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Charter School Complex Gets OK in Pacific Palisades

TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

The Los Angeles Board of Education unanimously endorsed a model that could serve as an alternative to a district breakup Monday, approving the creation of a semiautonomous school complex in Pacific Palisades.

The Palisades LEARN/Charter Complex would unite Palisades High School, Revere Middle School and the five elementary schools that feed into them. The five-year charter contract would allow the campuses increased flexibility to design innovative programs and bring teachers together for cross-grade training.

Critics have complained that the complex’s decision not to seek financial autonomy--which the state’s charter law allows--makes the proposal largely symbolic. But supporters say it represents a more sane and quicker method of gaining independence from the district than the drawn-out process of seceding.

“This is a way to provide meaningful local control without splitting up the district,” said board President Mark Slavkin, whose Westside district includes Pacific Palisades.

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Slavkin said unifying the schools will help them coordinate curriculum and track students from kindergarten through high school, and bolster changes already being made at several of the campuses, which have been participating independently in the LEARN or charter reform programs.

Parents, teachers and administrators at the schools hope the complex will serve as a recruitment tool, helping them woo neighborhood children back from private schools and other districts.

The proposal still must be approved by the state Board of Education. It is the first complex of schools in the state to ask to be joined in a single charter.

California charter law, passed in 1992, allows individual campuses or groups of schools to be freed of many local and state regulations in exchange for improving student achievement. The law allows a maximum of 100 charters in the state and there currently are 95, but state education officials recently vowed to raise that limit when it is reached.

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