The Redding educators who were fired from APL in 2014, and where they are now: From left: Roseanne Blevins, Montessori teacher at Shasta Union Elementary School District; Cindy Silva, K-3 teacher at Igo-Ono Elementary School; Candy Woodson, retired; Robin Thorne, school counselor in Red Bluff; Peggy Youmans, independent study program teacher in Enterprise Elementary School District; Christy Gadbois-Vail, teacher in Enterprise Elementary School District; Wendy McBroome, still at APL, president of APLEA; Mark Youmans, alternative ed teacher in Anderson Union High School District. Not pictured: Shana Seitz, who continues to work in Native American education. Photo: Timothy M. McBroome.
June 2016 - A federal bankruptcy judge slammed the Academy of Personalized Learning (APL) for “inappropriate gamesmanship” in a decision that stopped APL from using bankruptcy proceedings to get out of an unfair labor practice hearing before the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).
At a formal PERB hearing last October, APL was to answer charges that it illegally fired nine teachers in December 2014 because they formed a union. (The Educator reported about the firings in “‘Dream School’ Becomes the Nightmare Before Christmas,” April 2015.) The charter school hired non-credentialed staff to replace them. The teachers’ union, the Academy of Personalized Learning Education Association (APLEA), offered a cost-saving settlement that APL rejected. APL filed for bankruptcy a week before the PERB hearing, insisting the hearing could not be held until the bankruptcy judge ruled.
In the May ruling, the judge refused to “countenance” APL’s conduct, and sent the case back to PERB for further hearings.
Candy Woodson, one of the fired APLEA members, is looking forward to the PERB hearing “so we can vindicate our rights. APL Executive Director Patricia Dougherty wrongly fired nine teachers and then blamed us for putting them into bankruptcy because we wanted to defend ourselves.”
Teachers at APL unionized in 2014 so they could advocate for their students without reprisal and improve teaching conditions. After a year of bullying tactics by Dougherty and APL, frustrating contract talks, and unfair labor practice charges filed by APLEA contending bad faith bargaining, APL claimed money spent on “pending litigation” and legal fees made it file for bankruptcy.
Upon review of the parties’ conduct, the bankruptcy judge concluded: “The facts strongly suggest that the debtor [APL] simply wanted its cake and to eat it too; if the outcome of the hearing before the Board were satisfactory to the debtor, the debtor would keep quiet, whereas it would have the motion for contempt in its back pocket if the Board outcome was unfavorable. Simply put, this is inappropriate gamesmanship and evinces a disregard for the availability of this court’s resources, and is a waste of the state’s administrative resources, as well as the debtor’s own resources and those of its opponents [CTA].”
“APL chose to spend massive amounts on legal fees — $170,000 for three days of hearings — rather than adhering to the law and honoring the expertise of teachers,” says Jon Halvorsen, the CTA staff supporting the teachers. “CTA can’t and won’t stand by and see student learning endangered, public money spent shamefully, and the law broken.”
“Where is the accountability for the public funds? It’s like the wolf running the hen house,” says Woodson. “Why is CTA the only one demanding accountability from public charter schools
such as this? It’s important to stand up for the students in our schools, and that’s what we APLEA members did.”
Gateway Unified School District is APL’s sponsoring district, and Superintendent Jim Harrell has been asked to investigate allegations regarding its operations, including charges that the school engaged in “cherry-picking” students. Teachers also voiced concerns that state school monies designated for the classroom through the Local Control Funding Formula were given to a hedge fund in Palo Alto, apparently as collateral for a loan. The decision was never publicly discussed. There is record of a board resolution approving the decision, but no record of a vote.