Magnolia charter schools fight to stay open after LAUSD ‘death sentence’

A leader of two high-performing, independent charter schools in the San Fernando Valley says she’s “very confident” they can avoid shutdowns by appealing their denied renewal petitions to the county and possibly the state.

The Los Angeles Unified school board on Tuesday refused to renew three Magnolia schools serving 1,400 sixth- through 12th-grade students, including Magnolia Science Academy campuses in Reseda and Van Nuys, as recommended by district staff. Hundreds of students, staff and other Magnolia supporters wore orange T-shirts at Tuesday’s meeting, with some holding signs that read “I stand for Magnolia” and “Stop School Closing.”

“I feel angry and frustrated and concerned, but I’m also very optimistic because I think we’re going to be successful at making our case at the county level or the state level. We’ve done that before,” Caprice Young, CEO of Magnolia Public Schools, said on Thursday.

The district cited the Magnolia schools’ “failure to timely respond” to document requests from LAUSD’s Office of Inspector General, which has been investigating Magnolia Public Schools for more than two years, and the Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team, an external state agency that provides financial oversight.

LAUSD board member Scott M. Schmerelson, who voted against the renewal, said Magnolia appears to have a great educational program but called it “the most secretive school” he has seen.

“Magnolia has consistently refused to show their records, their books,” Schmerelson said. “I deserve to know how this charter school receiving public funds is spending public money when we are responsible for every penny we spend, every penny is up to scrutiny.”

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