By Miriam Raftery
March 10, 2010 (La Mesa) – Last week, we reported that Helix Charter High School’s board has filed a lawsuit against the Grossmont Union High School District after the GUHSD announcing its intent to consider revocation of the Helix charter.
Now GUHSD Superintendent Robert Collins has issued a public letter strongly defending the District’s actions and accusing Helix Charter Board of being “non-responsive” and engaging in “delaying tactics” regarding an administrator accused of contributing to delinquency of a minor. In response, Helix Charter Board president Cathy Singer has fired back a blistering letter of her own, calling Collins “dead wrong” and accusing the District of mounting an “unjustified and expensive smear campaign of Helix.”
In his letter dated March 5 to the Helix community, Collins refuted rumors that the District seeks to revoke the Charter in order to help the cash-strapped District's budget woes. “The issue is NOT about a desire by GUHSD Trustees to revoke the Helix Charter, or about finances,” he said.
Collins noted that the GUHSD has previously exercised oversight responsibilities following four convictions for sexual misconduct with students by Helix teachers. The Helix Charter Board was reconstituted and other changes made to improve accountability.
Less than two months later, however, another Helix administrator was investigated and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The administrator, whose trial is pending, allegedly helped a 16-year-old girl travel alone on a bus from San Diego to Oregon without parental permission, as ECM has previously reported. No allegations of sexual misconduct have been raised in the most recent case.
Collins said the new case raises new questions over whether administrators followed reporting procedures, staff accountability, and responsive of the Helix Charter Board. Collins said requests for documentation on the latest incident by the GUHSD board “were ignored by the Helix Charter Board for two months.”
Collins said the Helix Charter Board “continues to be non-responsive, engage in delaying tactics and distort the facts in question. These actions merely add to a lack of confidence in both the Helix administration and the Charter Board,” he concluded, adding that the GUHSD board has a duty to “protect student safety and prevent further child abuse and misconduct.”
But Singer, in a letter to the Helix Community dated March 5, said Collins’ letter is “fraught full of factual inaccuracies and mischaracterizations.” She added that the Superintendent’s letter failed to mention a meeting last week between representatives from Helix and the District, including legal counsel.
She said Helix is committed to ensuring that “student safety is a paramount priority.”
She contended that Helix has properly handled the latest manner in “full compliance with the law” and that the Helix Board has “promptly responded to all information requests from the district including providing confidential personnel record information” to substantiate compliance with the law.
She singled out Collins specifically for criticism, arguing that the Helix Board and administration have repeatedly requested to meet with District representatives regarding remaining concerns. Instead, she wrote, “the District Board President (without the full Board authorization) has continued to write letters accusing Helix of wrongdoing predicated upon multiple factual inaccuracies.” She added that those inaccuracies have been “fully reviewed with District officials and legal counsel and refuted.”
For example, she said Helix administration became aware of the latest incident on September 22, the same day it was reported to law enforcement. The district has claimed Helix administrators learned of the incident on September 18 but failed to report it to law enforcement.
Helix has been forced to file a lawsuit to prevent the District from “wrongfully and unlawfully moving forward in attempting to revoke the school’s charter,” Singer said, adding that Helix may seek alternative sponsorship of its charter by either the County Board of Education or the State Board of Education.
The district plans a hearing on the charter revocation at a yet-to-be-determined date.