[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Chartering a Way Forward | Commentary by Mark Distaso | 08-30-2016
Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Cloudy
Cloudy
53°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
December 6
1864 - Actor William S. Hart born in Newburgh, New York [Hart Index]


markdistasoThis article is written in response to the commentary of Aug. 22 by Ken Pfalzgraf on SCVNews.com in regard to the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District and its charter schools.

Pfalzgraf laid out a series of facts to support his apparent disagreement with the district’s charter school efforts; however, in doing so, he left out a number of significant facts in an apparent attempt to justify his opposition to the district’s direction. When all of the facts are included, a much different picture appears.

In his commentary, Pfalzgraf described AADUSD’s operation of charter schools as not yet being “legally or legislatively validated,” which belies the actual facts. As of today, the legal issue has been legally resolved, since the district ultimately prevailed in the courts at both the trial and appellate level (Newhall School District v. AADUSD re: the Albert Einstein Academy).

As for the legislative perspective, the Legislature is divided on the issue of existing charter school law, as it comes under immense pressure from traditional school districts that are threatened by the existence of charter schools. It has become a complicated political issue on a number of levels that seem to have perplexed the Legislature – and this dynamic does not lend itself to a simplified black-and-white issue that Pfalzgraf would have the reader believe.

Pfalzgraf addressed that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee considered an audit of three school districts that authorize charter schools, one of those being AADUSD, and he intimated that with the hundreds of school districts in the state, AADUSD must be doing something wrong to undergo an audit. Again, the audit committee’s effort is part of that complicated political issue underway in the state as it relates to charter schools.

There are two points of interest for the reader to know: First, the audit committee voted 7 to 6 to approve that the audit process take place – with the split vote on the matter serving as a reflection of the divide within the Legislature and the pressure the lawmakers are under. Second, Assurance Learning Academy, an authorized charter of the district, is one of the schools targeted by the audit – the claim being that ALA does not meet the academic progress of its students under the Education Code.

However, what Pfalzgraf either does not know or failed to mention is that the ALA charter school was specifically designed to target at-risk youth who have dropped out of high school (including those incarcerated or previously incarcerated) in an effort to provide them with an avenue to recover academic credits. Because of its target population, ALA does not operate under the standard accountability model within the Education Code. Instead, it operates under the Alternative Schools Accountability Model. ASAM was designed by none other than by the California Department of Education to service this at-risk youth population and is enumerated under sections 52051.5 through 52052.9 of the Education Code, with emphasis under section 52052(g).

In developing ASAM, the CDE recognized that this at-risk youth population attending an alternative education program could not be compared to a traditional comprehensive high school program or traditional standardized test scores. With this said, it stands to reason that an at-risk youth population would have lower standardized test scores than a regular high school accountability model. While ALA certainly serves a population outside of the Acton-Agua Dulce area, it also serves as a valuable resource for numerous local youth living in our town. The district is confident the state audit will be favorable to ALA.

It is Pfalzgraf’s claim that the district operates on the “outer fringe of the charter school game,” and he insinuates that the district is making up for lost state funding by “taking a cut” off of the charters it sponsors. However, he makes no mention of why the district has authorized its charter schools beyond some perceived money grab.

Let’s place this matter into perspective: The AADUSD school board initiated our charter school efforts in part because a sizable number of parents in Acton-Agua Dulce were demanding a charter school alternative within our district boundaries.

With all of the talk about district-authorized charters far away from our borders, let us not forget that we provide an entire school campus locally for the Albert Einstein Academy to operate. We as a district demonstrated the courage to authorize a local charter school in order to provide choice to our students and parents – courage that other districts have failed to show.

In addition, several years ago, when the state introduced its new funding formula (Local Control Funding Formula or LCFF), it significantly reduced funding to all school districts in the state. AADUSD alone lost approximately $500,000 in the first year of LCFF. In addition to this new state funding model containing funding reductions, the model itself was not fully capitalized. To this day, it is only at 90 percent of what should be funded.

Add to this fact the recent California Supreme Court decision leaving in place an appellate court ruling under Robles-Wong v. State of California that the California Constitution does not guarantee the right to an adequate level of education in terms of funding or quality, and you are left with school districts up and down the state struggling to provide quality education programming to their students.

