Despite a grand jury report this week calling for its charter to be revoked, FAME charter school is getting another chance.
The Alameda County Board of Education voted 5-2 on Tuesday night to "discontinue the revocation process," pending another year of evaluation.
"I'm going to vote to support this for one year and, trust me, I hate to have egg on my face," trustee Marlon L. McWilson said.
The vote drew a standing-room-only crowd to the Alameda County Office of Education and came in the immediate aftermath of a blunt grand jury report.
The report stated that "while the grand jury heard testimony that FAME's acting CEO is working diligently to fix the mismanagement of the past, it appears that the barriers are far too great for success. After a yearlong investigation, the grand jury concludes that FAME's charter should be revoked."
Despite Tuesday's reprieve, FAME -- with campuses in Fremont and San Leandro and independent students throughout Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties -- is not out of hot water.
The motion the board passed calls for Superintendent Sheila Jordan and her staff to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with FAME and a course of action to be reviewed no later than the board's August meeting.
The motion also calls for staff to review the school's progress in early 2013 to determine whether the board should issue a new notice to vote on the school's future. The board wants to see the progress report no later than March so that it doesn't face another decision next summer to close a school just weeks before a new school year.
The board's decision came after Jordan, who does not have a vote, recommended "that we do a year's probation, if you will."
"I don't feel a lot of pressure because we've already been in negotiations," said Norman Fobert, principal of FAME's Kearney Street campus in Fremont. "That's why the superintendent, Sheila Jordan, felt comfortable making her recommendation.
"We've been doing professional development for our staff, so that we're having a common plan throughout the district. Before it was kind of divided between the San Leandro campus and the Kearney campus and independent studies. So now we're united. They'll be proud in March."
Officials have accused FAME of violating the state education code by using teachers without valid credentials, failing to comply with the charter's instructional program elements and failing to maintain a governing board of at least five members. The school board also said it is concerned about the school's financial and operational viability.
Naeem Malik, FAME's new CEO and president of the board, told this newspaper last month that most of the violations have been fixed and that the school just needs more time to complete the process, adding that parents and students shouldn't be punished for problems under the previous administration.
After the vote Tuesday, Malik said, "Whatever they said, we'll try to follow it, and we'll make sure that it never gets repeated. I'm hoping this is all positive in the future."
Parents and students rejoiced after the board's decision.
Kathy Reichert, who has a student in FAME's independent studies program, said she was "very concerned because I've seen such a turnaround with my son. Now he's finally getting to high school."