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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Highland High School Delays Bid for Self-Rule

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The formal quest of an Antelope Valley high school for self-rule was stalled Wednesday before it got started.

A group of Highland High School teachers is proposing that the west Palmdale campus be designated a charter school.

But the Highland Charter School Committee agreed at the last minute to delay submitting its petition for charter status to the Antelope Valley Union High School District Board of Trustees.

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The delay was agreed on after board President Steve Landaker said financial considerations would force the trustees to deny the petition if it were put forward now.

The financially troubled high school district is facing a deficit of nearly $4.7 million in the coming fiscal year. It may also lay off 50 teachers.

“I think the philosophy and the concept of charter schools seems to have a lot of potential,” said Landaker. “However, I think the timing of this proposal. . . . We don’t have time to look into the development of a charter system within our system.”

Glen Horst, head of the charter committee and a Highland High teacher, said that although he is disappointed about waiting, the charter school proponents will use the time to refine their proposal.

“We want to make a sense of community out of this, not an adversarial position,” said Horst. He said the petition will be submitted to trustees in September. Had it been submitted Wednesday as planned, the school district would have had to hold a public hearing within 30 days and make a decision in 60 days, or 90 days if both sides concur, per state law.

Senate Bill 1448, signed into law by Gov. Pete Wilson last fall, allows for the creation of 100 charter schools in the state. Since the law took effect Jan. 1, 10 charter schools have been approved. At least four more requests are pending.

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Highland teachers say they are pursuing the status to have a chance at better educating their students.

“We would like our school to reflect the needs of our kids in the 21st Century,” said Horst. “We want to offer more options, specifically the areas of career exploration, vocational education.”

Too many students are not being served by the curriculum, he said.

Sandy Shultz, a Highland teacher and charter school committee member, said the staff would be better able to meet the needs of its students if it was independent.

“A charter school offers us the ability to have ownership of what it is we’re suggesting,” she said. People at the school would be making decisions about matters affecting the school, instead of administrators in a district office who are not involved in the day-to-day issues.

The committee’s petition calls for the initial charter to be for a one-year development period with everything at the campus to remain virtually status quo. The actual changes would be implemented in September, 1994.

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