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Einstein to try for a charter again with Saugus Union School District

Posted: September 7, 2012 6:50 p.m.
Updated: September 7, 2012 6:50 p.m.

Albert Einstein Academy officials have submitted a third application to the Saugus Union School District in their latest bid to win a charter for an elementary school.

Saugus Union has twice rejected Einstein’s request for a kindergarten-through-sixth-grade charter. Einstein’s request for an elementary school charter has also been rejected by the William S. Hart Union High School District and the Newhall School District.

A request before the Los Angeles County Board of Education was withdrawn in December after the board indicated it was unlikely to grant the charter.

The Hart district charters an Einstein junior/senior high school, but districts approached for an elementary school charter have cited concerns with Einstein’s program model.

“The last one was a half-million dollars short on its projection,” said Saugus Union Superintendent Joan Lucid. “And when you’re a half-million dollars short on projections, you’re concerned.”

Districts are liable for any financial issues associated with charters because they are funded by state dollars, Lucid said.

However, the school assured the district in writing that $300,000 of the half-million-dollar figure would be provided by the school’s foundation, said Jeffrey Shapiro. executive director with the academy’s foundation, which assists in fundraising efforts, among other support.

Additionally, the school was determined to be ineligible for a $250,000 loan by district officials, but academy representatives said they had more time to apply for that money — which wasn’t reflected in the petition, Shapiro said.

“We have addressed all of the items that were discussed in the staff report,” he said. “All of their findings have been addressed.”

But Saugus Union officials have to take the petition at face value because it’s a legally binding contract between a school and the chartering district, said Judy Umeck, a Saugus Union board member.

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, initially supported the charter’s effort, but he later withdrew his support. The son of former Hart district Superintendent Clyde Smyth, the assemblyman said education reform and parental choices have always been priorities.

“I have big support for charter schools as a whole,” Smyth said.

But in the case of Einstein’s elementary school application, “There’s something that’s not working, that’s preventing (the academy) from getting their approval,” Smyth said. “And I think they need to work through that, whether it’s with the Saugus Union board, or the Newhall district board or whichever — as opposed to continuing to just re-apply.”

The board will address the charter at a special meeting Sept. 19, Shapiro said.

A charter school is supported by taxpayers but founded by a community group that operates the school outside most local and state educational regulations.




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