-Granada Hills Charter High School Governing Board
As a school receiving public funds, the first focus of its leaders is supposed to be the students that they serve. This was certainly the promise when Granada Hills High School converted from a public school to a charter. Instead of having to deal with the LAUSD bureaucracy, frustrated parents would have a school where “the increased autonomy and revenue that comes with being an independent charter school will inspire [the] creative spirit, allowing [the] students and staff to perform at higher levels and [the] community to be more actively involved in [the school’s] progress.” Unfortunately, the result of this experiment has been the replacement of one bureaucracy with another, a reduced amount of accountability and the elimination of democratic input. The creative spirit has certainly not thrived in an environment where a student who protests against a rule that prohibits the wearing of a hood in the rain is told that he can be removed from the school because it is a charter.
The result of this change is an environment where a decision regarding a student’s health and safety is made while purposely excluding that child’s parents. During the winter break our daughter encountered a health situation that required surgery. She was cleared to go back to school after two weeks and is fine now. However, the doctor told my wife that she should not participate in physical education for an additional four weeks to ensure that her body fully recovered. As directed by Granada’s attendance office, my wife detailed the exact instructions in writing and included the doctor’s signed note. The coach gave our daughter an alternative assignment and everything seemed to be handled appropriately. Or so we thought.
Last Tuesday my daughter was called out of class to visit the nurse’s office. One of the school’s four nurses said that she had followed up with the doctor’s office and clarified his instructions. According to this nurse, our daughter was only excused from physical education for a total of four weeks from the date of surgery and not from the date she returned to school. She provided our daughter with a new note, which had not been signed by a doctor, that instructed the coach to have her resume physical activity on February 1. When our daughter asked if she could use her cell phone to inform her mother, she was told that she should speak to her mother after school. The school never discussed the issue with either of us before making their decision.
Several red flags were raised in my wife’s mind that night when she learned about what happened. First and foremost, why were her instructions to the school being ignored when they involved a child’s health? Second, what would have happened if our daughter had not told her about the change and as a result she had been forced into participating in physical activities before she was ready? Finally, why was our daughter’s privacy rights violated by having any part of her health history disclosed to a third party without our express, written permission, an act that should not have occurred under the HIPAA Privacy Rules. Given the seriousness of these violations and the need to make sure that the original instructions were followed, we decided that it was necessary to immediately involve the school’s Executive Director, Brian Bauer.
My wife first confirmed with the doctor’s office that she understood the directions about our daughter’s health care correctly and then left two messages for Bauer over the course of the week. The calls were finally returned on Friday. Bauer immediately dismissed her demand for a meeting with him stating that he “will determine who has a meeting with me.” Instead, she was told to set up a meeting with the Director of Nursing who would determine if further action was needed. My wife asked if she would be granted a meeting with him if she was not satisfied with the results of her meeting with the nursing staff and was told “if it [was] just to rehash the same details, then no.” When she reminded Bauer that he is supposed to be the one who handles complaints, he denied that this is his responsibility despite the fact that the school’s Uniform Complaint Procedures specify that “If complaints cannot be resolved informally, complainants may file a written complaint with the office of the Executive Director” and that “the Executive Director or designee shall use his or her best efforts to ascertain the facts relating to the complaint” including “talk[ing] with the parties identified in the complaint or persons with knowledge of the particulars of the complaint to ascertain said facts.”
At no time during their conversation did Bauer inform my wife of her rights under the Uniform Complaint Procedures nor did he provide her with a copy of the school’s complaint form. He did, however, tell her that the nursing staff had already shared with him all the relevant details including the information about their conversation with the doctor’s office. When my wife pointed out that if they conveyed medical information, then our daughter’s privacy rights had been once again violated, he stated that he was “entitled to that information.”
This incident is a perfect example why organizations that operate behind the curtain away from public scrutiny should not be funded with taxpayer funds. This private bureaucracy has been so emboldened by the LAUSD’s lack of oversight that they have been lulled into believing that “the decision of the [school’s] Governing Board shall be final.” In actuality, the school can lose its charter for violating the law. If only the LAUSD would take it’s job of oversight seriously…
There are also serious questions raised about the leadership of the school. When Granada was a public school, Bauer served as its principal. He still has responsibility for the same school, but his title has been inflated to Executive Director. The cult of personality is so strong that instead of striving to make sure that they have the best leader possible, they make sure that the one that they have has “one of the the top compensated positions in Los Angeles.” In converting the school to a charter, Bauer promised democracy to the masses, but once the voters gave him the Board he wanted, he converted it to one that he can control without the messiness of elections. Now when a parent complains, he tells her that he does not have an obligation to listen. This management style may work in the private sector, but Bauer’s employer is not the school he runs with an iron fist. It is the taxpayers of California who actually pay his salary.
I am a former candidate for the District 3 seat on the LAUSD School Board, founder of Change The LAUSD and member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council. Opinions are my own.