When Protesters Shut Down Extera Charter Schools’ March 2019 Board Meeting They Criticized Extera For Taking Money From Privatizing Walton/Broad Front Group Great Public Schools Now – And Doctor Jim Kennedy Tacitly Accepted The Validity Of Their Criticism By Mumbling Non-Denials About How Extera Had Not Yet Accepted Any GPSN Money – But Emails Obtained Via The CPRA And Published Here Show That Even While Kennedy Was Mumbling His Mumbles – Even Then – Extera Was Actively Seeking GPSN’s Money – With The Active Support Of CCSA – To Support Their Expansion Into The Montebello Unified School District – In Other Words Precisely The Kind Of Colonial Charterism Opposed By The Protesters – Showing The Utter Dishonesty Of Kennedy’s Claims

So you probably heard about how activists from Centro CSO and the United Teachers of Los Angeles and Eastside Padres Unidos Contra la Privatizacion protested vigorously and shut down the March 19, 2019 meeting of the Extera Charter Conspiracy Board of Directors to express their opposition to Extera’s colonial co-location at Eastman Avenue Elementary School in Boyle Heights.

And one of the key exchanges was between a protester, whose name I don’t know, and self-proclaimed doctor and supreme Extera commander Jim Kennedy, and you can watch it here.1 The backstory is that Corri Ravare had been talking previously about how Extera was getting some money from famous Walton/Broad privatizing front organization Great Public Schools Now, which, as the protester notes, is extraordinarily revealing with respect to which team Extera plays for.2

The protester called Dr. Jim Kennedy out on this and he denied that they had taken any money from GPSN: “At this point we have not …” But the truth, as the protester said, is that Corri Ravare had already “said we pretty much have the money.” And the problem with this? Well, clearly, it is that “Great Public Schools Now have declared themselves an enemy of public education. Those are the people we have to work against because they are selling out our public schools to Eli Broad and the Walton Foundation.”

She’s absolutely right about that, of course, and Doctor Jim Kennedy seems to understand that, or at least to realize that Extera’s association with GPSN doesn’t look so good. No doubt this is why he went on to tell her straight out that “[Extera has] not yet accepted that money.” But, as you may already have guessed, Doctor JK is being extraordinarily deceptive here with his mumbled half-denials. In fact Extera had been actively pursuing money from GPSN since December 2018, four months before the date of this meeting.

And the money they were pursuing was not innocuous. Not meant for important things like supplies, textbooks, instructional materials, anything at all to be used to actually educate actual children. They were seeking money from GPSN’s charter school expansion funding program for a planning grant to support their continued colonial charter conspiracy expansion, this time into the majority-Latino Montebello Unified School District. In other words, the protester’s criticism was right on target.

The details of this story are revealed in an interesting set of emails I obtained recently from Extera via the California Public Records Act. It begins on December 4, 2018 when Josue Cofresi of the California Charter Schools Association sent an email to Doctor Jim Kennedy introducing him to Eric DeSobe of Great Public Schools now with the express purpose of helping Extera get money from GPSN for expansion:

Subject: Intro to Eric DeSobe at GPSN
From: Josue Cofresi <jcofresi@ccsa.org>
Date: 12/4/18, 2:28 PM
To: Jim Kennedy <jkennedy@exteraschools.org>
CC: Eric DeSobe <edesobe@greatpublicschoolsnow.org>

Hello Jim,

I am writing to connect you with Eric DeSobe (CC-ed), who is taking on school growth work at Great Public Schools Now while Lauren Tate is out on maternity leave. As I believe you know, GPSN has an established planning grant for quality start-up teams or existing charters planning replication or expansion. The grant covers school development costs incurred up until the authorization of a charter.

In a recent call with Eric, I discussed Extera Public Schools and my impressions of your team’s capacity, track record, and future growth plans. As a result of that discussion, he is interested in connecting with you to learn about your schools and what’s in store for your replication plans.

Jim and Eric, I’ll leave the next step of actually connecting to you both.

All the best,

Josue Cofresi
Director, School Development, Greater Los Angeles
California Charter Schools Association
Cell: (213) 634-3734
jcofresi@ccsa.org
www.ccsa.org

And DeSobe replied the next day inviting Doctor Jim Kennedy to get started on Extera’s application for the planning grant money. Kennedy got right back to DeSobe, making it perfectly clear that the purpose of this money was to expand Extera’s charter school conspiracy, either into Montebello USD or, if something went wrong there, farther into LAUSD:

Subject: Re: Intro to Eric DeSobe at GPSN
From: Jim Kennedy <jkennedy@exteraschools.org>
Date: 12/5/18, 1:39 PM
To: Eric DeSobe <edesobe@greatpublicschoolsnow.org>
CC: jcofresi@ccsa.org

Hi Eric and Josue,

Thank you Josue for facilitating this connection. I really appreciate the support! (hug)

Eric, we are currently exploring options for growth. In particular, we are investigating the possibility of opening a school in Montebello USD, a district that is adjacent to our current schools. We are also considering a new school within the LAUSD. (That would probably be on the back burner in case plans to open in Montebello fall through or are delayed for an extensive period of time.)

