LANCASTER — Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District’s Board of Education granted the iLEAD Agua Dulce charter school a five-year renewal.
The charter school opened in August 2018 in the Agua Dulce Elementary School campus that was once home to the Albert Einstein Academy-Agua Dulce Partnership Academy charter school. When the school first opened, it served students in kindergarten through sixth grade, adding one grade each year. It currently serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Acton-Agua Dulce trustees voted 3-2 on Thursday night with Vice President Tim Jorgensen and member Michael Fox dissenting.
Several parents spoke out in favor of the renewal petition.
“I was upset to learn that some Board members might not be supportive of renewing the iLEAD charter approval as it was previously approved to go through the 12th grade,” the parent said.
The parent added if the Board voted to withdraw its support of the charter school and exclude the high school program, she would not send her students to any other school in the district.
“The reality is that most of the kids at iLEAD do not live in this District, so not approving this charter, or changing the charter, would not add those students to the Acton-Agua Dulce School District enrollment rolls,” the parent said.
Agua Dulce Town Council member Mary Johnson does not have children enrolled at the school. She serves on the charter school’s Board of directors.
“Many of the families choosing iLEAD Agua Dulce have been planning to have their children stay enrolled within the iLEAD Agua Dulce charter through their high school year,” Johnson said. “For the three-year original authorization iLEAD has shown fiscal responsibility, school progress and success.”
Johnson urged the Board to renew the iLEAD Agua Dulce charter petition, including the high school program.
Another parent who lives in Agua Dulce lives next to the campus and attended the school more than 38 years ago.
“We have someone in there that wants to make an improvement and I implore you guys to please renew that charter,” he said. “We’re here because we do want our children to go through 12tn grade. We’re here because we believe in the project-based learning.”
Another parent who does not live in the area but has two children enrolled in the charter also urged the Board to renew the petition.
“I think their approach to education is right on target, at least for my children,” the parent said.
After the failure of the Albert Einstein Academy charter school, trustee Ken Pfalzgraf pushed for iLEAD Agua-Dulce to have a three-year charter petition when it was first approved nearly three years ago to ensure the school could survive.
“I put this group to a big challenge to show me corporate capacity and you will have my support tonight,” Pfalzgraf said.
Trustee Fox unsuccessfully sought to table the petition to renew and have staff bring it back. He voted for the original petition.
“When I voted for it I was voting for a program that went through K-8,” Fox said. “We didn’t know if, as Mr. Plalzgraf said, it would even survive one or two years. Now we’re voting for something different. For me, it’s a material revision; we’re adding grade levels.”
Fox added under new state law the Board can consider the impact to other schools in the District. Vasquez High School has 350 students.
‘”Our ability to provide a comprehensive education … we can’t do it with less students,” Fox said. “We cannot afford to fragment the student body. I am all for choice if it doesn’t take away choice from the constituency group that’s not even here tonight.”
Board Clerk Chad Wadsworth he believes in choice.
“Parents have a right to put their kids in a school that they feel is going to benefit their child,” Wadsworth said, adding he supports iLEAD 100%.
Jorgensen said the original agreement with iLEAD included rent for the Agua Dulce campus, which the District can no longer charge.
“There are expenses associated with the operation of that site, my concern, that exceed the 2% cap we’re allowed to recover,” Jorgensen said. “So, In essence we could be putting out dollars every school year to maintain the facility so that they could continue to use it.”
Jorgensen added he toured the elementary school campus to see how it could be adapted to accommodate high school students.
“When we start doing this as the high school there’s a lot of problems with the site,” Jorgensen said. “The site is designed as an elementary campus; it has facilities for elementary students.”
Jorgensen, a former Vasquez High teacher, added he has a lot of concern about duplication of services.
Board President Kelly Jensen said the renewal does not meet a material revision because the original petition included a high school program.