Instead of the district operating on the “outer fringe” as described by Pfalzgraf, I characterize the district as operating on the “cutting edge” of educational practice. The district and its charter school partners are looking at an unprecedented model of cooperation to share and leverage scarce fiscal and physical infrastructure resources so we can enhance the level of education that otherwise could not be experienced by the children of Acton-Agua Dulce while attending a small school district.

At the close of his commentary, Pfalzgraf suggests the district needs to refocus on its own children. Since he does attend board meetings often, I’m mystified as to why Pfalzgraf has not picked up on the following programs and efforts that have enhanced the educational experience for our local children:

* The school board recently implemented a five-year plan that includes the introduction of a fully articulated STEAM (Science-Technology-Arts-Engineering-Math) education program funded in part by our charter schools.

* As part of the district’s effort to introduce a STEAM curriculum through virtually all grade levels, the school board also directed a reduction in class size to an intermediate goal ratio of 1 teacher to 28 students, with a the ultimate goal of 1:24 (as the state will require in five years). This is an expensive proposition, since it includes the need to create more classrooms and additional teachers, and it could not be realized without funding from our charter schools.

* The district has introduced a transitional kindergarten program that is supported by Community Collaborative Charter School through its covering of the cost of the teacher.

* In partnership with Assurance Learning Academy, the district is able to provide summer school for our high school students in need of credit recovery. The district has historically provided summer credit recovery, but can it now do so at significantly less cost after partnering with ALA.

* As of this past summer, thanks to a partnership with Community Collaborative, the district was able to resurrect its K-8 summer school program – a program that was cut years ago due to state budget cuts.

* Prior to our collaboration with Assurance Learning Academy, when the district had a rare occasion to expel students for severe behavioral issues, we had to outcast them to another school district. Today, we have the option of placing them with ALA, allowing the district to keep closer tabs on these students in order to insure compliance with our behavior contract and reevaluate them in one year for suitability to be readmitted back into our schools.

* In partnership with ALA, Community Collaborative and Pathways charter schools, the district is on the cusp of introducing a vocational track education program at Vasquez High School for our students who are not drawn to attending a university. While vocational and skills training were removed from high schools in California decades ago due to a lack of funding, it is AADUSD, with one of the smallest high schools in the region, which is taking the initiative to reinstitute such an educational option. Why? Because parents and students have been asking for such a program. This is an effort that will benefit our students and one that can be realized only through partnership with our charter schools.

As to the sustainability of the district’s budget, any inference that the district has failed to consider its sustainability if any portion of charter school funding is lost would be false. As with any responsible budget development process, the district has a strategy to expand or contract services, depending on available funding resources. In addition, the district is working on leveraging available federal dollars to support and maintain our enhanced educational efforts – specifically as they apply to our vocational track education initiative.

In closing, I urge all three candidates who are seeking a vacant seat on the AADUSD Board of Governors to ensure they include all facts and represent them accurately if they use any set of facts to support a position or opinion. While all citizens, including candidates for office, have a welcomed right to express dissenting opinions on the solutions, direction and policies currently in place by the district, I again urge all the candidates who take a dissenting viewpoint please to offer a specific set of alternative solutions, direction and policies to replace those they disagree with.

The voting public is owed that much.

 

Mark Distaso is president of the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District Governing Board. His statements reflect his own opinions and are not intended to represent those of other school board members.

 

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

1 Comment

  1. Tracy Costan says:

    So refreshing to read a coherent, accurate article vs. the ramblings of someone’s personal platform with no plan or solution. Thank you to AADUSD for giving the community a choice in schools and a vision for the future.