We are definitely interested in proceeding with an application for the planning grant. Please send the materials so that we can follow up.

Thank you again,

Jim

Jim Kennedy, Ed.D.
Chief Executive Officer
Extera Public Schools
Mobile: (818) 506-5831
Office: (323) 261-0059

And, so eager are these privatizers to be about their work of dismantling public education, DeSobe took only 16 minutes to reply to Doctor Jim Kennedy and, with that reply, to send over a couple of very interesting attachments. The first of these is GPSN’s nine page grant application form.3 The application requires a number of long narrative responses about the applicants goals, visions, and so on.4 The filled-in version of this, which I don’t (yet) have, will be fascinating to read.5

The other attachment is an overview of GPSN’s charter school expansion planning grant program. It’s worth reading this, but a detailed analysis is too far off the subject of this post, already getting too long.6 It is worth noting, though, that the list of targeted geographies reveals GPSN’s purpose to be explicitly colonial, even if covered up by a thin veneer of concern for relieving the lot of the oppressed, the poor through what GPSN, like privatizers everywhere, are characteristically pleased to call innovation:7

LAUSD or a neighboring high poverty district (Inglewood, Compton, Lynwood or Lennox). Racially/socioeconomically diverse models will be considered, though preference will be given to models serving a high-need student population (70%+ free or reduced-price lunch eligible).

I don’t have information (yet) about what happened between December 2018 and March 20198 but I have requests out for it. My evidence picks up again on March 22, 2019, with this email from Extera Charter Conspiracy Supreme Operating Commander, Corri Ravare, to Josue Cofresi and Chris Copolillo, another CCSA flack, soliciting a letter of support from them for Extera’s grant application:

Subject: Letter of Support from CCSA for GPSN application
From: Corri Ravare <cravare@exteraschools.org>
Date: 3/22/19, 11:17 AM
To: Christopher Copolillo <ccopolillo@ccsa.org>, Josue Cofresi <jcofresi@ccsa.org>
CC: Jim Kennedy <jkennedy@exteraschools.org>, Curtis Rhodes <crhodes@exteraschools.org>

Hi Chris and Josue,

Happy Friday! Wow, what a week!

We are wrapping up final elements of the GPSN planning grant and a question came up about additional letters of support that we could include. We are gathering a couple of letters from the small initial group of Montebello parents that support Extera’s expansion into Montebello but in terms of letters from organizations, would it make sense to include a letter from CCSA? If so, this is our request for such a letter! If your support is sort if implied by our referral to GPSN then that’s understood as well. Thanks! Let us know.

5. Demonstrated support – What support do you have for your proposed school? Please include evidence of support (parents, partnerships, support from funders, elected officials, community leaders, etc.).

Corri Tate Ravare
Chief Operating Officer
3626 E. 5th Street, 2nd Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90063
office: 323-261-0059 ext. 2626
cell: 424-335-8902

This is an important document. Don’t forget that it was sent only three days after the protesters shut down Extera’s board meeting.9 Recall that at the meeting on March 19 Ravare’s position was that the money was basically a done deal. The grant-seeking had been ongoing since December 2018. The fact that Ravare chose to solicit additional letters at this late date suggests perhaps that the deal was not so done as Ravare made it out to be. Perhaps she and Extera had become newly nervous about their grant-obtaining prospects given this newly visible opposition to their expansion plans.

In this light it makes some sense that Ravare would be looking for extra letters of support. This email also illuminates Doctor Jim Kennedy’s mumblings at the board meeting about how they hadn’t yet accepted GPSN’s money. Sure, they hadn’t accepted it, but they were still actively seeking it, and in fact, redoubled their efforts to seek it in response to the protests.

And perhaps their fears weren’t all delusional. Apparently CCSA was ghosting Extera at this point, which may well have been due to some kind of calculations about publicity. Not only did they not respond promptly to Ravare’s desperate plea for support, but five days later Ravare, evidently feeling the pain of their silence and metaphorically dripping with desperation, was so very desperate as to hit them up again! How freaking humiliating:

Subject: Re: Letter of Support from CCSA for GPSN application
From: Corri Ravare <cravare@exteraschools.org>
Date: 3/27/19, 12:21 PM
To: Christopher Copolillo <ccopolillo@ccsa.org>, Josue Cofresi <jcofresi@ccsa.org>
CC: Jim Kennedy <jkennedy@exteraschools.org>, Curtis Rhodes <crhodes@exteraschools.org>

Hi Chris and Josue,
Any thoughts on a letter of support for Extera in Montebello from CCSA? We are aiming to submit our application on Friday.

