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Local superintendents say planned Einstein Academy schools could violate state law

Posted: July 23, 2013 6:30 p.m.
Updated: July 23, 2013 6:30 p.m.

With time growing short to open its new elementary charter school in time for the fall, Einstein Academy officials have filed paperwork with the state saying they will locate a primary school and may locate a secondary school within the boundaries of the Castaic and Hart school districts.

But since Einstein officials said the charters granted them by the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District would put the elementary school in the Saugus Union School District and the secondary school in the San Fernando Valley, Einstein has drawn the ire of the superintendents of both Castaic Union School District and the William S. Hart Union High School District.

The Hart district already has chartered an Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences junior-senior high school in its district. The school is located in the Rye Canyon Loop industrial area.

Castaic school district
Recent state filings from Einstein indicate that the elementary school will be located at 25300 Rye Canyon Road, putting it in the boundaries of the Castaic district.

Castaic district Superintendent Jim Gibson said Tuesday the district received no prior notice that the school would be located within his district.

“In their petitions and their discussions they’ve always discussed the school being in Saugus,” he said. “But the school currently is in Castaic.”

Jeffrey Shapiro, the executive director of the Einstein Academy’s foundation, sent an email to Saugus district Superintendent Joan Lucid in May notifying her that the school would be located in her district. Acton-Agua Dulce issued the two school charters in May.

But Gibson said he has yet to receive such a notice — which is required under the law — or any communication from Einstein regarding the charter school’s location.

The law requires notice because a new school could take away students from other schools in a district — and with them would go thousands of dollars in state funding.

“That’s the purpose of that law, and I think we’re being injured by the fact they didn’t follow that law,” Gibson said.

Shapiro did not return calls or an email seeking comment Tuesday.

Hart district
Papers filed with the state also show the Einstein secondary school, which was expected to be located in the San Fernando Valley, listed as 25300 Rye Canyon Road in Valencia.

This would place the school within the boundaries of the William S. Hart Union High School District, which has already chartered an Einstein Academy.

Superintendent Rob Challinor said the Hart district was “blindsided” by the proposed school location.

“It is evident that there is a lack of clarity and transparency surrounding the latest Einstein petition,” Challinor said in a statement. “Castaic Union was not informed of the planned elementary school at the Rye Canyon address nor was the Hart District informed of a planned secondary school at the same address.”

State law
According to the California Education Code, charter schools are allowed to be located outside the boundaries of the district that charters them, but they must provide advanced notice to whatever district they locate in.

Neither Challinor nor Gibson received such notice, they say.

Gibson said he is preparing a report detailing the alleged Education Code violations that will be sent to the Acton-Agua Dulce district and Einstein, as well as the county Office of Education.

Challinor, Gibson and Lucid joined with superintendents of other school districts in the Santa Clarita Valley — Marc Winger of the Newhall School District and Robert Nolet of the Sulphur Springs School District — to send a letter to Acton-Agua Dulce board members urging them to deny the Einstein charter petitions.

A call to Acton-Agua Dulce Superintendent Brent Woodard went unreturned Tuesday.

Matt Ridenour, a member of the Acton-Agua Dulce board, said Tuesday he stands by the board’s decision to issue the charters.

“We’re trying to do our job, which is to provide options and choice,” he said.

But board member Larry H. Layton said he voted against the Einstein charter petitions because he does not think it’s right for one district to locate a chartered school within another.

“I don’t understand why somebody would do that — why one district would do that to another,” Layton said Tuesday. “How would our school district feel if someone did that to us?”
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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