Leave a Comment


Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Related Content
RECENT COMMENTARY
Friday, Dec 2, 2016
Here it is the end of the year and the culmination of a lot of programs, services and projects for us at the city
Thursday, Dec 1, 2016
It has been my honor to serve as your Mayor this year. The city of Santa Clarita is one of California’s best cities and it just keeps getting better and better.
Tuesday, Nov 22, 2016
I had never heard the term “throughput” before a meeting at our hospital two years ago. It was used to discuss how the emergency department (ED) could yield greater profits by faster patient turnover. Coordinating various duties (including intake, admitting, and cleaning staff; lab and radiology; nurses and doctors) patients could be shuttled into and out of the ED earning the hospital $2 million more per year.
Friday, Nov 18, 2016
After nearly 3 years and a large reply from concerned citizens, the Chiquita Landfill and the Los Angeles County have released their revision to the Draft Environment Impact Report.
Thursday, Nov 17, 2016
The Holiday Craft Fair is coming to Placerita Canyon Nature Center on Saturday, December 3 and 4, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. each day.
Sunday, Nov 13, 2016
Apparently, the tree octopus is intelligent and inquisitive and well suited to arboreal adaptation, being able to pull itself along tree branches by instinctively using “tentaculation.” Far away from its original ocean habitat, the tree octopus developed a taste for insects, frogs, rodents and bird eggs. Their eyesight on land is comparable to human eyesight, enabling them to see and hunt their prey.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1864 - Actor William S. Hart born in Newburgh, New York [Hart Index]
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, Kathryn Barger was sworn in as L.A. County Supervisor for the Fifth District. Plus, the audience at COC's PAC was dazzled by an electrifying performance on Sunday. Check out these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Monday, December 5, 2016
A construction worker who fell off a four-foot wall at Six Flags Magic Mountain around 4:30 p.m. Monday sustained minor injuries after colliding with a short stake, officials said.
Construction Worker OK After Falling onto Stake
District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced today that she plans to focus more attention on protecting children from abuse and neglect and addressing the growing opioid abuse epidemic. She also said she plans to mandate elimination of bias training for all prosecutors.
DA Jackie Lacey Announces Goals at Oath of Office Ceremony
The California Department of Transportation will close portions of the I-5 between the SR-170 and the Kern County line as part of a sign replacement project.
Dec. 5-9: Caltrans Lane Closures on I-5
The Wings for Life World Run has announced its return to the city of Santa Clarita for the fourth consecutive year, as participants everywhere unite to find a cure for spinal cord injury.
Wings for Life World Run Set to Return to Santa Clarita on May 7, 2017
See what's coming from the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Upcoming SCV Chamber of Commerce Events
TV shows, commercials and a student project are currently being filmed in Santa Clarita this week.
Currently Filming in SCV: Germany’s Next Top Model, Fan Slam, Magic Camp
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has been awarded a $1,945,000.00 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) for a year-long program of special enforcements and public awareness efforts to prevent traffic related deaths and injuries.
LASD Receives Grant for Special Traffic Enforcement, Crash Prevention
University of Antelope Valley Men’s (2-5, 1-0 Cal Pac) and Women’s Basketball (5-2, 1-0 Cal Pac) successfully opened up Cal Pac Conference play at La Sierra University in Riverside, CA with two huge wins in two high scoring match-ups.
UAV Basketball Dominates in Cal Pac Opener
Jean Dobre and Wendy Yamada will have the Grand Opening of their new Arthur Murray Valencia Dance Studio, Friday Dec. 9 and Saturday, Dec. 10 at 24165 Magic Mountain Parkway.
Dec. 9-10: Arthur Murray Valencia Dance Studio to Host Grand Opening
In a musical holiday extravaganza, the award-winning Hart High School Show Choir will perform “Nightmare Before Christmas” in a whole new way. Rather than bringing the performance to the stage, attendees will be led through a sequence of scenes each telling a piece of this fun holiday story. Groups of 20 will be escorted on their adventure every 20 minutes from 3 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10 and between 2 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 11 at Hart High School.
Dec. 10-11: Hart Choir to Perform “Nightmare Before Christmas”
Castaic/ Val Verde Crime Report for the week of November 21, 2016 - November 27, 2016
