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Newhall district files lawsuit over charters

Posted: June 7, 2014 10:19 p.m.
Updated: June 7, 2014 10:19 p.m.


The Newhall School District has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District’s approval of a charter school from the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The lawsuit, filed Friday, alleges that the Acton-Agua Dulce district approved the Einstein charter in May 2013 as a means to address the district’s financial instability, knowing that the Einstein Academy did not intend to operate lawfully in the Acton-Agua Dulce district.


The suit challenges the actions of the Acton-Agua Dulce district board, saying the board has approved 15 charter schools since 2012, with all but one of the 15 to operate outside the district’s boundaries.

In a statement last month, the superintendents of five Santa Clarita Valley school districts decried that as “pay to play.”

“Acton’s proliferation of charter schools unrestrained by the geography of the authorizing school district, and for the purpose of making money, is far from the intent and letter of California’s Charter Schools Act of 1992,” the statement reads. “It’s pay to play.”

The suit also challenges actions by the Einstein Academy to locate within the boundaries of the Newhall district — saying that Einstein has purchased a site at 25443 Orchard Village Road, in the boundaries of the Newhall district, where it plans to operate a charter school, or charter schools, approved by the Acton-Agua Dulce district.

Newhall district officials say they were not properly notified that the charter school might be located in the district’s boundaries.

In a statement, Sue Ann Salmon Evans, a lawyer with the firm Dannis Woliver Kelley and counsel for the district, said, “The lawsuit is not an attempt to prevent charter schools in the Newhall School District, but to ensure that local charter schools are authorized in compliance with law and operate in concert with local school districts to the benefit of our local communities.”

“The district recognizes that charter schools can play an important role in the community, but they best complement the services of local school districts when they are formed and operate in conjunction with a local school district,” Evans said.

Brian Walters, president of the Newhall district board, said the district had no choice but to file the suit.

“Acton-Agua Dulce left us no choice in this matter,” he said in a statement. “We sent a cease and desist letter on May 12 and waited over two weeks with no response.

“This could have been easily resolved if AADUSD chose to abide by the intent and letter of the law by keeping the Albert Einstein Academy operating in the district where they were chartered,” he continued. “By doing so, they would not have violated the clear statutory direction of the Charter Schools Act.”

The Newhall district previously rejected a charter petition from Einstein in 2010, citing concerns with the program proposal for English-language-learning students and the fiscal plan.

Einstein statement

In a statement Saturday, Einstein officials said the “organization has not been served any complaint yet by the Newhall School District.”

“But when and if we are served, we will review it and vigorously defend the right of parents to make a choice in the education of their children,” the statement reads. “Our organization operates wholly in compliance with applicable law.

“Children are not the property of the districts in which they reside,” the statement continues. “To suggest otherwise is indicative of the Newhall district’s desire to hold onto money rather than to compete and improve education for all students in the Santa Clarita Valley, missing the very purpose of the Charter Schools Act.”

Acton-Agua Dulce reaction

Ed Porter, vice president of the Acton-Agua Dulce board, said Saturday that he does not believe the board has done anything that would run afoul of the law.

Porter said he thinks the charter schools approved by the Acton-Agua Dulce district are filling a demand and providing a choice for parents and are not approved solely for financial benefit.

“We really believe in being a part of offering parents an alternative to the typical private and public education that’s out there,” he said. “And that’s why we’re doing this.”

Acton-Agua Dulce district board member Larry H. Layton voted against the Einstein charter proposal when it came before the board last year, telling The Signal at the time that he didn’t think it was right for one district to locate a chartered school within another.

“I didn’t feel, at the time, last summer that what the district was doing was fair,” he said when reached by phone Saturday. “I wouldn’t have wanted anybody to do that to us.”

Layton said he was also in the process of studying Senate Bill 1263, a piece of legislation sponsored by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, that would change California’s charter school law by blocking schools from locating outside the district that charters them.

“SB 1263 is the response to the abuse that we’re seeing, and we were so happy that Senator Pavley picked it up and ran with it,” said Newhall district Superintendent Marc Winger at the time.

Current state law allows for charter schools to locate and function outside the boundaries of their chartering district if they meet certain criteria.


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Lefty: Posted: June 8, 2014 8:31 a.m.

I'm not quite sure how locating charters outside of their district helps the students of AADUSD with an "alternative to the typical private and public education that’s out there."

cj64: Posted: June 8, 2014 9:28 a.m.

The charter schools are a big threat to the public employee unions.

choiceisgood: Posted: June 8, 2014 9:40 a.m.

