[KHTS] – Einstein Academy officials Thursday sought a second charter school petition from Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District officials to replace the one a judge threw out.
AADUSD officials gave both the Albert Einstein Academy for the Letters, Arts and Sciences, as well as the Newhall School District, time to state their respective cases at the public hearing in front of several dozen community members and parents at Meadowlark School in Acton.
Einstein is seeking to apply for a program slightly larger in scope than the previous petition, while the Newhall is seeking to have AADUSD deny the charter or confine the program to AADUSD boundaries.
The charter was invalidated when a judge ruled AADUSD officials didn’t properly document their fact-finding efforts for a school site within their own boundaries before approving a charter school site within NSD boundaries back in December 2013.
Making the case for AEA was Executive Director Jeffrey Shapiro, who pointed to the schools’ academic success at the K-6 and 7-12 grade levels.
“We’re serving over 1,000 students,” Shapiro said. “We’re employing the same program, the same philosophy and following the same mission at the elementary level as we are at the secondary level — and that is individualizing the program, limiting class size, making sure there is a focus on meeting the needs of each student.”
The schools’ legal counsel provided documentation to show unsuccessful efforts to find a suitable spot for the new charter within AADUSD boundaries.
Newhall School District officials, including four of the district’s governing board members and Superintendent Marc Winger, said academics were not the issue as much as their concerns with sovereignty and the legality of the charter school petition.
“Our main concern is not about the quality of the school and it’s not about parent choice and it’s certainly not about a lawfully established high school program,” Winger said. “It’s about the law, it’s about the lawful establishment of charter schools, and it’s about a charter school that should be compliant with the law.”
While Einstein Academy officials contend there isn’t enough space at the current site they use in the AADUSD for the full breadth of their program, Newhall, as well as two other school districts — Castaic and Saugus Union — offered more than 60 portable classrooms and bathrooms to house additional students.
AADUSD board members, who also approved an Einstein Academy charter school site within AADUSD boundaries, seemed skeptical of the offer. One board member suggested it might be a bluff, and another said moving so many units created numerous practical problems and costs for the district.
Newhall attorney Sue Ann Evans said she hoped the offer could begin a conversation about the potential move.
AADUSD board President Mark Distaso said it was unlikely the district would be able to find and site a suitable place within the two months AADUSD officials have to consider the new petition.
The AADUSD governing board is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the school continues to operate K-6 campuses in both districts.