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Saugus Union School District to vote on Einstein Academy charter

Saugus staff urges denial of Einstein

Posted: October 16, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 16, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Saugus Union School District board members are due to vote tonight on the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences’ petition to grant a charter for an elementary school.

A school district staff report recommends against granting the charter, Einstein’s third petition to open an elementary school through the Saugus district.

“There are many of the same elements (in the petition) that did not meet the requirements that still do not meet the requirements,” said Joan Lucid, superintendent for Saugus Union School District.

The district staff recommended against granting the charter in a 54-page report with an additional 16-page summary of its budget analysis.

But Jeffrey Shapiro, executive director for the proposed charter elementary school, said Monday the staff report lacked an adequate explanation for the refusal.

“We’re just trying to meet the demands of families in this community and replicate our success with an elementary school that we have with an existing school,” Shapiro said. “Unfortunately, there just seems to be a lot of issues with the caliber and quality of the report that seem to be very discouraging.”

Einstein Academy currently operates a seventh- to 11th-grade school chartered by the William S. Hart Union High School District. It has been seeking an elementary charter since 2009, Shapiro said.

Elementary school charter requests by Einstein have been rejected by the Newhall School District and the Los Angeles Unified School District, as well as previously by the Saugus district. Einstein Academy pulled an appeal of a previous Saugus denial to the Los Angeles County Board of Education before it could be considered.

Lucid said the most recent petition was lacking in several areas.

“There are five areas, which have to do with the educational programs, and again, the English language learning and special education programs are still problematic.”

In the report, staff members express concern regarding a $300,000 amount they say the school accounts for without having documentation to back up the amount. There are also discrepancies within the charter petition when money will be deposited, according to the report.

The money question was a moot point, according to Shapiro, because Einstein Academy recently was approved for a $5 million bond for its seventh-grade-to-11th-grade charter school.

“The bond was for the high school,” Shapiro said. “However, there were monies raised by the (school’s) foundation to advance costs for that. There will be money coming back (from the bond).”

The $300,000 was a written pledge district officials were refusing to accept, Shapiro said.

But Lucid countered that, for district officials to consider the money as part of an operational budget, there would need to be documentation that showed where it existed.

In respect to academic programming, Saugus Union officials repeated past concerns regarding how Einstein Academy would address special-needs students in the Saugus district.

The school proposes to create a memorandum of understanding with the district on the issue of special-needs students. The petition references a sample memorandum, but there is no such document in the petition or its supporting documents, Lucid said.

The proposal for special programming was in the binder, not in the petition, according to Shapiro. But he said he would have expected a follow-up call as a good-faith effort if district staff were unable to find a document specifically cited in the petition.

Einstein Academy scored a 910 for its Academic Performance Index released last week, which placed the high school in the top 1 percent of secondary schools statewide, according to Einstein officials. However, the school only counted one English-language learner among its 240 tested students, according to state scores.

Those learning the English language tend to score significantly lower on standardized testing.

Saugus Union had 1,098 English-language learners who took the test; they improved their scores by 28 points to 840 out of a possible 1,000 in results released last week.

The district had 7,226 second- through sixth-grade students tested, scoring 890 on the scale of 200 through 1,000.



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