Frustrated with alleged mismanagement and other woes at a new public Mandarin-immersion charter school in Irvine, parents reached out to Mayor Farrah Khan.

Could she help?

In response, Khan wrote a letter to the Orange County Board of Education, which oversees the year-old Irvine International Academy, saying that parents are concerned “about the future of their children’s education.” She asked for an independent audit of the school’s finances.

“We cannot continue to have a school in our city that has failed its students, parents, and the community. I am hopeful that this board will step in and set things right,” Khan said.

Orange County Board of Education Trustee Ken Williams called it “political.”

“Obviously, this has become a political hot potato and subject to partisan motives in the city of Irvine,” Williams said at a board meeting earlier this month.

Calling Khan’s letter “very poorly constructed and poorly worded,” Williams said there’s “a lot of partisan bantering and people have interjected politics in the school.”

Kahn, in an interview with the Register this week, said she acted on her constituents’ concerns.

“This isn’t political. We want the school to succeed,” she said.

Irvine International Academy in Irvine, CA, on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Irvine International Academy, a new elementary school with some 300 students, has come under scrutiny not only from some of its parents and teachers but also from the Orange County Department of Education, which is working with the new charter to address numerous concerns.

Earlier this month, the school’s governing board fired the principal. The executive director is on paid administrative leave. And while the school has fixed many of the concerns raised by the OCDE, it still has more to address.

In her May 25 letter, Khan noted parents are worried about the firing of the school’s principal, who she said served as “the voice of reason” on campus and a sounding board for parents’ concerns.

At the June 15 meeting, Williams appeared to dismiss parents who are critical of the school and referred to them as “gadflies who come in and complain.”

“For those parents who are not happy, I ask myself why are you there. There are lots of good schools in Irvine. Find a school that’s good for you,” Williams said.

He also said the Board of Education relies on OCDE staff to do its due diligence and help new schools under the county’s umbrella.

“The people of Irvine who think that our board is just sitting on our duffs doing nothing — we’re not. We can only do so much. We cannot control and dictate (to the school),” Williams said.

Williams is one of four members on the five-member board who support public charter schools and want to see more of them in Orange County. Next Monday, the Board of Education scheduled a special meeting that will include voting on a new resolution to hold a community forum on charter schools in September.

The title for the forum: “Strengthening California’s Charter Schools at a Local and State Level.”

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