The Albert Einstein Academy of Letters, Arts and Sciences will submit its elementary school charter to the Los Angeles County Office of Education next week, officials said on Friday.
This will be the academy’s sixth attempt, following denials from the Newhall, Wm. S. Hart Union, Los Angeles Unified, Ventura Unified and Saugus Union school districts.
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On Tuesday, the Saugus Union School District Board of Trustees unanimously rejected the charter.
“My feeling beforehand was that it would be denied,” said Judith Stolnitz, board secretary for the academy. “The Saugus District has not been positive in their conversations about charter schools. We knew politically that it was unlikely that they would approve it.”
A 50-page staff report provided to the district board before its decision references several problems with the academy’s petition, including an inability to provide financial oversight, comply with the American Disabilities Act, remain nonsectarian, budget for an assistant principal or select a school location.
Even if the academy eventually cleared up the problems, the Saugus District would still reject the charter, said Stolnitz.
According to school advocates, several of the district’s arguments were unpreventable.
“You can’t find a lease or hire a principal or assistant principal or anything until you’ve been approved as a charter,” said Stonlitz. “Who would give us a lease not knowing that we’re going to be able to pay the bills?”
Last year, the Hart District accepted the Einstein Academy’s petition for a secondary school, bringing the total of charter schools within the Santa Clarita Valley to four.
“When we presented our junior high/high school to the Hart District, they also had some concerns, but we sat down and talked about them and worked out their concerns,” said Stonlitz. “We made some corrections; we adjusted some things that made them uncomfortable. It was a joint effort. Saugus has made it very clear that they don’t want to work with us.”
Currently, the Santa Clarita Valley doesn’t contain a charter school that focuses soley on prepatory education, prompting several parents to advocate for Einstein Academy. (Santa Calrita Valley International, a charter school which opened last year in Castaic, serves grades K-9. Grades 10-12 will be added eventually.)
“The main pull for our family is that the academy is looking to diversify the way our children think and learn. They are going to amplify extracurricular activities as far as art, music and science, which has been completely devoid in our current school system,” said Stacy Robin. “The current curriculum does not hit that mark because they are working on old school philosophies. The Albert Einstein Academy is working in the new generation.”
There are numerous parents like Robin, several of whom repeatedly contact district officials and speak at public meetings. The school has already acquired 312 prospective students, the maximum number it plans to enroll upon opening.
Nevertheless, the Saugus District had never received a charter petition before the Einstein Academy’s, according to Superintendent Judy Fish.
“As a petition comes before us, we have an obligation to review that petition against criteria that are clearly spelled out,” said Fish. “I think a common thread through all of those charter denials is a concern that the charter is not consistent with sound, educational practices and a concern that it doesn’t address the needs of all students. Charter law is very clear that it should address the needs of all students with a special emphasis on those who are low-performing.”
According to the California Department of Education website, “Student achievement among educationally and economically disadvantaged students in California public charter schools is improving faster than in non-charter public schools.”
The department also references one in 20 schools in California is a charter school. One in 50 students in California attends a charter school as well.
On Tuesday, the academy will try its luck with the Los Angeles County Department of Education, which currently operates seven charter schools. One of those schools, Soledad Enrichment Action, includes 19 satellite campuses throughout L.A. County.
“They are more accepting,” said Stonlitz. “We have looked at some sites. We have a couple in mind. When the charter gets approved, we’ll move forward.”