Crime Blotter: Grand Theft in Castaic, Val Verde
1938 - Supervisors award construction contract for jail at Wayside Farms in Castaic (later called Pitchess Detention Center). [story]
1962- Actress and future Soledad Canyon big-cat rescuer Tippi Hedren, "Hitchcock's New Grace Kelly," makes cover of Look magazine for upcoming thriller, "The Birds" [story]
1887 - Prohibitionist Henry Needham purchases land in Newhall, attempts to establish "dry" colony [story]
The Latino Business Alliance will be hosting a "Posada Breakfast" on December 6, which will be an opportunity to network with others in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Dec. 6: Network with Fellow Business Owners at the Posada Breakfast
Court Appointed Special Advocates of Los Angeles, or CASA/LA, a non-profit organization that drastically improves the lives of abused and neglected foster children in LA County through trained volunteer advocates, will be hosting its first CASA Book Fair in collaboration with Barnes & Noble of Valencia December 8.
Dec. 8: CASA/LA Book Fair Fundraiser to be Held at Barnes & Noble in Valencia
The County Interim Health Officer is issuing a Cold Weather Alert due to the National Weather Service’s forecast for low temperatures.
Cold Weather Alert for Antelope Valley, L.A. County Mountain Areas
Just as people plan for retirement, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) urges them to plan for changing needs and abilities in their driving as they age.
CHP Recommends Planning for Senior Drivers
Here it is the end of the year and the culmination of a lot of programs, services and projects for us at the city
Message from the City Manager
Santa Clarita Valley firefighters handled a pair of brush fires Friday, officials said, leaving none injured and no structures threatened.
LACoFD Battle 2 Brush Fires, Both Now Under Control
Stevenson Ranch Crime Report: November 21, 2016 - November 27, 2016
Crime Blotter: Burglary, Petty Theft in Stevenson Ranch
1972 - Five wounded in Vagos biker gang shooting at Curtis & JoAnne Darcy's Acton '49er Saloon [story]
A 23-year-old woman was arrested after she attempted to flee the scene of a hit-and-run crash that left one man in the hospital with major injuries.
Motorcyclist Sustains Major Injuries in Hit-and-Run Crash
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, Princess Cruises has agreed to plead guilty to seven charges stemming from its deliberate pollution of the seas and intentional acts to cover it up. Plus, retiring L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich shares some inspiring words about achieving your dreams and moving forward. See these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Thursday, December 1, 2016
Pocock Brewing Co. will host their 1st Anniversary Beer Festival benefiting the Castaic and SCV Education Foundations this month.
Pocock Brewing to Host Fundraiser for Castaic, SCV Education Foundations
The Valley Industry Association will review and close the 2016 year, and formally install the 2017 Valley Industry Association Board of Directors at their upcoming meeting.
Dec. 20: VIA to Install New Board of Directors
The ALDI grocery store chain is coming to Santa Clarita this month.
Dec. 15: ALDI Grocery Store to Open in Santa Clarita
The Santa Clarita Public Libraries are providing families with plenty of occasions to embrace the spirit of the holidays through the month of December.
Santa Clarita Libraries Embrace Holiday Spirit with Family-friendly Events
The Transportation Research Board announced Thursday that Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty will become chair of its Executive Committee, effective January 12, 2017.
Caltrans Appoints Chair of Executive Committee
An artist named "Six" is hosting an opening reception for the installation piece "Ghost Band."
‘Ghost Band’ Art Installation Comes to ARTree
The 16 Santa Clarita Valley LDS congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are inviting the public to attend their annual Community Christmas Concert.
SCV Latter-day Saints Congregations Host ‘When Love Was Born’ Performance
The Southern California Football Association has announced its 2016 All-League Teams and seven players from College of the Canyons are included among the honorees from the National Division, Northern League.
SCFA Honors Seven COC Football Players
A Valencia man got the chance to participate in as a featured “Trader” in an attempt to avoid “Zonks” and win a sensational selection of prizes on the game show "Lets Make A Deal".
Valencia Man to Appear on ‘Lets Make A Deal’
Bakkavor Foods USA, Inc. is voluntarily recalling Trader Joe’s Mediterranean Hummus and Trader Joe’s White Bean & Basil Hummus with “USE BY” date codes up through and including "12/15/2016," because these products have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
Recall: Two Types of Trader Joe’s Hummus Potentially Contaminated by Listeria