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SCVNews.com | Hart District Officials Reviewing Request from Einstein Academy | 07-22-2013
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alberteinsteinacademylogoThe Santa Clarita Valley’s junior high and high school officials are looking into whether Einstein Academy officials are planning a secondary school in the Santa Clarita Valley at a recently approved charter school site, a Hart district official said Monday.

William S. Hart Union High School District officials are preparing a response to Einstein Academy officials requesting County School District codes for an elementary school and a secondary school at their intended charter school site of 25300 Rye Canyon Road, said Gail Pinsker, Hart district spokeswoman.

Such a code is required for each school operated on a site, a state educational official said Monday.

The address was put down as a “mailing address” for a secondary school that’s planned for the San Fernando Valley, but the school doesn’t have a site there, yet, said Jeffrey Shapiro, executive director for Einstein Academy.

Shapiro confirmed that two site County School District code applications were being reviewed by the state.

“There’s no plan for that Acton Agua Dulce secondary school to be located in Santa Clarita,” Shapiro said. “It’s there for a mailing address. (The Rye Canyon Road address) going to be the headquarters for the new site.”

Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District officials OK’ed Albert Einstein Academy for the Letters, Arts and Sciences officials to open a kindergarten through sixth grade charter school, as well as a junior high and high school, outside of their boundaries.

In addition to upsetting Santa Clarita Valley school officials, who have banded together for an ad aimed at Acton and Agua Dulce students, offering parents “the BEST for their children” — in addition to inter-district transfers — the move is being met with formal protest.

At stake for local districts on both sides is thousands of dollars per year in Average Daily Attendance dollars, or the funding formula that districts rely on to guarantee state funds for their students and programs.

The agreement between Einstein Academy and AADUSD explicitly states, “In the event that both of the Charter School’s petitions for the elementary school and secondary school are approved, the Parties agree that payment for such specific oversight (to AADUSD) shall not exceed the total sum of $50,000 per school year.”

Originally, the board granted approval for an elementary school site in the Saugus Union School District on May 16.

However, on May 24, Einstein officials applied for school numbers with the California Department of Education using an address within Castaic Union School District boundaries.

Both Castaic Union and William S. Hart Union High School District officials, say they were never properly notified of the move.

Jeffrey Shapiro, executive director for Einstein Academy, emailed Saugus Union officials May 15, giving them notice that he would be opening a school within their district boundaries.

Einstein officials were not aware they would need to move the school’s site from its originally intended address until after the approval, Shapiro said.

Castaic Union Superintendent Jim Gibson expressed his intention to officially protest the move with the Los Angeles County Office of Education, or LACOE, and the state’s Department of Education, citing a notice requirement in the state’s educational code regarding charter law.

A school district is allowed charter one school site outside of its district boundaries providing that it has exercised all of the options within the chartering district’s area, and the district that the school is going into has been properly notified, according to the state’s educational code.

Both districts in the area are claiming they weren’t notified, while Shapiro said he has shared a letter with LACOE that proves all five district superintendents were aware.

The protest letter implies that all five superintendents were aware of the school’s plans, Shapiro said.

Newhall School District Superintendent Marc Winger said the AADUSD approval was “the result of a slimy tactic that disrespects the concept of local governance.”

The move seems to have deeply divided the AADUSD board.

Following the district’s approval of an elementary, junior high and high school with a 3-2 vote, one of the board members, Debbie Rocha, who’s also the president for the Saugus Union School District’s teachers association, resigned from the board.

AADUSD board member Larry Layton, the other voice of dissent, said he isn’t surprised “one bit” by the actions of the other SCV school officials, and said he’d do the same if he were in their shoes.

“If (the approval) comes back to bite them in the back, then they chose their highway,” Layton said. “They tried to grab from another school district, and I would do everything in my legal power to get it back.”

AADUSD board member Ed Porter, who voted in favor of the charter petition, said his district officials were just trying to do what’s best for their kids.

“(Hart and Castaic officials) are obviously upset they’re having a charter school put in their district,” Porter said.

“There’s all kinds of technicalities that they’re bringing up and there’s weird stuff like (the school district’s ad) going on.”

Porter mentioned the technicalities as “minor discrepancies,” describing Shapiro as a “go-getter, who’s “focused on the kids and nothing else,” and adding “if there’s some sort of outright violation, then obviously we’re not OK with that.”

Einstein officials didn’t notify the Hart district because there was no intention of opening a second high school in the Santa Clarita Valley, Shapiro said.

Einstein Academy currently operates a seventh to 12th grade school within Hart district boundaries on Kelly Johnson Parkway.

“The secondary school opening, it’s not intended for the Santa Clarita Valley,” Shapiro said. “It’s most likely for the San Fernando Valley.”

There is eventually a plan to put in an Einstein site at Vasquez High, which would be open to all students, including Santa Clarita Valley ones.

Calls to AADUSD Superintendent Brent Woodard and Rocha seeking comment were not immediately returned.

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