A judge Thursday ordered Einstein Academy to seek a new charter from the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District.
Officials on both sides claimed a win, with both Newhall School District and Einstein Academy officials happy with the move.
“We are pleased to learn of the court’s decision today to rule in favor of the Newhall School District and declare us the prevailing party in our lawsuit against the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District (AADUSD) and the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences (AEALAS), finding that both parties failed to comply with state Education Code sections 47605 and 47605.1, and vacating the elementary charter granted to AEALAS extraterritorially in the Newhall School District jurisdiction,” according to a statement from Newhall governing board President Brian Walters. “The judge recognized that both AADUSD and AEALAS are willfully violating the law and are holding them accountable for it.”
The decision wouldn’t affect the school’s current or future operations, said Einstein Academy Executive Director Jeffrey Shapiro.
“There will be no interrupiton of the school’s operations,” Shapiro said. “It will continue to operate for the foreseeable future.”
The judge was actually recognizing “a procedural error,” he added, but the judge acknowledged the validity of the AEALAS’ need to operate outside of the district.
Newhall officials sued AADUSD and Einstein Academy in June regarding that district’s May 2013 approval of Einstein Academy’s charter for a site thought to be in the Saugus Union School District boundaries. That site was later changed to a school site previously owned by Pinecrest in the Newhall School District.
Newhall School District officials, as well as those of all five other district leaders, have found problems with Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District’s charter school approvals for sites out of that district’s boundaries, according to a joint letter signed by five Santa Clarita Valley superintendents.
Newhall, Los Angeles Unified and Pasadena all filed suit against the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District over claims regarding the district’s charter approvals.
The decision gives the school a chance to redo the petition process, Shapiro said.
The court directed us to submit a new charter before Feb. 5, and then when a new charter takes effect, then the existing charter will be set aside, he said.
A charter school is expected to prove a need to operate outside of a district’s boundaries in order for a district’s charter school approval for a site outside of its boundaries to be legitimate. A district is also required to notify the district responsible for the area of the new site.
Newhall school officials have challenged both contentions by Einstein Academy officials.
“I think what’s important about this is, is that by locating a charter school in another district’s boundaries, you’re invalidating the process by which the local community participates in the decision of whether there should be a charter school in that community,” said Sue Ann Evans, a partner in Dannis Woliver Kelley, the law firm representing the Newhall School District, in a previous interview.
An AADUSD board member denied the district conducted any violations of the law with respect to its charter school approvals.
When reached for comment about the suit in a previous interview, AADUSD board member Ed Porter maintained the charter petition approvals were done legally.
“We’re operating within the legal confines for charters schools set forth by the state,” Porter said.
Initial reports indicate the parties are to appear in court Oct. 30 to determine if additional actions pending by other school districts who are being represented by the same attorneys share enough common ground to be affected by Newhall ruling.
Several other school districts have sued the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District due to a proliferation of charter school approvals, according to court documents.
The parties reportedly are ordered to appear on Feb. 13, 2015 with properly vetted and AADUSD board approved new charter agreement to avoid permanent revocation of AADUSD out of district boundary Einstein Elementary site.