– Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
Granada Hills Charter High School has used its student-run newspaper to announce that its “Devonshire campus will open as a transitional kindergarten through eighth-grade school starting in the fall semester of 2019.” The article declared that “there is excitement from the community for this new change” but did not provide quotes from anyone in the community. In fact, Granada’s Executive Director, Brian Bauer, was the only person quoted by the author, which gave the article the feel of a press release carefully constructed by the school’s administration. While pushing Bauer’s agenda, it did nothing to address the many consequences for the surrounding community and the student body of Granada.
The most important question left unanswered by the announcement was who had authorized Bauer to make such an important decision. In reviewing the minutes of meetings of the school’s Governing Board going back to January 9, 2017, it does not appear that they voted on the issue or even discussed it. Expanding the number of grades served also does not appear as an action item on any agenda in the past year. Additionally, the LAUSD Charter School Division confirms that, as of January 10, the District had “not received any correspondence from GHCHS regarding” either “an amendment to its current charter or a new petition to LAUSD to increase the grades it serves.” Without these approvals, the announcement that the new grades “will open” seems premature. These concerns are amplified if Bauer has spent any public funds in planning this expansion without prior approval.
Also left unanswered is the location where these new students will actually be served. The article states that in the first school year there will be “up to 450 students comprised of the transitional kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade, and sixth grade cohorts,” which is more than the 383 K-5 grade students that the facility served when it was operated as a Pinecrest elementary school during the 2005-2006 school year. In addition to these students, Granada also plans for it’s controversial “iGranada program [to] remain intact on that campus” when this expansion starts.” Granada has also previously expressed concern that the former Pinecrest site would have to be “razed given the age and condition of the buildings.” With the District-owned Zelzah campus already operating at capacity, it seems likely that Granada’s expansion plans will at some point rely on Proposition 39 co-locations, disrupting the operations of the neighboring elementary schools.
Granada’s plan also seems to be a way for the school to get around requirements that it automatically admit students who live within the attendance boundaries that existed before it converted from a public school. Granada is already embroiled in a fight with the LAUSD over forcing some of these students into their iGranada Independent Study program against their will. The expansion will provide additional competition for entry into the main campus as the school notes that “graduates of the new K-8 school” would have “priority enrollment to those who want to continue their education at the Zelzah high school campus,” allowing them to skip the lottery process.
On February 20, the LAUSD’s Committee of the Whole will consider the Holding GHCHS Accountable to Their Charter which attempts to ensure that children with special education needs have equal access to their neighborhood schools. Unfortunately, the announcement of Granada’s expansion without any approval makes it clear that admission policies outlined in their charter are not the only thing being overlooked by the school’s administration. It is time for the LAUSD to stop granting forgiveness and insist on actions that guarantee appropriate governance, fiscal control, student safety and equal opportunity.
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.