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Commentary by Brian Walters
| Wednesday, Dec 3, 2014
Brian Walters

Brian Walters

In our social media-driven world where “correct” answers tend to be determined by popularity rather than actual accuracy, opinions and spin on fact have become intermingled with actual facts and truth to the point where someone’s virtual or mythical reality becomes that person’s own substitute for what is real.

But make no mistake: Truth – things as they actually are, were or are to be – is still what constitutes fact and is not determined by how many people vote for it. There are the facts, and there are the myths, with each side choosing to which they will hold.

Unfortunately, that has been the example in the wake of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant’s preliminary ruling in the case of Newhall School District versus the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District (AADUSD) and the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences (AEA) – finding that both defendants failed to comply with state Education Code sections 47605 and 47605.1.

As has already been reported, the judge declared the Newhall School District the prevailing party, vacated AEA’s original charter, and gave the school 120 days to apply for approval of a new charter for the already operating elementary school. That is a fact.

As the AADUSD board prepares for a public hearing Thursday night on a new charter petition by AEA, it is worth a discussion about facts.

Litigation was a matter of final recourse. The Governing Board of the Newhall School District has placed its highest value on the lawful education of our community’s young people. The lawsuit was not born out of malevolence or ill will, but to avert lawlessness while ensuring sound educational opportunities are made available in a manner that pays heed to the laws designed to protect each community’s resident stakeholders.

It was unfortunate that the several attempts by local educational leaders to resolve this without litigation were ignored.

It has been disheartening to see the manner in which several leaders of the AADUSD and AEA have spun the court’s decision to make it appear all is well when, indeed, there are serious concerns.

In light of this, I believe it is necessary to address some of the myths and facts of case BS149061, which can be accessed here: www.newhallschooldistrict.net/images/stories/pdf/board/notice/notice_of_ruling.pdf.

 

Myth 1: AEA and AADUSD “won” the lawsuit.

Fact: The Newhall School District was declared the prevailing party, which also allows the Newhall district to seek attorney fees from AADUSD and AEA.

Myth 2: AADUSD’s “charter initiative” plan, under which AEA’s school was approved, is legal.

Fact: The court found this to be a revenue-generation scheme that is inconsistent with the intent of the California Charter Schools Act of 1992 (page 2, 26), and cannot be used as a reason to approve a new charter petition by AEA. The judge completely vacated the charter that AEA was granted by the AADUSD. The intent of the Charter Schools Act was to approve charter schools for the students of the chartering district, not for other districts, and certainly not to generate revenue. In regard to Senate Bill 1263, a bill that attempted to correct the abuse, Gov. Jerry Brown stated, “it appears that some school districts and charter schools have gone against the spirit of the law and that the exemption (about location) has become the rule.”

Myth 3: The Newhall School District opposes charter schools and denied AEA’s charter petition because it is against “school choice.”

Fact: Since the inception of the Charter Schools Act in 1992, we have received only one petition for a charter. It was from AEA, and it was denied after a comprehensive expert review of, and report on, the proposed plan due to a number of concerns by the Governing Board, among them multiple errors and a lack of vital detail in AEA’s fiscal plan and its ability to serve English language learners. The Newhall School District’s denial of the AEA elementary charter was only one of many denials by multiple school districts and had nothing to do with the merits of charter schools. AEA elementary charter petitions were denied by the Los Angeles Unified School District (the world’s largest charter approver), Ventura USD, Saugus Union SD, Moorpark USD and the Los Angeles County Office of Education. These denials were for substantive reasons that could not be overlooked and put aside for school choice.

Myth 4: Judge Chalfant approved AEA’s site at the former Pinecrest School.

Fact: The judge completely vacated the charter that AEA was granted by the AADUSD. This included the location. While the school is not being required to shut down at this time, a new petition must be submitted to AADUSD and a hearing must be held, allowing the Newhall School District to present its evidence about location. The AADUSD has been admonished not to approve a charter based on its strategy of raising district revenue through its charter schools initiative. When talking about the location issue, the judge invited the Newhall School District to present its case wherein it can contend “conspiratorial action” and “bad faith” on the part of AEA and AADUSD.

Myth 5: AEA has been cleared to establish a “permanent site” at the former Pinecrest School in Santa Clarita.

Fact: This is the very issue that is still being contested and has yet to be determined.

Myth 6: The Newhall School District is prohibited from appealing the judge’s ruling on the outcome of this case.

Fact: The Newhall School District intends to pursue this case until all issues are finally resolved. The judge viewed the next step as correcting the unlawful administrative mistakes that AADUSD made, but he has not yet ruled on the constitutional issues of school district jurisdiction that were raised in the Newhall School District’s complaint. Appeals and new lawsuits are not only allowable, but if the same course of action is insisted upon by AEA and AADUSD they are also probable. Imagine the city of Palmdale declaring that it was going to place a municipal service like police or a trash dump in the city of Santa Clarita. Would other local elected officials, who are charged by the people with making decisions about their respective jurisdictions, allow this to happen?

Myth 7: AEA is not able to find adequate facilities in AADUSD’s boundaries, so the Pinecrest site is legal.

Fact: This issue is in dispute, and the Newhall School District will provide evidence about adequate facilities within AADUSD’s boundaries for the hearing scheduled this week. AEA operated in AADUSD all last year at both Agua Dulce Elementary and an elementary school site that had been vacant for 10 years.

Myth 8: AEA and AADUSD did not need to provide proper notice to the Newhall School District about the original approval of the AEA charter.

Fact: The judge agreed that AEA’s original petition did not comply with the law, by failing to identify a specific location where it intended to operate a school outside of the AADUSD boundaries (page 15).

Myth 9: This matter is the result of a simple procedural error, and there was no violation of law.

Fact: Due process, which Judge Chalfant determined the Newhall School District and consequently its constituents had been denied, is no simple “oops, no biggie” issue. It is the foundation of our form of government and legal system and one of the great characteristics that separate us from dictatorships, tyrannies and other oppressive forms of government. It is the basis for ensuring that individuals and other entities receive the full benefit of the rights afforded to them. That is why the judge vacated the previous charter granted to AEA for an elementary school and gave direction to AADUSD to hold a bona fide hearing and proper process for addressing all concerns.

 

But don’t take just my word for it. We urge you to read the court’s findings, be informed, and decide for yourself.

The Newhall School District takes seriously the responsibility to provide educational opportunities consistent with legal and ethical obligations in a manner that is above reproach. It is my hope that, on whatever side of this issue you or I may fall, we will all choose to rise above spin and misinformation, separating fact from myth and civilly seeing this through to a lawful resolution that truly benefits the impacted communities.

 

Brian Walters is president of the Newhall School District Governing Board. His column reflects his own views.

 

Comment On This Story
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7 Comments

  1. Be attentive to the blurry line that separates Opinion/Commentary from actual News.

  2. Be attentive to the blurry line that separates Opinion/Commentary from actual News.

  3. Very disappointed to be able to say I am a product of NSD. This guy wrote an entire article showing why we should side with him. The fact is simple our kids are happy and are learning. My 1st grader was teaching us Mandarin the other day. AEA has one of the top performing high schools in our valley, when it comes to producing scholars they are truly on point. We should welcome AEA into this community with open arms. NSD needs to redirect their attention to fixing the schools within the NSD boundaries that are performing poorly, instead of attacking a school that is performing to the needed standards.

  4. Gee at least he is not biased.

  5. Kevin D. Korenthal says:

    This opinion piece contains far too many inaccuracies to even bother trying to correct.

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