Clearly, Lefty, you're not quite sure. But the 1100 students' families in SCV that applied to the school for next school year see a benefit to this alternative. There is no school campus in AADUSD that has the capacity to meet the demand for this school. The issue for Newhall and SUSD is not some fabricated notion that AADUSD and AEA are not complying with the law. Their real issue comes down to 2 things: FEAR and EGO. Fear of being outperformed by a little charter school that puts KIDS and education first, rather than a teachers' union built to proliferate mediocrity. And the fact that there might be a CHOICE for parents that is NOT fully controlled by the monopolistic local districts. Dr. Winger has been the school yard bully for way too long. It's about time someone stood up to his backyard. --edited.

choiceisgood: Posted: June 8, 2014 9:50 a.m.

By the way...every dollar that these local districts spend paying lawyers, consultants, and lobbyists to fight this little charter school is literally $$ coming out of their classrooms. It means fewer books, less technology, and larger classes...because hundreds of thousands of dollars are being diverted to the efforts to protect their feifdom from the scary little charter school. Each of these superintendents, and their staffs, are spending inordinate amounts of time on this issue and expending inordinate amounts of energy...when they ought to have a laser beam focus on "How can I improve learning in my classrooms?" This is what the fear is...a charter school whose sole focus is on student learning outcomes challenges the archaic paradigm in place at the local districts.

CaptGene: Posted: June 8, 2014 10:06 a.m.

Sounds like NSD sees the writing on the wall. The obvious solution would be for NSD to grant a charter to AEA, you know, for the "benefit of our local communities", but that's not going to happen. Instead, they are spending taxpayer money suing AADUSD, which causes AADUSD to spend taxpayer money defending itself.

Remember that next time NSD cries about not having enough funding.

projalice11: Posted: June 8, 2014 10:26 a.m.

Bingo choiceisgood ..

ccboy: Posted: June 9, 2014 9:28 p.m.

Are you all talking about the same Einstein academy that charges parents a monthly fee to pay for the students to be transported to the campus in Acton and then had their payment returned non sufficient funds to the bus company. When administrators finally showed up to talk to the parents why there was no bus, they blamed it on the bus company because they told them to hold off depositing the check. Always the victim, I am sure the teachers are fine but the administrators suck as shown by this and their permits issues.

bbcalvin: Posted: June 9, 2014 8:53 a.m.

To me, the big issue is the administration of AEA. They've had misstep after misstep. The current administration quite frankly is not capable of managing a school. At this point, it does not seem to have affected the classroom yet. However, if the current administration continues, it will definitely have a trickle down effect to the students.

DMeyer: Posted: June 9, 2014 9:52 a.m.

I think the real question is why school districts issue charters outside of their boundaries, it seems as if they want to operate outside of their jurisdiction. I have no problem with charter schools, just do it the right way. If this keeps going who's to say Compton Unified or a Tijuana school district can't establish their own schools in the the Valencia industrial center.

Lefty: Posted: June 9, 2014 10:08 a.m.

The chartering district gets an "oversee" amount for each school they charter. AADUSD sees this as a way for them to increase their revenue. Their fiscal situation is not good as evidenced by the County Board of Education "pending" their last five charter approvals while they do an investigation of the district's financial situation.

bartman: Posted: June 9, 2014 6:15 p.m.

LMAO... Everyone read the last line in the article right? Everything is legal but the district is suing anyway. The same district who has been taking Aqua Dolce Action students (and their money) enrollments for years as their parent commute into the valley.

Now when that district fights back, they scream foul? Give me a break.

Besides, a district who has had the challenges that they have had and survived without huge bond debt placed on their community is probably a better choice for a district mentor and collaborator than one that is narrow sighted and irresponsible with their funds like suing when something is legal.

Remember the role of the approving district... To mentor and oversee the schools fiscal activities. I really don't see how a boundary issue is a concern for those purposes. I guess they are just Wingering it.

bobforte: Posted: June 9, 2014 6:55 p.m.

Bartman, it says if they meet certain criteria. What is that criteria? Maybe that is what NSD is suing about.

BBCALVIN: Yes, the administration has had several missteps. And asking a company not to deposit a check? I couldn't believe it either. I know two people on the board at AEA. It seems in the last few months they haven't been talking it up lately about the school.

Foundations: Posted: June 10, 2014 10:13 a.m.

User Removed Comment.

ccboy: Posted: June 10, 2014 4:26 p.m.

Once again it is always an attack on Einstein, they do no wrong and everyone is out to get them. Supporters of Einstein sound a lot like Obama supporters, blaming everyone else when the real issue is that your administrators have not preformed their job. But as Obama can blame bush you can blame Saugus or hart or newhall school districts or the bus company or the city or who ever else you want to add to the list.

bobforte: Posted: June 10, 2014 5:37 p.m.

Foundations, what are the dangerous middle school problems? Facts only please.

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