Einstein preps to appeal charter petition to county

The Albert Einstein Academy of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Dan Watson/The Signal

Officials with the Albert Einstein Academy of Letters, Arts and Sciences (AEALAS) are preparing to submit an appeal of their denied charter school petition to the Los Angeles County Board of Education.

According to the school’s CEO Maggie Ford, it is evaluating all of its options to keep AEALAS—currently in its seventh year of operation—open to students and families in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“We are not closing any doors at this time,” Ford said.  “The board is doing anything we can to keep this school open.”

This includes submitting an appeal to the County Board. If the county denies their appeal, the school could appeal its petition to the State Board of Education.

If turned down by the county and state, Ford left the door open as to whether or not they would discuss the creation and submission of a new charter to the William S. Hart Union High School District, independent from the AEALAS organization.

AEALAS’ five-year charter renewal petition was denied by the Hart District at the district’s Governing Board meeting on March 1.

The board’s unanimous denial of the charter acknowledged the school’s success in providing for students academically and socially, but noted that the school’s financial and governance issues were too large to ignore.

“Regrettably, Einstein’s many admirable qualities must be weighed in the context of numerous egregious financial and management concerns for the years leading up to this renewal petition,” Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Mike Kuhlman said at the March 1 meeting.

These concerns include previous litigation, two delinquent audits, $4 million in deficits, a negative working capital of more than $3 million and the charter’s unapproved expansion into the larger Charter Management Organization (CMO) of AELAS Inc.

Now, AEALAS is gathering its renewal petition documents to submit its charter to the county, who would have 60 days to make a decision on the petition. If the county rules in the charter’s favor it becomes responsible for overseeing the school.

County Board Appeal Process

AEALAS Governing Board members decided at a March 2 emergency board meeting to submit an appeal to the Los Angeles County Board of Education, according to Ford.

In its appeal to the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) Charter School Office, AEALAS must submit a complete a copy of the charter petition and the petition’s supporting documents, in addition to budget documents and required signatures.

“Our appeal is prepped and ready to go,” Ford said.  “We’re just waiting for Hart to sign off on one section of that… it will go off as soon as they sign it.”

This “sign off” is the district’s signature and verification that the petition and supporting documents “are the ones on which the district board based its denial.”

When The Signal spoke with the Hart District Wednesday, it said that the district’s verification of the petition and its documents would be sent to AEALAS by the end of the day Wednesday.

“We are submitting exactly the same charter,” Ford reaffirmed.

Once appeal is received by the LACOE, the County Board will give written confirmation of the appeal to AEALAS and will schedule two public hearings regarding the petition, one within 30 calendar days and one within 60 calendar days.

The first meeting will allow AEALAS personnel to demonstrate support for the charter and provide an overview of the petition to the County Board.

The second meeting will include staff findings and the County Board’s approval or denial of the appeal renewal petition.

“When considering a petition for renewal, the County Board will consider the past performance of the school with regard to academics, finance, and operation in evaluating the likelihood of success along with any evidence of future plans for improvement,” according to a charter petition document from the LACOE Charter School Office.

State Board Appeal Process

If the county denies AEALAS’ appeal renewal petition, the school plans on undergoing the same appeal process with the California State Board of Education (SBE).

“If either a school district governing board or a county board of education, as a chartering agency, does not grant a renewal to an existing charter school, the charter school may submit its petition for renewal with the SBE,” the SBE said on its website.

The SBE recommends that charter schools submit their appeals three months before the state meeting they wish to be heard at a meeting.

This means that to be heard at the state board’s July 2017 meeting, a charter school must submit its appeal petition by April 2017 and to be heard at a September 2017 meeting, a charter school must submit its appeal petition by June 2017.

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