Thanks!

Corri Tate Ravare

And like pretty much every other correspondent in the history of correspondence who’s sent such a plea to the one they’re being ghosted by and received a response, the response received, sent to Ravare by Copolillo a few hours after she wrote, was not at all what was sought. CCSA, it seems, was no longer as vocally enthusiastic about Extera’s application as they had been in December 2018, so they sent a vague brushoff.10

It’s also relevant that the response came from Copolillo, CCSA’s Director of Regional Advocacy, rather than from Cofresi, who had been handling the matter before and who, at least apparently, operates at a lower level in the CCSA hierarchy than Copolillo:

Subject: RE: Letter of Support from CCSA for GPSN application
From: Chris Copolillo <ccopolillo@ccsa.org>
Date: 3/27/19, 4:50 PM
To: Corri Ravare <cravare@exteraschools.org>, Josue Cofresi <jcofresi@ccsa.org>
CC: Jim Kennedy <jkennedy@exteraschools.org>, Curtis Rhodes <crhodes@exteraschools.org>

Apologies, Corri. I think the letter of support could be duplicative of other steps we’ve taken in talking to GPSN about this grant. However, you are absolutely free to list us as supportive – we just do not have the capacity to pull together a letter at the moment.

Thanks,

Chris Copolillo
Director, Regional Advocacy, Greater Los Angeles
California Charter Schools Association
(804) 398-8975

The next piece of the story is found in this April 18, 2019 email from Doctor Jim Kennedy to the Extera Board. He writes about many things,11 but regarding the GPSN grant he reveals that they were awarded the $50K and that they would be using it to plan their expansion into the Montebello USD:

As we have discussed during several meetings this year, Extera has been investigating the possibility of submitting a petition for a new school in Montebello. At last month’s meeting, we shared news that we submitted a request to Great Public Schools Now (GPSN) for a $50,000 planning grant that would allow us to conduct community outreach and pay any related costs to moving forward with laying the groundwork for a successful petition submission.

GPSN conducted a capacity interview with our team last week and subsequently notified us that we have been awarded the $50,000 planning grant to support our efforts. Although a formal vote on the petition that will be submitted to Montebello won’t happen until the May board meeting, the board needs to be in agreement that we intend to pursue opening a new school there. In past meetings, support was inconsistent, and consensus for the new petition was not clear.

And the final piece in today’s story comes from this May 6, 2019 email from Corri Ravare to Chris Copolillo and Josue Cofresi telling them that GPSN had formally awarded the money and that now they would get started on developing their expansion plans:

Subject: We got the planning grant from GPSN
From: Corri Ravare <cravare@exteraschools.org>
Date: 5/6/19, 2:14 PM
To: Josue Cofresi <jcofresi@ccsa.org>, Christopher Copolillo <ccopolillo@ccsa.org>

Hi Chris and Josue,
I can’t recall if we let you know or not but we did get the planning grant from GPSN! Thanks for your support on that! So now we’re on to the actual work.

I’ll be in touch with you in the coming weeks on the petition development to get your thoughts.

Thanks again.

Corri Tate Ravare

And I don’t have any later information, partly because, as I said above, the CPRA request in response to which I obtained these materials wasn’t specifically targeted at learning about this grant12 and partly because Extera took forever to hand over the goods.13 But even from the limited evidence we have, a few things are very clear.

The protesters were absolutely correct about Extera’s accepting money from Great Public Schools Now, they were right about the purpose of the money being to undermine public education, and Doctor Jim Kennedy tacitly acknowledged that they were right by creating the appearance of denying their claims through ultra-careful word choice and selective omissions.

If he didn’t know that taking GPSN’s money actually makes Extera look bad, reveals them as the colonial privatizers that not only they are but that the protesters were asserting that they are, then why in the world would he have taken such care to try to create this false impression? Why not, if there’s nothing shameful about taking this money, just admit that they’d applied for the grant and had been actively seeking it for months?

This episode highlights, yet again, one of the essential dangers that the existence of charter schools poses to the public good. If LAUSD acted this way it would be possible to organize to pressure board members. And LAUSD board members are in fact susceptible to pressure because ultimately they want to be re-elected. It’s not easy to organize to eject an incumbent, but it can be done and elected officials know it can be done. Even failed but highly visible attempts to eject officials do damage, maybe to their fundraising, maybe cumulatively to their electability, and so on.

