Recent charter school ruling under review by school board

Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District

A recent ruling by a California appellate court on charter school satellite sites and resource centers is set to be the topic of conversation for the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District (AADUSD) Board of Trustees at its regular meeting Thursday.

Board members intend discuss the implications of California’s Third District Court of Appeal ruling on Anderson Union High School vs. Shasta Secondary Home School, which limits conditions under which a non-classroom charter school can operate a satellite site or resource center within another district’s boundaries.

The California Education Code states that charter schools may open satellite campus and in neighboring districts if students do not spend more than 80 percent of their time at the location.

However, the Anderson district claimed that Shasta violated the Education Code’s Charter School Act because it opened a resource center outside of its chartering district’s geographic boundaries.

“Shasta Home School Program opened one of these resource centers or satellite offices within the boundaries of Anderson Unified School District,” Ken Pfalzgraf, clerk of the AADUSD Board of Trustees, said.  “So Anderson tried to get a cease and desist.”

The trial court initially ruled in favor of the Shasta Home School; however, the appellate court reversed the decision Oct. 17 in a ruling that stated that charter schools cannot open satellite campuses outside of their district’s boundaries.

“The local court ruled that there wasn’t a problem with them opening up that site somewhere else,” Pfalzgraf said.  “The appellate court turned that over and said you need to have the authorization of the district that you are located in.”

The ruling is an important one for the AADUSD district which operates 15 charters, many of which are located outside of the school district’s geographic boundaries.

For example, the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences (AEALAS), which operates on Orchard Village Road in Valencia, maintains its charter with AADUSD although it is located within the Newhall School District boundaries.

This debate was the center of another court case, Newhall School District v. Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District and Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences, in 2014 that resulted in the reapplication of AEALAS’ charter.

The Charter Schools Act does allow a charter to operate outside of its district or county if the chartering school district cannot find space available within its boundaries and if the charter district notifies the receiving district in advance of approving the charter petition.

Members of the board of trustees will discuss the most recent appellate court ruling on Shasta with the district interim Superintendent Kim Lytle to see if and how it will impact the AADUSD’s 15 charter schools.

“This will be done in open session which is great and the most transparent way to do it,” Pfalzgraf said.

Pfalzgraf noted that former Superintendent Brent Woodard, whose resignation was effective Jan. 31, was the designer of the district’s charter school plan.

“He was the architect of the charter plan and it is unfortunate he isn’t able to see the implications of the Shasta ruling on his work,” he said.

But, members of the board are also set to approve a $30,000 consulting agreement with Woodard for a limited time during the transition period, according to the meeting agenda.

Board members voted 3-2 to direct AADUSD legal counsel to pursue a possible consulting contract with Woodard at their Dec. 22 meeting.

“We felt that our fiduciary obligation to our constituents required us to have as seamless a transition as possible and to protect the viability of various current important projects that are under Dr. Woodard’s direct supervision,” AADUSD Board of Trustees Vice President Ed Porter told the Signal in January.

Additional Agenda Items:

  • Approve Declaration of public hearing of AAUSD teachers’ association’s initial proposal for negotiations to schoolyear
  • Approve college readiness block grant
  • Approve J-13A waiver request, an allowance of attendance, for school closures Jan. 23, 2017 due to severe weather conditions
  • Remove Brent Woodard as an authorized signer on orders drawn from district funds

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