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A School District's Failure to Follow Through

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"Lunch Shelter Area that is structurally unstable. It is an immediate safety hazard and must be fenced off until removed or constructed to the District's standards and applicable laws."

- LAUSD Facilities Services Division

GHCHS Lunch Area open to the public on October 27, 2017
GHCHS Lunch Area open to the public on October 27, 2017
(Image by Carl J Petersen)
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Within a period of one year, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) was issued two Notices to Cure (NTC) and one Notice of Violation by LAUSD. These directed the charter's administration to correct financial improprieties, enrollment policies that did not conform with the education code and construction projects that endangered the safety of students. Each specified deadlines that had to be met. While these deadlines have all passed, it does not appear that the corrective actions in any of these cases have been made.

The NTC issued on September 21, 2016 informed "the governing board of Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) of the Charter School Division's (CSD) concerns regarding the borrowing of GHCHS' Associated Student Body (ASB) funds to meet GHCHS' payroll obligations" after an investigation found that the administration had made "'emergency' transfers totaling $1,035,000" from the Associated Student Body (ASB) bank account. These funds were raised by the students and are supposed to be under their exclusive control. Another $600,000 "were transferred from the ASB account to the payroll account" in violation of the California Education Code. Included in the NTC was a requirement that the administration "provide CSD a copy of the governing board meeting agenda and minutes that reflect the discussion of" a series of action items specified by the district. However, according to the minutes provided by the governing board, only one of these action items was discussed. Despite this, the CSD did not advance the process by issuing a Notice of Violation to the charter.

On June 22, 2016, the CSD instructed GHCHS to "take immediate action to address the admission practice and policy that denies prospective resident students the opportunity to be admitted into the main campus throughout the school year." A year and a half later, the administration has not complied with this demand and parents continue to complain that their children are being forced to participate in the iGranada virtual program even though the state education code specifies "that independent study is an optional educational alternative in which no pupil may be required to participate." Many parents also consider the iGranada program to be academically inferior to the other programs offered by the charter. Again, the CSD has not followed up on this willful non-compliance with a Notice of Violation.

Lunch area as it appeared in the LAUSD's Notice of Violation
Lunch area as it appeared in the LAUSD's Notice of Violation
(Image by LAUSD)
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Granada's unauthorized "modifications to the campus" which included an "immediate safety hazard to students, faculty, and personnel", was elevated to a Notice of Violation from the start. This notice demanded that the GHCHS should stop using five locations on the campus including a "Lunch Shelter Area that is structurally unstable." According to a source, "everything that was red-tagged is still red-tagged and will remain off-limits until the plans are approved by the District, then go through DSA, and the work gets done, inspected, and accepted". Still, on a visit to the campus last Friday, the lunch area that appears to be the one referenced by the notice was not fenced off and was being used. This continued use of a structure that is in danger of a "partial/total collapse" presents a condition that the District should not ignore, but no other action appears to have been taken. The LAUSD School Board member who represents this area did not respond to requests to discuss this issue.

GHCHS lunch area on October 27, 2017
GHCHS lunch area on October 27, 2017
(Image by Carl J Petersen)
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As the recipients of public funding, charters have the responsibility to provide a sound education program in a safe environment while following the portion of the education code. As a charter authorizer, the LAUSD has a responsibility to ensure that steps are taken to ensure compliance with these standards. In three different instances, GHCHS has proven that it is not always willing to perform to these standards and LAUSD is apparently unwilling to act. Should a north valley wind gust or an always impending earthquake "cause [a] partial/total collapse of the shade structure" during a lunch period, the lawyers will find that there is plenty of blame to go around. That will not reverse the damage done to any students or staff injured or killed as a result of this negligence.

____________________________________________

Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a "strong supporter of public schools." His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com.

 

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Carl Petersen is a father of five, including two daughters who are on the autism spectrum. His involvement in education issues began when the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) refused to provide services that his daughters' teachers (more...)
 

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