County Board of Education reviewing AEALAS charter appeal

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

Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences (AEALAS) is halfway through a charter petition appeal process with the Los Angeles County Board of Education.

On April 18, the board conducted the first of two public hearings regarding the charter school’s petition, where officials from AEALAS could demonstrate support for the charter and provide an overview of the petition.

“The public hearing went well, there were over 100 of our supporters present,” Albert Einstein CEO Maggie Ford said.  “We were able to provide the Board with a 10 minute overview of our case.”

On Thursday, the school will participate in a capacity interview before the board’s final decision on the charter petition appeal is revealed in mid-May.

In three weeks, on May 16, staff from the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) is expected to present their findings to the Board of Education who will choose to approve or deny the appealed charter renewal request.

If it does rule in favor of the charter, the county board will become responsible for overseeing the school.

Currently in its seventh year of operations, AEALAS’ five-year charter renewal was originally submitted to, and denied by, the governing board of the William S. Hart Union High School District on March 1.

The board said it chose to unanimously deny AEALAS’ charter petition based on financial and governance issues at the school.

The next day, Albert Einstein Academy’s Governing Board decided to appeal Hart’s decision to the county’s board of education and gathered a complete copy of its petition, supporting documents, rebuttal documents, budget documents and required signatures to submit to the county.

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

The school appears to be optimistic that the county, or the state, will approve its charter renewal request before it expires on June 30, 2017.

On its website, AEALAS has provided applications for returning and new students for the 2017-18 schoolyear.

County Board of Education Appeal

In its appeal letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Education, AEALAS stated that is “an academically high performing school serving 462 students in grades 7-12.”

“Although there are many reasons why the charter should be renewed, the most important one is that a non-renewal would cause irreparable harm to the students of the school,” CEO Maggie Ford said in the appeal letter.

According to the letter, the appeal included two binders with hard copies of documents and a thumb drive of all the documents as well.

The appeal also included a rebuttal and response to the denial recommendation presented by the Hart District in February.

AEALAS argued in this rebuttal that its partnership with the Hart District was not clearly understood, well-documented or highly visible.

“The process has been muddy, barely understood and unfairly applied. There has been little documentation other than a series of requests for documents from the District staff,” the rebuttal read.

AEALAS also stated that it did not receive a template or framework from district staff, did not receive adequate communication and received last-minute requests for large amounts of documents from the district.

“The organization has established policies, reconstituted the board and solidified its leadership and is currently on a path that is operationally, fiscally and academically sound,” the rebuttal continued.

The charter school also cited the background and knowledge of its board, CEO and principal to lead to school and “ensure future viability.”

AEALAS went on the address its areas needing improvement and areas of strength, including a two-year debt repayment plan and focus on academic success.

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