JUDGE RULES FOR SD UNIFIED IN SUIT AGAINST ALPINE DISTRICT OVER ENDEAVOR ACADEMY

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By Miriam Raftery

March 19, 2015 (Alpine) – Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Gunther has ruled in favor of the San Diego Unified School District in a lawsuit filed against the Alpine Union School District over the Endeavor Academy (also known as the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences, Inc.). View the judge’s order here.

“He ruled on San Diego Unified’s behalf and ordered the Endeavor charter to cease and desist,” AUSD Superintendent Bruce Cochrane told East County Magazine in a phone interview today.  “We are to revoke the charter, but we don’t have the authority to do that under the California education code. So now Endeavor is appealing it, and everything is on hold.”

The Alpine district has been the authorizing district for the charter, which operates in the Clairemont Mesa area, which is within San Diego Unified District’s boundaries.

The state’s education code allows independent study charters to operate outside of the boundaries of the authorizing district.  Several local district’s have operated charters in other districts, earning 1% of revenues for providing oversight. That’s provided much-needed revenues for districts such as Alpine, where enrollment has declined and state funds were slashed during a down economy in recent years.

San Diego Unified itself has operated a charter, the Learning Choice Academy, in other districts including La Mesa, Chula Vista and Temecula locations. “I know of at least three small school districts in East County that did the same thing,” says Cochrane, who was not the superintendent at the time the charter agreement as initiatied.

In Endeavor’s case, the judge ruled that the school wasn’t really an independent charter school.

Cochrane disagrees. “We believe that it is, and that it started out as an independent study charter. Some things were in dispute regarding MOUs (memorandums of understanding) and we’ve changed some things. We did material revisions a year ago.” 

There is a dispute over whether appropriate notification was provided also.  “My belief is that the charter did notify San Diego Unified,” Cochrane adds.

Endeavor is a science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) program that includes “ a lot of project based learning,” Cochrane states.

Cochrane says he wants to see a resolution worked out with San Diego Unified and Endeavor that will be “best for students and employees.”

This is not the only legal battle that the Alpine District has been fighting.  The District won a fight for a temporary injunction against the Grossmont Union High School District. In that case, a judge ordered  Grossmont to set aside funds for an Alpine High School, which would be transferred to the Alpine district if a unification proposal to expand and include high school students is approved by the state Board of Education.

The County Board of Education has recommended approval to the state for unification.  The unification proposal was initiated by Alpine parents who twice approved bond measures, Prop U and H, with funding to include an Alpine high school, but the Grossmont district instead spent money on other projects including some not in the bond and has failed to set a timetable for building the high school anytime soon.

Cochrane says unification will move along at the state’s timetable, but that the AUSD is making preparations in hopes of ultimately being able to build a high school for Alpine. 

“We have sub-groups meeting on facilities and curriculum,” the Superintendent says, adding, It’s exciting to see where high schools are going today with career pathways, collaboration with community colleges and universities, and internships for students.”