LANCASTER — Antelope Valley Union High School District trustees unanimously denied a petition for the proposed The Guidance Charter-1 on Thursday evening.
The proposed Guidance Charter School-1 was a new kindergarten through 12th-grade charter school from the founders of the original Guidance Charter School.
The School Board heard testimony from supporters and opponents of the proposed charter school, including former Palmdale School District trustee Sandy Corrales.
As a trustee Corrales visited the charter school regularly.
“Every time I went there I saw the same thing and I heard the same thing: a safe campus with parents that were very engaged and a staff that knew exactly where the students needed to be educationally,” Corrales said.
Scott Fish, president of California School Employees Association Chapter 612, the district’s classified union, said the district works hard to create programs that allow for students to have options and opportunities.
“CSEA, we need to see a vote of confidence from this new board so that we can move forward together and address these issues,” Fish said. “We know that there are issues, obviously. We’re not living with our head in the sand. There’s a lot of change in our society now and our district is the best equipped to adapt to that change over time. Please consider that when you’re making this very important decision.”
There was no presentation from the district in regard to the recommendation to deny the petition. According to the staff report, the proposed charter school presented an unsound educational program for the students.
“Overall descriptions of the educational program, curriculum, and assessments in the Petition are generic, underdeveloped, and outdated,” the staff report said.
Board member Jill McGrady asked whether anyone else was going to speak, most likely in reference to an attorney from the district legal firm Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, who was seated at the dais.
Board President Robert “Bob” Davis, Vice President Victoria Ruffin, and Clerk Amanda Parrell declined. The Board then clarified that the action on the agenda was to accept a recommendation by district staff to deny the petition. They unanimously accepted the recommendation.
The original Guidance Charter School operated for 17 years in Palmdale before the authorizing district, Palmdale School District, denied the petition to renew last January. Palmdale School District staff said the school presented “an unsound educational program.” District staff also questioned the charter school’s finances related to lease payments for a new sixth- through 12th-grade campus built on Avenue R and 40th Street East.
The denial was ultimately appealed to the state Board of Education, which also denied the petition.
AV Union High School District’s trustees considered a petition for the proposed Guidance Charter School-2 last June. The Board voted 3-2 to deny the petition in line with a district staff recommendation. Davis voted against the staff recommendation along with former trustee Dana Coleman.
An appeal before the Los Angeles County Board of Education was also denied.
Kamal Al-Khatib, founder and executive director of the original Guidance Charter School, submitted the petition for the proposed Guidance Charter School-1 nearly three weeks after the Nov. 6 election, when the two candidates Al-Khatib endorsed, Amanda Parrell and Victoria Ruffin, won their respective seats on the school board.
The proposed charter school has a new campus on Avenue R and 40th Street East for the sixth through 12th students. The campus was supposed to open in August for the start of the 2018-19 school year, but has remained closed since the original Guidance Charter School’s petition to renew was denied.
Construction of the 87,000-square-foot campus was financed with $29.58 million in tax-exempt and taxable bonds issued in March 2017 by the California Statewide Communities Development Authority. A kindergarten through fifth-grade campus on Palmdale Boulevard is already paid for.
Al-Khatib could appeal to the Los Angeles County Board of Education.
“We haven’t decided what to do,” Al-Khatib said Friday.
Al-Khatib disputed the district’s findings about the charter petition, saying it was 99% not accurate.
The district response highlighted the former Guidance Charter School’s performance. But a response from an attorney representing the proposed charter school said the Guidance Charter School-1 petition “is a new petition with no historical student data. Therefore this student information referred to in the findings has no relevance to GCS-1.”
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