The Global Learning academy is no longer mentioned on the Business Roundtable's website. But that was not always the case. Two years ago, the site prominently featured the new charter school. "The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation Business Roundtable for Education is actively involved in creating educational models that improve student academic performance," according to the website, which listed Global Learning as one of four charter schools that "are the result of the Roundtable's efforts since 1994."
Hadfield is currently listed on the foundation website as "Director of Projects." According to her biography on the site, "Ms. Hadfield, a 26-year classroom veteran, is a technology enthusiast and educator to the core. As computers began to enter the classroom, Diana was there -- on the forefront -- learning, experimenting, and finding innovative ways to harness the power of technology in the classroom."
Reached by telephone last week at her office at the roundtable, based at the chamber of commerce, Hadfield acknowledged she had been a consultant to Global Learning but could remember few other details. Asked if she had a contract with the school, she replied, "I don't even remember." Her duties, Hadfield said, included writing grant applications as well as Global Learning's "business plan." She then terminated the call, saying she would call back the next morning. Her assistant later called and said she would not be calling back as promised. Subsequent calls to her office went unreturned.
But the real power behind Global Learning @ Home, most of those interviewed for this story agreed, was Hovenic, a graduate of San Diego State University and former principal of Clearview Elementary School in Chula Vista. Hovenic worked for the county's Office of Education before being recruited in 1999 to become president and chief executive officer of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce Foundation, as well as executive director of the foundation's Business Roundtable for Education. According to one of the foundation's annual Internal Revenue Service filings, Hovenic was paid $110,000 by the foundation in 2000.
The foundation and the roundtable, which claim to be "The voice of business to improve education in the San Diego region," are technically separate from the chamber itself, although the two organizations share offices and much of the same agenda. Chamber president and CEO Jessie Knight sits on the foundation's board of directors, which is chaired by Tad Parzen, who now works as assistant general counsel for the San Diego Unified School District.
Under Hovenic, the foundation began to accelerate the start-up of so-called charter schools -- small, nonprofit educational institutions that are run independently of the school district but funded by tax dollars. "Charter schools are held accountable for how well they educate children in a safe and responsible environment -- not for merely complying with state and local school district regulations," wrote Hovenic in August 2000. The op-ed piece ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune just as Global Learning backers began lobbying the school board for a charter. "They are judged on how well they meet the student-achievement goals established by their respective charters and how well they manage the resources entrusted to them.
"These schools are required to operate lawfully and responsibly," continued Hovenic. "They must achieve equity and excellence. Like conventional schools, charter schools must teach the state curriculum and give the annual standardized reading and math exams. Unlike conventional public schools, charter schools that fail are closed.
"The Business Roundtable fully expects charter schools as a whole to continue to excel and eventually surpass their conventional public-school counterparts in academic performance. Indeed, self-governing schools that offer students, teachers, and parents innovative and creative learning resources are beginning to bear fruit."
In the fall of 2000, Global Learning @ Home was listed as one of four charters that the chamber foundation was sponsoring. The foundation's charter-school effort, according to a brochure of the time, included "developing strategic business plans" and "hiring exceptional leaders to carry out the vision of a powerful learning environment." Diane Hadfield was listed in the brochure as Global Learning's contact.
Another close tie between the chamber foundation and the Global Learning charter school was Heather Carmichael, who is listed on the school's 2002 letterhead as president of Global Learning's board. According to the chamber foundation website, Carmichael currently serves the foundation as a "business development consultant," in which she "provides expert advice to companies and nonprofit organizations on corporate strategy, marketing, and public relations."
Before that, the website says, Carmichael "served as the campaign manager for Carrie Kelleher's 1998 U.S. congressional campaign in the heart of Dallas, Texas, where she recruited over 150 volunteers, managed fund-raising activities, and developed public relations and media strategies, among other duties."
Hovenic was the school's first chairperson and president. The chief financial officer and treasurer was Peter Sibley, proprietor of Edmin.com, a vendor of educational software to school districts and a member of the chamber's education roundtable. The third member of the board was Cox's Sandy Murphy, another roundtable member, who says she left shortly after the start-up of the nonprofit corporation.
"I was asked by Ginger Hovenic to be on the board," Sibley said in an interview last week. "I think she was the founder and executive director of that. It was kind of her brainchild."
The start-up was financed by a federal "planning and implementation" grant totaling $150,000, funneled through the California Department of Education and the San Diego Unified School District. Though the chamber of commerce said it was sponsoring the school, neither the group nor its foundation appears to have ever given it any money.
In an August 29, 2001, letter to school district attorney José Gonzales, Hadfield presented the school's first financial report. "Enclosed are the financials for Global Learning @ Home Charter School. The records encompass the grant period from October 2000 through June 2001. I have instructed the accounting firm, Ocean Point Financial, to forward monthly reports to the management team, which will, in turn, submit them to you for your files. In addition, for your records, please note that Global Learning @ Home is not planning on opening until Fall 2002."