School officials are at odds over whether Einstein Academy officials gave proper notification for the opening of a charter kindergarten to sixth grade school within Castaic Union School District boundaries.
Castaic Superintendent Jim Gibson said Einstein officials never notified the district of its intention to open an elementary school within his district’s boundaries, while Einstein Executive Director Jeffrey Shapiro said a protest letter signed by all five area superintendents proves that they were aware of his intentions.
“California Education Code) says a charter school may establish one site outside the boundary of the district, if the school district is notified in advance of the charter school,” Gibson said. “They have not informed our district.”
A protest letter asking Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District officials not to OK the charter, which was penned and signed by all five area superintendents May 9, proves the superintendents were aware of the district’s plans.
“We followed the law and we gave proper notification,” Shapiro said. “The move to the Rye Canyon property came after the approval, but the letter signed by the superintendents showed they were given that opportunity.”
In the state’s education code, charter school law dictates a charter school may be authorized outside a district’s operating area, if a district is notified in advance of the charter petition approval, the county superintendent of schools is notified of the location of the charter school before it commences operations.
Shapiro sent an email to Saugus Union School District Superintendent Joan Lucid on May 15, stating, “upon approval from the Acton-Agua Dulce school board, Albert Einstein Academy intends to establish a facility within your district boundaries.”
AADUSD officials granted Einstein Academy officials permission to do just that May 16 with a 3-2 vote.
“At the time, when (the notification) was sent, we were intending to go into a property on Copper Hill,” Shapiro said.
While acknowledging the Saugus Union notification, Shapiro also said the Acton Agua Dulce petition stated “(the school) can go anywhere in Santa Clarita Valley.”
When it became clear the Copper Hill property wouldn’t be ready in time for the fall, Einstein Academy switched its location to 25300 Rye Canyon Road, which is within Castaic Union School District boundaries.
Einstein Academy requested school numbers from the California Department of Education on May 24, listing the Rye Canyon address, Gibson said.
Einstein officials wouldn’t reveal the location of their new kindergarten to sixth grade charter school as recently as this week, citing a need to get through the permitting process.
It was uncovered by KHTS through a look into the school’s conditional-use permit requests with the city of Santa Clarita, and later confirmed by Shapiro.
And CUSD officials weren’t told of the change in plans, Gibson said.
“We are going to formally protest this activity,” Gibson said. “Both the county has formally notified me today, but Einstein Academy did not inform Castaic Union.”
Saugus Union officials, which rejected the charter school’s petition on four separate occasions, also will be paying close attention to what happens now, said Saugus Union board President Judy Umeck.
“Obviously with the surfacing of this map, it’s something we’re all going to be analyzing,” she said. “We’re all going to be looking at this.”
Einstein officials have a tentative hearing date of Aug. 6, when the Los Angeles County Office of Education officials will consider Einstein officials’ request to have county officials set aside Saugus Union officials most recent denial.
The developments, which unfolded throughout the week, are under review by the state and the county, Gibson said.
“The state is reviewing their documents now,” Gibson said. “I should know more early next week.”