Around 50 teachers and parents from El Camino Real Charter High School gathered near the campus Wednesday morning to pose a pointed question to members of their own governing board: Why have they not fired El Camino principal Dave Fehte?
Fehte is one of several employees at the Woodland Hills charter whose use of school credit cards for purchases like steak dinners and airline tickets triggered an inquiry from Los Angeles Unified's charter school office and prompted the district's school board to take a preliminary step toward revoking El Camino's charter.
Members of El Camino's governing board have said the school has solved the problems. The school has enacted new, stricter fiscal controls and revoked all school credit cards from individual employees. Fehte has reimbursed El Camino for around $6,000 in personal expenses charged to a school credit card over three years, school marketing director Melanie Horton said.
El Camino board president Jon Wasser confirmed Wednesday the board took disciplinary action against a school employee or employees in a closed session last week, but also confirmed their action stopped short of termination.
Many of the teachers and parents at Wednesday’s protest feared that might not be enough. Carrying signs saying “Fire Fehte” and “Save Our Charter,” they expressed concerns that the board’s decision not to fire Fehte, chief business officer Marshall Mayotte or other top administrators could cost El Camino its charter.
English teacher Cameron Maury pointed to the district’s Notice of Violations letter, which said El Camino leaders have “not provided any evidence that the responsible employees have been held accountable for this misuse of public funds, and those employees remain in their administrative positions.”
“Our jobs, our livelihoods are at stake,” Maury said, "because we think that the district is actually going to try to revoke our charter if they’re still here. That’s why you see so many teachers out here today.”
El Camino's online directory lists 124 teachers. They’re unionized as an independent bargaining unit of United Teachers Los Angeles.
L.A. Unified’s preliminary step toward charter revocation — issuing a Notice of Violations on Aug. 23 — is just the first of three steps the district would have to take. To fully revoke El Camino’s charter, the district would have to issue a Notice of Intent to Revoke, then a Notice of Revocation.
El Camino’s board sent a letter to the L.A. Unified Charter Schools Division on Friday outlining changes they’d made ahead of a Sept. 23 deadline to respond to the Notice of Violations.
“I’m very hopeful,” El Camino’s Horton said in an interview on Monday, "that LAUSD will make decisions solely based on merit and the quality of our response."