L.A. County Board of Education denies appeal of Glendale charter school

The Los Angeles County Board of Education struck down an appeal Tuesday filed by parents looking to establish a charter school in Glendale who had previously been denied in their efforts by the Glendale Unified School Board.

Organizers behind the charter school petition, a 250-page plan for the International Studies Language Academy, filed the appeal with the county after the Glendale School Board voted 5-0 in December to deny their request.

Parents whose children have studied foreign languages at Franklin Magnet Elementary in Glendale spent two years writing the charter petition, aiming to establish a charter school with dual-language immersion classes in Spanish, German, Italian and French for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

They cited Glendale Unified's high demand for dual-language immersion programs as part of the reason for wanting to open the school.

The county board of education voted 5-1 to deny the appeal, said Kostas Kalaitzidis, spokesman for the county office.

Board member Alex Johnson cast the sole vote in favor of granting the appeal, while board member Monte Perez was absent.

The school's two co-lead petitioners, Gillian Bonacci and Hilary Stern, confirmed that they plan to appeal to state education officials.

"We believe in the strength of our petition, and we are bolstered by the enormous amount of support and encouragement we are getting from almost 500 families across the community that are pushing us not to give up," Stern said in an email. "We would be letting them down and the many other families who want more immersion-language options in the elementary and middle school if we didn't keep going."

Staff at the Los Angeles County Office of Education weighed the petition as part of the Charter School Review Team, made up of county officials drawn from various departments, including the controller's office, the curriculum department and the division of accountability.

County officials determined the plan "provides an unsound educational program" and that the petitioners "are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the proposed educational program," according to the report.

"We're disappointed, but know the political climate is tough for charters in the L.A. area right now," Bonacci said in an email.

Similar to Glendale school board members, county officials found several faults with the school's financial plan and deemed it "unrealistic," in the report, highlighting how the school underestimated teacher salaries, benefits and the cost for books and materials.

In another instance, county officials noted that the school planned to mail bank statements directly to Academica, a Florida-based charter school operator.

The school's lack of internal control in processing checks "can result in fiscal mismanagement," the report stated.

Despite those findings, the petition has won support from the California Charter Schools Assn., whose manager for regional advocacy, Allison Hendrick, urged that the county board approve the appeal.

"[The California Charter Schools Assn.] is of the opinion that several of the staff findings go above and beyond the law's expectations of new charter petitions," she said in a statement. "The [International Studies Language Academy] will provide another high-quality school option for Glendale families and will offer choice to parents and students who are wait-listed for [Glendale Unified's] language-immersion program."

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Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan

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