But charter schools are just not subject to this kind of pressure. No one in the areas that Extera operates in, that they expand into, has any say whatsover over Doctor Jim Kennedy’s continuing as Executive Director. He can’t be voted out except by the Board, and the Board isn’t elected, they appoint themselves. They do not have any incentive whatsoever to pay any attention at all to the desires, needs, opinions, of people who live in the neighborhoods affected by their operations.

This, of course, is one of the goals of the privatizers, to remove power from the hands of the people and if it can’t be removed altogether, to insulate it, hide it away behind layers, to protect it from being used by the wrong people, by the people the privatizers’ profit machine requires as victims. The only ordinary way left to people to oppose Extera on a daily basis, to oppose charter schools and similar privatizing project in general, is to protest.14

More news when I have it, friends! And here, as promised, is a transcription of the exchange about GPSN money between a protester and Doctor Jim Kennedy:


Unidentified interlocutor: You are not taking money from Great Public Schools now?

Dr. Jim Kennedy: At this point we have not …

UI: She [Corri Ravare] said we pretty much have the money. You’re trying to go after it like you have gotten it before. Great Public Schools Now have declared themselves an enemy of public education.

Dr. JK: Does LAUSD take money from Great Public Schools Now?

UI: Yes. Those are the people we have to work against because they are selling out our public schools to Eli Broad and the Walton Foundation.

Dr. JK: Well, we have not yet accepted that money so we would appreciate it if you…

UI: So if you continue [unintelligible] for Great Public Schools Now you’re making yourself a target of the community and you are not supporting public education.

Everyone (chanting): Extera! Escucha! Estamos en la lucha!


Image of Supreme Exteralicious Commander In Extera-ity Doctor Jim Kennedy is ©2019 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and you know, like cough cough!

  1. There’s also a transcription of the exchange at the end of the post.
  2. Charter conspirators vigorously deny the existence of teams at all. They consistently claim that we all want the same thing, which is what’s best for the kids. Destroyers have taken this stance throughout history, though. We won’t be fooled. When your enemy tells you that there are no sides and we all want the same thing they mean for you to shut up about what you want and submit to their will. No.
  3. The original is this MS Word Doc. I exported that PDF for ease of reading on mobile.
  4. My use of the word “vision” without scare quotes here is not meant to signify any kind of acceptance of the iceberg of conceptual structures and pernicious epistemological premises of which it is a tip.
  5. Also this is something to ask basically every other charter in LAUSD for. One of the fundamental techniques in CPRAlogical activism is to apply each instance of new knowledge about what kinds of records exist to all similarly situated agencies. The law allows requesters to ask for records by their content as opposed to their name, but knowing the names of the actual records makes requests far more effective in my experience. So yeah, gonna ask all charters for all filled-in instances of this form!
  6. I hope to get back to this at some point, though. It really is interesting.
  7. This idea that the oppressed and the poor are oppressed and poor due to a lack of innovation is a sure sign of a grifter. The oppressed are oppressed because people are oppressing them. The poor are poor because people steal from them. The only innovation needed here is to stop oppressing and stealing. That’s not at all what’s on offer from GPSN, though. Neither they nor the zillionaire masters whose boots they lick so lustfully have any reason whatsoever to stop oppressing or stealing and many, many reasons not to.
  8. The emails discussed in this post were only accidently responsive to the terms of my request to Extera. I’ve since submitted more detailed requests focusing specifically on this issue and will write about them when they appear. Serendipity is one of the key pillars of activist CPRAology!
  9. Hence Ravare’s exclamation-point-bedizend comment about what a week it was.
  10. The reasons for the brushoff are vague. That it’s a brushoff is not vague.
  11. Note that this is a fascinating and extraordinarily rich email with a ton of important info about Extera’s reactions and overreactions to the March protests. I will be writing a separate post on this topic but if you’re interested at all read it, read it, read it!
  12. I didn’t know about the grant before getting the emails and learning of the protest. But I have a number of new requests in to Extera that ought to shed more light on the whole thing.
  13. I doubt they’ll be so tardy in the future, though, given that my recently filed lawsuit against The Accelerated Schools seems to have woken up a number of local charters to the fact that they’re incurring significant liability through inaction. But who knows. I’ve been suing business improvement districts in Los Angeles over CPRA violations since 2016 and they’ve paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to my lawyers and their own, and yet a lot of them are still stalling. This is the kind of thing that happens when agencies are spending other people’s money, and charter schools are in essentially the same position as BIDs in this regard.
  14. And to expose via CPRA, of course. And to file lawsuits against them whenever they break the law. And to organize to change the laws governing charters. But none of these are ordinary. None of them easy to do on a daily basis.
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