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District recommends denying Einstein Academy renewal

Hart Union School District office. Dan Watson/The Signal

A five-year renewal request by the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences charter school may be denied by the Hart school district at their meeting on Wednesday, according to the district staff report.

The William S. Hart Union High School District expressed concern in the report about the academy’s fiscal status and student demographics, saying the “petition fails to provide a reasonably comprehensive description of all required elements of a charter petition.”

This is the second of two hearings between the district and Einstein, the first of which allowed the academy to defend their request for renewal.

“We went over what’s going on academically, what’s going on financially, what the concerns of the district are, and based on the hearing we had a couple weeks back where Einstein gave its side of the story, we’ll give our decision based on that,” district board President Joe Messina said.

If Einstein’s representatives bring information to the March 1 meeting that refutes concerns stated in the report, the school board may shift their vote in favor of the renewal and go against the recommendation, according to Messina.

The board has gone against recommendations many times before, he said, though he has not yet discussed this particular case with any of the trustees to gauge their perspectives.

If the district decides to decline Einstein’s petition for renewal on Wednesday, the charter school may appeal to the County, and if denied there, appeal to the State.

“The State has never really declined anybody,” Messina said. “The chances of that school closing down no matter what happens Wednesday night is really, really slim.”

Questions and concerns about Einstein are not new and have been in the making for some time, he said.

One major concern in regard to the school is slow and incomplete financial reporting. Messina said the school never gave the district all of their accounting information, and while the school started to catch up last summer, he believes they may still be upwards of a year behind.

Additionally, Einstein admitted during the last meeting to using district funds in other districts.

“If we know that there are financial inconsistencies and that school was to close down because of financial reasons, the district could be liable for that,” Messina said. “Are we willing to take this risk?”

Data in the district’s report also shows the number of Hispanic and Latino students at the charter high school are not currently aligned with the makeup of the district. The charter school is comprised of 60 percent white students and 15 percent Hispanic or Latino students, whereas the rest of the district is 40 percent white and 40 percent Hispanic or Latino.

California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress test results show 75 percent of the charter’s white students met or exceeded state standards in language arts while 50 percent of Hispanic or Latino students did, compared to 60 percent of Hispanic or Latino students across the district.

The performance gap corresponds to mathematics as well, where 65 percent of white students passed and 47 percent of Hispanics or Latinos passed.

However, 37 percent of Hispanic or Latinos passed mathematics across the district, giving the Einstein charter students a 10 percent advantage in that category.

“I get it, I really get the concern (parents) have,” Messina said. “Their kids are getting a good education. It’s not an education thing for us. There’s so much more to education than just the academics.”


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