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American Indian Public Charter School or AIPCS is an Oakland, California charter middle school with predominantly low-income, minority students. It opened in 1996 and struggled over the next few years until a turnaround after 2000 brought up enrollment numbers and test scores.
By 2005, the AIPCS students achieved test scores superior those of most public schools in the state. Its principal, Ben Chavis (Lumbee), a Native American educator, believed that minority students were best served by high expectations for strong attendance and discipline, as well as regular homework and summer school. Chavis was criticized for some of his methods. In 2007 AICPS became the first public school in Oakland to win the National Blue Ribbon Award. The AICPS attracted an increasingly diverse student body as enrollment increased, with higher proportions of African American, Asian and Latino students than Native Americans. By 2012 its students were overwhelmingly Asian.
The American Indian Model Schools charter system developed from the AIPCS in order to expand the offerings to students. Since 2007, under new management, it has operated three schools in the city, two middle schools (one had grades K-4 added in 2012), and a high school. The charter for the AIMS schools was threatened in 2012 because of discoveries of financial mismanagement and concerns about leadership. Although the Oakland School District voted to revoke the charter, the school system gained a preliminary injunction that allowed it to operate the three schools. With new leaders, it gained a 5-year renewal of its charter in 2013.
Other irregularities were reported in 2012 as the result of a state "extraordinary audit" of the second middle school, AIPCS II. There were allegations of additional mismanagement and fraud. In March 2017 former principal Ben Chavis was indicted by the federal government on six felony counts for money laundering and mail fraud based on his financial activities with the AIMS schools. He will be tried in federal district court in San Francisco.
AIPCS was chartered by the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) in 1996 with the mission of improving the performance of Native American students in the city. As a charter public school, AIPCS was free to students and had considerable autonomy. Once located in a converted church in Oakland's Laurel District, the school moved to 171 12th Street. The high school is located a 746 Grand Avenue.
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