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Einstein Academy faces 4th vote for approval from Saugus district

Charter official expects petition to be rejected

Posted: April 21, 2013 6:34 p.m.
Updated: April 21, 2013 6:34 p.m.

Claiming victories in other school districts, officials with the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences await a Saugus Union School District vote Tuesday night on their fourth attempt to win an elementary-school charter from Saugus.

An Einstein official has said he doesn’t expect the answer to be “yes” this time, and added that the petition hasn’t changed much since the last time it was submitted and rejected.

“I believe the Saugus district has made it very clear they will not accept a petition from us,” lead petitioner Jeffrey Shapiro said in February. “We’re not anticipating that they will come around on the matter.”

The district pays $40,000 to $50,000 each time it reviews a charter, district officials say.

Shapiro, who is executive director of Einstein’s foundation, has offered successes in other districts to suggest there is nothing wrong with the proposed charter.

Saugus district officials have repeatedly cited financial and programming concerns with Einstein’s proposed charter ­— namely whether the school would be fiscally viable or provide the necessary educational resources for special-needs students.

In latest petition, submitted to the Saugus district in February, Shapiro wrote that Einstein has been approved to operate site-based schools in San Diego County, Ventura County and the state of Ohio.

In at least one of those cases, however, the school is very different than that proposed to Saugus.

The San Diego County charter would allow Einstein to open a school in the Alpine Union School District. When that charter was first approved in November, Shapiro said it was “virtually identical” to the one submitted to the Saugus district.

But the K-12 charter approved in the Alpine district is an independent study school, unlike the more traditional school Einstein wants to charter in the Saugus district, according to Tom Pellegrino, the superintendent of the Alpine Union School District.

The exact nature of on-site learning activities at the Alpine school, referred to in Einstein’s petition as the “Endeavor Charter,” will depend largely on the needs of students who enroll in the school, Pellegrino wrote in an email.

“Not all independent study programs require or provide the same level of on-site support staffed by teachers,” Pellegrino wrote.

Shapiro characterized the school as having “limited independent study options to meet the needs of certain students.”

These independent study options could constitute as much as one-fourth of a student’s total class time, Shapiro said, and include options for an accelerated learner to take suitable classes or a student to take limited home-study courses.

Other than that, Shapiro said, the Alpine and Saugus programs would be “identical.”
The proposed charter submitted to the Saugus district has no independent study components — “no, not at all” — according to district Superintendent Joan Lucid.

Lucid said the district reviews each submitted charter on its merits and does not consider anything outside of the language of the charter itself when determining whether to recommend approval.

Members of the Saugus district board will vote on Einstein’s latest charter proposal Tuesday night. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the district’s offices, 24930 Avenue Stanford in Valencia.


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