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Oxford Preparatory Academy Charter School’s lawsuits with its founder and the Chino Valley school district were resolved this fall, but the school which formerly had a campus in Chino has no plans to return to the Chino Valley.  

Oxford vs. district

On Dec. 31, Oxford dismissed its 2017 lawsuit that named the Chino Valley school district, school board and former superintendent Wayne Joseph. The writ questioned whether the district’s decision in 2016 to deny Oxford’s charter renewal was supported by the weight of the evidence and asked that the renewal request be re-evaluated. 

Each side agreed to bear its own costs and attorney fees of the lawsuit, according to court documents.   

Oxford had been the top performing K-8 public school in San Bernardino County and 1,213 students were displaced when it was shuttered after the Chino Valley school board declined in 2016 to renew its charter petition and appeals to the county and state education board were unproductive.

In March 2016, then-Chino Valley school superintendent Wayne Joseph revealed his concerns about the business/financial relationship between Oxford and  Edlighten Learning Solutions, a charter management company that Oxford founder Sue Roche started in 2012 while executive director of Oxford. Edlighten – with Ms. Roche as its chief executive officer – oversaw operations at Oxford’s Chino campus and its two sister schools in Orange County.

Following Mr. Joseph’s comments, the board voted to deny Oxford’s petition for a five-year renewal and to open a high school.   

Settlements

Last September, Oxford received a pre-litigation settlement from two insurance companies following mediation of a 2017 lawsuit filed by Oxford against Mrs. Roche and Edlighten. 

It alleged breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, and violations of business and professions code Section 17200.

Oxford received $335,000 from Hanover Insurance and $165,000 from Philadelphia Insurance. The insurance companies represented Mrs. Roche and Edlighten. 

Attorney Marc Greenberg, representing Sue Roche, argued that Edlighten received bad legal advice from Oxford’s former attorney firm Procopio. 

In October, Procopio agreed in a pre-litigation settlement to pay Oxford a one-time, lump sum payment of $500,000.

According to the pre-settlement documents, Procopio had recommended to Oxford’s board of directors that Oxford and Edlighten share a board member, that Mrs. Roche could perform work for both Oxford and Edlighten and that Edlighten should be named “sole statutory member,” giving it the right to elect, appoint or fire Oxford’s school board members.

These issues had been identified in a 2017 financial audit of Edlighten by the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistant Team (FCMAT). 

The FCMAT report, ordered by San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Ted Alejandre, had been referred in 2017 to the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office by Mr. Alejandre.  

Oxford’s current attorney Matt Fletcher said he was contacted by San Bernardino County Assistant District Attorney William Wooten in May 2018 and Oxford has cooperated in the investigation. 

Mr. Fletcher said he has received no further communication from the district attorney’s office about the matter. 

There are no cases referencing Sue Roche or Edlighten on the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s website and calls from the Champion to Mr. Wooten’s office were not returned by press time. 

Mr. Greenberg said no claims had been filed by the Chino Valley school district against Mrs. Roche or Edlighten, which is no longer in business. 

Oxford’s future

While the court cases have been settled, Oxford officials have no immediate plans to return to the Chino Valley.

“The passage of time since the closing of the Chino Valley campus made it impossible to reopen that school, even if the case (against the district) was ultimately successful,” Oxford Preparatory Academy Executive Director Jill Marks said recently. 

Ms. Marks said Oxford is focused on serving students at its existing campuses in Mission Viejo and Lake Forest.

“We take great pride in the high level of student success at our Oxford Preparatory Academy campuses and look forward to the opportunity to provide more students with access to the high-quality education they deserve,” she said.

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