 in 2004, $32,000 in 2005, $48,000 in 2006, $70,607.20 in 2007, and $88,424.40 in 2008.

Count 2 of the complaint, the perjury charge, alleges that between Jan. 1, 2004 and Dec. 31, 2008, Bietz declared “no reportable interest” on his California Fair Political Practices Commission Form 700 even though he was receiving income from Westwood Charter School.

What’s a Notice to Remedy?

A Notice to Remedy is the first legal step taken before revoking a charter school’s charter. It provides an opportunity for the charter school to cure and correct any alleged violations.

The alleged violations by WCS fall into four categories — violations of the charter, failure to meet pupil outcomes, failure to meet generally accepted accounting principles or engaging in fiscal mismanagement and violations of law as provided in the California Government Code, the Brown Act, the Political Reform Act and California Education Code.

Adele Emershaw, interim superintendent at the WUSD, said the deadline for WCS to provide requested documents and change its management structure has been extended, but she declined to comment for this story.

Kim Tomerlin, the chief business officer of Artanis and a spokesperson for WCS, said, “Westwood Charter School is working with Westwood Unified School District and the Lassen County Office of Education on the issues raised in the Notice to Remedy and looks forward to a successful outcome for all parties.”

More cures and corrections

According to the Notice to Remedy, WCS also allegedly has failed to meet the student outcomes identified in its charter.

In order to cure and correct this matter, WCS must provide documentation to demonstrate students have achieved an appropriate age or grade level mastery of mathematics skills. WCS also must demonstrate it is taking appropriate remedial action, pursuant to both state and federal law, for a school in its third year of program improvement.

In addition, the Notice to Remedy alleges WCS has violated certain provisions of law, resulting in fiscal mismanagement. WCS has failed to provide all the documents requested by the district and failed to provide a sufficient second interim budgetary report as requested.

In order to cure and correct this matter, WCS must provide all the requested documents.

These include: a listing of all students in both 2008 and 2009; all current WCS board policies and administrative procedures; organizational charts for both WCS and Westwood Charter Schools, Inc.; budget calendars and instructions; the original adopted budget for school year 2009-2010; position control records to support 2009-2010 budgeted amounts; identification of investments, including a list of all cash accounts and investments as of Dec. 31, 2009; bank statements and bank reconciliations for the 2008-2009 fiscal year; copies of all itemized billings and backup from WCSS for the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 fiscal years; a list of all 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 teaching staff including their location, assignment, credentials and licenses; salary schedules and employer-paid health plan information; and latest actuarial study for post employment benefits.

WCS agreed to provide some of the documents if WUSD agreed the information would remain private. The WUSD declined to sign such an agreement. WUSD said it “understands its obligation to keep personal/private information confidential,” but it could not agree to such a stipulation.

WUSD recently posted the Notice to Remedy on its Web site at

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