Costa Mesa Charter School flagged for alleged violations given OK to open Aug. 23

OCDE's Charter School Unit Director Aracely Chastain, right, addresses board members Tuesday.
OCDE’s Charter School Unit Director Aracely Chastain, right, addresses board members Tuesday as ISSAC Principal Kimberly Saguilan looks on.
(Screenshot by Sara Cardine)
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Costa Mesa’s International School for Science and Culture — a charter recently called out by county officials for non-compliance issues — has been given a green light to resume teaching by the Orange County Board of Education, just weeks before classes begin.

Newly hired ISSAC Principal Kimberly Saguilan appeared before board members Tuesday to explain how officials worked with a team of consultants to resolve issues that had placed the charter school at risk of receiving a notice of violation.

“We’re going to use every moment as a teachable moment,” Saguilan said. “We’re going to be operating as effectively and efficiently as possible, and we’re going to be building great relationships as a community partner— we’re here to work together.”


On Aug. 23, the school will open the doors of a leased 18th Street facility to more than 200 students enrolled for the 2021-22 school year, officials confirmed. Previous plans to open a second facility for younger grade students at the Boys and Girls Club of Costa Mesa, where ISSAC was operating without a proper permit during the pandemic, have been put on hold until 2022.

Officials say the International School for Science and Culture overreported its enrollment, operated at an improperly zoned site and charged fees for instruction. But board members are hesitant to issue a notice of violation.

June 22, 2021

Orange County Department of Education staff in June recommended board members issue a notice of violation to the charter school, due to discrepancies in budgets submitted by ISSAC and at least one parent’s complaint that teachers were charging families a fee for on-site instruction, describing activities as childcare.

Staff further claimed budgeting and enrollment documents sent to the California Department of Education misreported student attendance, which led to overfunding that had to be corrected.

Saguilan assured board members Tuesday all incorrectly collected fees had been returned to families and maintained that, with an operating income from last school year of $175,000 and a net funding balance of $83,000, the school was fiscally solvent.

Aracely Chastain, director of the county department’s Charter School Unit, confirmed after reviewing ISSAC’s first interim budget the school appeared to be getting back on track.

The Orange County Board of Education will give the International School for Sciences and Culture until Aug. 4 before it considers issuing a notice of violation.

July 14, 2021

“There were some inaccuracies with the budget, but when [leaders were] able to move numbers around…it looks like they are fiscally solvent and will have prudent reserves,” Chastain reported. “So, those three items we were concerned about have basically been resolved.”

Board Vice President Ken Williams said he was satisfied with the charter school’s progress and confirmed they would not be required to make ongoing in-person updates. Sally Chou, the charter’s board president, thanked trustees for working with school leaders to iron things out.

“I’m very grateful for what you’ve done to make sure ISSAC is being compliant and doing what we need to do,” she said.

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