Guidance Charter

STILL EMPTY — Guidance Charter School’s new campus at Avenue R and 40th Street East will remain vacant following the denial of a petition to operate by Antelope Valley Union High School District trustees.

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of the educational pro­gram, curriculum, and as­sess­ments in the Petition are generic, underdeveloped, and outdated,” the staff report said.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.”

To share your opinion on this article or any other article, write a letter to the editor and email it to editor@avpress.com or mail it to Letters to Editor, PO Box 4050, Palmdale CA 93590-4050.

jdrake@avpress.com

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