Santa Clarita Valley Superintendents Pen Letter To Acton Agua Dulce Officials
(Click here to view the editorial from Santa Clarita Valley superintendents on Einstein Academy.)
With a petition before the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District seeking approval of a charter school for the Albert Einstein Academy for the Letters, Arts and Science in the Santa Clarita Valley, superintendents from all five school districts collaborated on an editorial asking AADUSD officials to deny the move.
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On April 11, Acton-Agua Dulce board members held a hearing at their regular school board meeting consider approving a charter.
District officials and staff now have 60 days to consider the petition and render a decision. However, Santa Clarita Valley district officials have taken umbrage to certain aspects of the petition.
“They want to say they are located in AADUSD, but also in SCV,” said Marc Winger, superintendent of the Newhall School District. “And they will reflect AADUSD, but ignore the demographics of the SCV.”
The Newhall School District voted to deny a charter petition from Einstein Academy in October 2010.
A letter penned by all five of the Santa Clarita Valley’s K-12 superintendents, including Winger, Castaic Union’s Jim Gibson, the Hart district Rob Challinor, Saugus Union’s Joan Lucid and Sulphur Springs’ Bob Nolet, likened Einstein Academy’s most recent charters to an attempt to create “exclusionary, boutique schools.”
The petition would create a location in the Santa Clarita Valley, outside of the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District boundaries in the Santa Clarita Valley for a kindergarten-to-sixth-grade school, and it would authorize the creation of a junior high and high school in the San Fernando Valley.
Saugus Union board President Judy Umeck said Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District officials should approve a district within their own boundaries, despite the fact that such a move is legal.
“I find it amazing that a school district can vote to monitor a charter that is in another school district’s jurisdiction,” Umeck said.
AADUSD Superintendent Brent Woodard did not return calls seeking comment for this story.
AEALAS Foundation Executive Director Jeffrey Shapiro declined to comment on a story about the charter school’s most recent petition, saying only that the foundation, which operates a seventh- to 11th-grade junior high and high school for the William S. Hart Union High School District, is “not limiting our options. We’re looking at what’s in the best interest of the students we look to serve.”
The letter from the superintendents cites “large, overarching reasons for multiple denials” of AEALAS, including the fact that the school has virtually no experience with English-language learners, who make up a significant portion of students populations in the Santa Clarita Valley.
“The fact that English-learners and kids who live in poverty require greater resources and time is a given,” Winger said. “That's the whole premise of the governor's proposed Local Control Funding Formula for next year's budget. He wants to weight state funding toward these two groups because they require so much more time, funding and teacher expertise.”
The Williams S. Hart Union High School District has approximately 2,344 English-language learners, approximately 9 percent of the district, a number that has risen steadily over the past 16 years.
Einstein Academy counted one student among its English-language learners last year, which is the most recent data available.
It is much more expensive and time-consumptive to educate English-language learners, Winger said.
The Newhall district has the highest percentage of English language learners in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The Newhall district has approximately 35 percent of its student body counted as English-language learners.
About 1,700 of those students in the Newhall district speak Spanish as a first language, which comprises roughly 27 percent of its students body. Another 8 percent of the district’s roughly 7,000 speak other languages, such as Korean, Filipino and Farsi.
About 8 percent of Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District students are English language learners, according to the most recent statistics available by the state’s Department of Education.
Saugus Union has approximately 1,280 English-language learners, a figure that comprises approximately 12 percent of its 10,295 students. More than 80 percent of those students speak Spanish as a first language.
Castaic Union counts English-language learners as slightly more than 10 percent of its total student population. The district has 310 ELL students, and 2,939 total students.
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