County officials ordered the Acton Agua Dulce School District to hold off on five charter school petitions recommended for approval, according to a recent letter from Los Angeles County Office of Education officials.
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Citing “fiscal solvency issues,” LACOE appointed Dick Douglas as a financial adviser June 1 for AADUSD, in a May 30 letter to district board President Mark Distaso.
As part of the review of Douglas and a Financial Crisis and Management Assistance Team, a hold was ordered on the approval of charters for: Method Schools K-8 charter petition; Method Schools 9-12 charter petition; Renaissance Collegiate Academy charter petition; Renaissance Collegiate High School charter petition; and iLead Innovations Studios charter petition.
“Due to the fiscal solvency issues identified in the letters, and with the high probability that the board actions may be inconsistent with the district’s fiscal recovery (including negative impact on cash flows), we are staying the above identified board actions,” according to the letter.
The letter does not overturn the decision, but instead puts it on hold for further review from financial experts. The school’s financial concerns were first reported by KHTS in March, but the certification was re-affirmed by the county’s superintendent in April.
The district received criticism and was the subject of legislation from Santa Clarita Valley school districts regarding the recent proliferation of charter school petition approvals by the AADUSD board.
Related article: Five Santa Clarita School District Superintendents Support SB 1263
Newhall School District Superintendent Marc Winger called the district’s attempts to charter 15 schools in three years as “pay for play.”
“SB 1263 needs to pass,” Winger said. “This abuse is incredible.”
SB 1263 is now in committee in the state’s Assembly. It would bar school districts from chartering a school outside of district boundaries.
Brent Woodard, superintendent for the Acton Agua Dulce School District, said in previous interviews the charter school approvals aren’t a for-profit move.
The approvals are a way for the district to offer parents what they want, Woodard said. The district was failing to meet parental demand, he said, and as a result, the parents were voting for charter school approvals “with their feet.”
“It’s not a model that generates money (for school districts),” Woodard said. “It’s just nonsense. It’s unfortunate that people have gotten that take.”
A negative certification is assigned to a local (school district) when it’s determined that, based upon current projections, the local educational agency will not meet its financial obligations for fiscal year 2013-14 or 2014-15, according to the California Department of Education website.
The move by the county is the latest in a series of setbacks for the embattled school district.
In past interviews, Woodard said the district could run a deficit as high as several hundred thousand dollars for the next school year, however, the district set a goal of a 3 percent budget reserve.
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Source: Santa Clarita News