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Preparations commence for opening of new charter school in Glendale

Parent organizers are preparing to open a charter school next fall in Glendale where they have held recent meetings to discuss the school’s future leadership, policies and other goals.

Modeled after Glendale Unified’s Benjamin Franklin Magnet School, the International Studies Language Academy, or ISLA, will offer students opportunities to learn in German, Spanish, Italian or French.

Organizers are currently in talks to secure a Glendale property for the school, said Gillian Bonacci, chair of the school’s board of directors.

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Last year, Bonacci worked with fellow parent Hilary Stern to propose the charter school. Both were parents of students who were in the dual-language programs at Franklin Elementary. Also, Bonacci and Stern were instrumental in securing a $1-million environmental grant for the school.

In late 2015, they submitted a petition to the Glendale Unified School Board in hopes the charter would help compensate for the high demand for Glendale Unified’s seven dual-language programs, which often have long wait lists.

While the school board members considered the petition, several parents on both sides came to board meetings, which sometimes became heated, to speak for or against the proposal.

The Glendale school board unanimously denied the petition last December on a recommendation from district staff that the school didn’t present a sound educational program, largely due to financial concerns tied to teachers’ salaries and training opportunities.

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The Los Angeles County Office of Education subsequently struck down the petitioners’ appeal with a 5-1 vote in February, leading Bonacci and Stern to file a second appeal to the State Board of Education.

In April, the state’s Advisory Commission on Charter Schools voted 6-0 to recommend that the State Board of Education approve the charter petition, and the board did, with a 7-2 vote in May.

The school’s initial five-year term was approved on the condition that it open within Glendale Unified’s boundaries, according to a state report.

Since then, members of the school’s board of directors have met to discuss enrollment, staff recruitment and the school’s future location.

“Our target location is south Glendale in the triangle between the 5, 134 and 2 freeways,” Bonacci said. 

The school plans to serve about 430 students in its first year in grades from transitional kindergarten through seventh grade, according to the state report. Eighth grade will be offered the following year.

“In the three weeks since we opened enrollment on our website, we have already processed enough applications to fill over half of our seats,” Bonacci said. “Parents recognize the manifold benefits a bilingual, bi-literate education in a rigorous academic setting brings to their student, and they are clamoring for it, not only here in Glendale, but across the country.”

Because the State Board of Education approved the charter petition, about 1% of the revenue generated by the International Studies Language Academy will go to the California Department of Education for “oversight activities,” according to the state report.

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In all, 28 charter schools operate under the State Board of Education, according to the report.

Twenty of the charter schools were authorized by state officials on appeal following denials by local school boards or county officials.

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Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan


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