Saugus Union School District board members voted 3-1 Tuesday to reject a fourth charter school petition from the Einstein Academy for the Letters, Arts and Sciences for a kindergarten to sixth-grade school.
Board member Stephen Winkler voted in favor of the petition.
District staffers, who recommended a rejection to the board, cited the fact that the school’s most recent petition was, by the admission of AELAS Foundation Executive Director Jeffrey Shapiro, very similar to previous petitions, according to district officials.
“Shapiro’s cover letter to this petition admits that the current petition had limited modifications, making it virtually the same petition that was denied Oct. 16, according to a statement released by the district.
However, the school did not send any representatives this time around because they knew they never had a fair shot this time, Shapiro said.
“We have long known that (Saugus Union officials) are not going to approve the elementary charter,” said Shapiro, who was out of state Tuesday for a new charter school the foundation recently received approval for in Ohio.
”We know that there are effectively no circumstances under which they would (approve),” he said. “However, it is a required part of the process. With this in mind, we opt not to be present at the vote and participate in a process conducted in bad faith.”
Einstein Academy’s plans to appeal
Shapiro mentioned plans to appeal the decision to the Los Angeles County Office of Education, or LACOE, if Saugus Union officials rejected his fourth appeal.
Einstein Academy officials recently received approvals from boards in San Diego and Ventura counties, as well as in Ohio.
The foundation also operates a seventh- to 12th-grade charter school in the William S. Hart Union High School District.
LACOE officials were handed a staff recommendation to reject Einstein Academy’s petition on two separate occasions. Both times, academy officials received permission to withdraw their petition before a decision was made.
“The petition was fully vetted both by our staff and by independent counsel who is experienced in charter law and will be looking at both the financial and the programs of the petition,” said board President Judy Umeck, who also said the district has spent more than $150,000 on charter petitions.
“We need outside expertise to formulate an objective opinion — unfortunately that comes at a high cost,” Umeck said in a recent interview. “The outside expertise is in regard to charter law.”
Because AELAS appealed to a local district, in this case, Saugus Union, it has the option to again appeal to LACOE, and then if that board then rejects Einstein’s appeal, Einstein officials can appeal to the state. Had AELAS appealed directly to the county, there would be no recourse.