By Melissa Pamer, Staff Writer | Daily Breeze | http://bit.ly/idrUAS
01/05/2011 - The Los Angeles school board on Tuesday rejected a petition that would have created a new charter campus in Carson.
Los Angeles Unified School District staff found several inadequacies in a petition that was submitted Nov. 1 for a campus that would have been called Marell's Preparatory Academy. Had it been approved, the school would have opened in September.
"We believe that there is a serious need for smaller class sizes and more flexibility in how we prepare our students to excel in society," Mary Ellen Maddox, the lead petitioner for the school, told the board.
She said the school would counter an overemphasis on standardized testing for smaller class sizes and focus on other academic areas.
But a review from the district's Innovation and Charter Schools Division "found that the petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program and the petition lacked reasonably comprehensive descriptions of elements set forth" in state education law, a board report stated.
The school was expecting to rely on a state grant program for initial funding, but there's no guarantee that money would have been awarded, the LAUSD report said. The status of a personal loan that was part of the school budget was also questioned.
Maddox said the reasoning constituted a "Catch-22" because the school would not be eligible for the state funding unless the charter petition was approved by LAUSD.
"Millions of Dollars have been earmarked for this grant, yet we are unable to access it because of this impasse," Maddox said.
A spokeswoman for the California Charter Schools Association said Marell's Preparatory Academy was one of several proposed charter campuses that face similar conundrums in relation to start-up funding.
Maddox, a former chairwoman of the district's Black Education Commission, which was disbanded in 1998, could not be reached for further comment. She told the Board of Education she had worked for LAUSD for 42 years.
The charter association spokeswoman said Maddox planned to appeal the LAUSD board vote to the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
The Marell's Preparatory petition called for a school of 150 pupils in seventh and eighth grades, catering to students who live in the area stretching from Curtiss Middle School in Carson to Banning High in Wilmington.
The board report highlighted concerns about language in the school's proposed board bylaws that could lead to conflicts of interest and potential open meeting law violations.
The petition also lacked language ensuring non-discrimination against incoming students and did not contain a plan for recruiting a diverse student body reflective of LAUSD, the report said. Admissions lottery plans and suspension and expulsion procedures were also not sufficiently explained, the board report said.
Maddow noted that each time she had brought her petition in for review, district staff found new areas that needed to be changed.
The board voted 7-0 to deny the petition. No discussion was held.
Los Angeles Unified - the nation's second-largest school district - has more students in charters than any other district in the country, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The nonprofit group estimates there are more than 68,000 LAUSD students in more than 180 charter schools - about a tenth of the district's overall enrollment.
There are two charter schools in Carson currently: Magnolia Science Academy - 3, a middle school; and New Millennium Secondary School.
A Long Beach-based charter organization has also submitted a bid to run an LAUSD campus that is currently under construction and is set to cater to Carson and Wilmington students.