Wed, Jul

A Toxic Mess in the Valley: The North Valley Military Institute (NVMI)

THE EASTSIDER - At their worst, charter schools wind up being real estate ventures for the charter corporation that owns the land and the facility when a charter school goes bust.  You can find that article here. 

So many charter schools with private owners were approved and built in L.A. in the last decade, many poorly enrolled and poorly performing when they open, that the L.A. School Board members have been forced to become experts in property and pricing, not just staffing and standards. 

 It’s one reason why Jackie Goldberg came out of retirement to change the game and end the giveaway of public money to charter corporations, and provide a School Board majority of believers in public education, not land grabs.

With this background, let’s cut to the chase.  Under the catchy name of the North Valley Military Institute (NVMI), there is a charter school so toxic that even the LAUSD Board couldn’t take it anymore and declined to give them an OK.

The EAPD Steps Up

Most of the general public has ever heard of NVMI. Fortunately, one political group, the East Area Progressive Democrats (EAPD), have been tracking them for a while. Also an independent blogger, Carl Petersen, has been tracking them in great detail, as he writes about the sordid underbelly of public school policy in Los Angeles.

On May 30th, the EAPD forcefully made the case that NVMI is a toxic pile of waste and a total embarrassment to even the charter school industry: 

“Yet even amid distress at NVMI and overdue accountability finally coming to bear on this non-compliant,  scofflaw organization,  NVMI is seeking to keep going with the shell game that has defined its  past decade of deepening troubles while devouring public money with chronically  poor results. 

NVMI is a case study in shamelessness.  Like a terrible house guest. NVMI  so aggravated  relations at its current co-location  in  Sun Valley that it must now seek a new home base in desperation. To that end,  NVMI  is turning to L.A. Mission College to latch onto that campus for space and exploit its hospitality. The L.A. Community  College District (LACCD) Board is expected to consider an ill-advised lease agreement to that effect at its June 7 meeting. 

This move by NVMI comes amid an extraordinary audit of its finances by the Fiscal Crisis  Management  and Assistance  Team (FMCAT)  urged by the L A. County Office of Education (LACOE).  In its March 7 letter,  LACOE documents "illegal activities"  by NVMI. Among other misdeeds, LACOE alleges NVMI "mismanaged  and misappropriated"  $90,000 of public money for a 4-day junket in Las Vegas in Aug.  2022 by up to 63 NVMI staff and family members.  The NVMI superintendent admitted in writing  in  Dec. 2022 that NVMI used federal dollars for the trip. That is a forbidden use of the federal money.

... “NVMI ceased to operate in full compliance with its LACOE charter long ago.  It is a poster child for fraud, waste, and exploitation  of lobbying and political influence strategies by a charter school just to stay alive.  We ask you to do your part to end this disastrous shell game. We count on you to protect public dollars and taxpayers and to stop the ruinous enabling of this rogue organization.”

NVMI Makes Desperate Request to L.A. Community College Board

In May, NVMI canceled further classes for grades 6 to 8. Just like that, it ended its middle-school program and threw students and families into turmoil. Their end-of-year guidance to the pupils who would not be coming back in the fall? Trash your NVMI shirts, they aren’t needed anymore. 

Just in time for this column, Carl sounded the alarm as NVMI wants the L.A. Community College Board of Trustees to bail them out from their financial escapades and failures. I am informed that they have almost no money in the bank to continue with grades 9 to 12, but that’s not stopping them from asking the Community College Board to rent them space. Evidently, the Board’s Chancellor, Francisco C. Rodriguez, laid out the welcome mat for NVMI.

As Carl put it:

“With the 2022–23 school year coming to a close, the North Valley Military Institute (NVMI) currently has nowhere to hold classes next year. With time running out to come up with a plan, “Superintendent” Mark Ryan went before the Los Angeles Community College District’s (LACCD) Board of Trustees on June 7, 2023, with the hope of getting approval to rent space on the Los Angeles Mission College campus. He hoped to get this done quickly as the Los Angeles County Office of Education must approve any change in the charter school’s operating plans before classes can start.

Unfortunately for Ryan, the members of the LACOE Board did not feel that they had enough information to make an appropriately informed decision. They tabled their consideration of the lease until it can be discussed further at a special meeting of the trustees on June 21. This delay will make it difficult for the school to get the needed approvals from LACOE in order for the next school year to start on time.” 

The Takeaway

The evidence is clear that NVMI is a hungry evil, but the final outcome of their lease request won’t be known until the Board meets on June 21.

Even getting some honest scrutiny of this desperate lease request is a victory for political activism in Los Angeles, like the EAPD with their thousand plus members (and serious impact at the ballot box). They motivate their members to reach out and get voters to vote.

As EAPD President Hans Johnson said the other day, “An LACCD denial of this request would be a real victory for all Angelenos, who deserve elected officials that work for us to actually protect our public money from fraudulent use.”

It’s also a tribute to the alternative media in Los Angeles, who get the truth out to the public that will never see it on the pages of the Los Angeles Times or other newspapers.

Please join me in urging the L.A. Community College Board to reject this lease request and protect a public campus from further fraud and waste by NVMI. Public education does not protect itself. It takes us, the public, to speak up.

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.)

Please see these 2 important attachments that should sound alarms about NVMI: