* This is the longest post I have ever written. Forgive me. Here is a Too-Long-Didn’t-Read Summary:
Two Celerity Charter Schools will be closed on June 30. Their charters were not renewed by LAUSD and the State Board rejected their appeal. But in their place, in the same locations, with their same principals, and most of the same students, Celerity will open two new Charter schools on July 1. Furthermore, it appears that they have neglected to inform the community about these two new schools, giving the former students a de-facto priority in enrollment.
It has been a rough year for Celerity Education Group.
The charter management organization that oversees several schools in Los Angeles has been dogged by controversy, primarily surrounding their finances and board structure. In October, the LAUSD board voted to deny the charter renewal for two of their schools: Celerity Dyad and Celerity Troika. Then, in January, Federal agents raided their offices. And finally, in May, the state board refused to accept the appeal to keep those two schools open, meaning they will close down for good at the end of this month.
But celerity, after all, means quickness. And the leaders of Celerity sure are quick on their feet to fill this hole.
Celerity Himalia will replace Celerity Dyad and will locate on exactly the same campuses that Dyad does. All they are doing is changing the name on the lease. Their principal will be Patrick Stickley, who was the principal of Dyad.
Celerity Rolas will replace Celerity Troika. Their kindergarten through fifth grade will collocate with Yorkdale Elementary, half a mile away from their current site. And their middle grades will be located in the exact same location as Troika – the Eagle Rock Baptist Church. Again, just changing the name on the lease. Their principal will be Karina Solis, who was principal of Troika before.
Interestingly, Celerity has legitimized the change in the lease by saying, “we anticipate that many of the students currently enrolled in Celerity Troika will continue to attend school at the [Eagle Rock Baptist Church] site as Celerity Rolas students.” Indeed, even the state board of education implied that they hoped that this would happen when they rejected the charter for Troika and Dyad.
So how does Celerity intend to roll over students from the old schools to the new ones? This is the question I put to Celerity CEO, Grace Canada.
Canada replied, “Celerity is not rolling over students from Dyad and Troika to Himalia and Rolas. Any student wishing to enroll in Himalia and Rolas for the 2017-18 school year will have to complete an ‘Intent to Enroll’ form and we are accepting students on a first-come, first-serve basis.”
So how do people know that they can enroll? Both Celerity Rolas and Celerity Himalia say in their charter petition that they will “provide specific information, in its outreach materials, websites, at community meetings, open forums, and regional center meetings, that notifies parents that Charter School is open to enroll.”
Ok, here’s the thing: Celerity’s website doesn’t even make mention of Celerity Rolas or Celerity Himalia. Not once. They have up-to-date enrollment forms for all of their other schools, but not for Rolas or Himalia. It appeared they had done no outreach to fill enrollment Rolas and Himalia.
And failing to publicize their enrollment would end up working pretty well for them: by not making it well known, they would be able to have their current students apply to the new school and easily get in by being the first-come-first-serve students that Canada mentioned.
So I followed up with Canada. Here’s what happened:
I asked if I could see fliers for the outreach for those new schools. She did not include any.
I asked why the website did not have enrollment forms for Rolas or Himalia. She replied that the website was out of date, and even so, “this is not the primary vehicle we use to communicate with our communities and as I told you before, it is being updated.” First off, that violates their charter petition as quoted above. But this also doesn’t explain why they have enrollment forms for the other schools. And if they have other methods (like fliers) why can’t they provide them?
Finally, I asked her “Did Celerity intentionally keep the public uniformed about the two new schools in order to give families from Troika and Dyad a first shot at a first-come-first-serve application process?”
Her response: “Celerity Himalia and Rolas followed all student recruitment procedures required by law and as outlined in our charter petitions. For example, even before Dyad and Troika reached the state, Himalia had almost 250 students ready to enroll by the close of its open enrollment period. There is still space for students to enroll at Rolas, even today.”
I will consider this a non-answer. It doesn’t answer the fundamental question of whether those 250 students were Dyad students to begin with, who were applying just in case Dyad failed to get renewal. And it doesn’t answer if Dyad students were encouraged to apply to Himalia (before failing to be renewed) by Celerity.
I think that even charter school advocates would find these actions problematic. Putting your stuff online is just one of those things you do. Even iPrep, who I have also criticized, has a robust online presence.
Charter Schools are there to serve the community as a whole, not the community of a school that is closing down. That is just how school choice works. You shouldn’t be able to pick and choose your students and you shouldn’t be able to roll them over from an old school to a new school. You get who you get and you serve those students.
If you fail to adhere to that mantra, then you do not deserve the mantle of being called a public school.