LAUSD may take back control of a charter school even though it’s doing well academically

El Camino Real Charter Academy
El Camino Real Charter High School in December 2015. The L.A. school board soon could issue a notice of intent to revoke the school’s charter.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles school board members are set to consider the second of three steps needed to put El Camino Real Charter High School back under district control.

They could vote to issue an official notice of intent to revoke the Woodland Hills school’s charter at their next meeting on Tuesday.

The school district has accused the school of inappropriate spending, poor accounting and oversight, and violations of public meeting rules.

Earlier this year the Los Angeles Daily News reported that Executive Director David Fehte used a school credit card to pay for wine, first-class air travel and expensive hotel rooms.


The latest Los Angeles Unified School District report acknowledges that the school has academic strengths but claims the charter has not done enough to fix its operations. 

“Although El Camino has provided some remedies … such as prohibiting the purchase of alcohol, instituted some changes to leadership, and adopted policies to address violations, staff still has ongoing concerns regarding the charter organization, its leadership, and its governing board,” the report reads.

In an emailed statement, El Camino accused the district of “overstepping its legal authority” and pointed to the school’s increased graduation rate and staff growth as evidence of its success. “As LAUSD continues to face financial difficulties, district officials have become more hostile towards charter schools, including El Camino,” the statement read.

KPCC radio noted that the board has issued a notice of intent to revoke only seven times since 2013.


If it does so with El Camino next week, the school board could take the final step to remove the school’s charter next month. El Camino could then appeal the decision to the L.A. County Board of Education and the state Board of Education.

About 60 teachers and their supporters protested in front of the school last month, holding signs that said “Shady Fehte” and “Tell the truth.” Many demanded release of an internal investigation’s findings, though the El Camino administration also has its supporters. 

Charter schools are independently operated and exempt from some rules that govern traditional campuses. But the authorizing school district retains an oversight role and can revoke a charter or decline to renew it because of significant misconduct, mismanagement or poor academic performance.

In El Camino’s case, Fehte has denied wrongdoing. He said he inadvertently charged about $6,100 in personal expenses on his school credit card and reimbursed the school as soon as these charges were pointed out to him.

The L.A. Board of Education took its first action against El Camino in August, issuing a formal notice of violations.

The school responded Sept. 23 with a 42-page letter and nearly 400 pages of appendices. 

“The charter school strongly believes that it has cured all alleged violations, and also that it has put in place mechanisms to ensure that such items do not happen again,” wrote Janelle A. Ruley, an attorney representing El Camino. “The items identified in the [notice of violations] occurred in the past; the remedies implemented ensure that they will not be repeated.”


To read the article in Spanish, click here

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4:25 p.m.: This article has been updated to include a comment from the charter school.


This article was originally published at 11:55 a.m.

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