Three Los Angeles charter schools — two of them in the San Fernando Valley — could have their renewal applications denied by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board next week.
The charters operated by the Magnolia Public Schools are under board scrutiny because of their practice of bringing in teachers from Turkey, as first reported in the Los Angeles Times.
Two of the campuses are located in the Valley — Magnolia Science Academy 1 in Reseda, and Magnolia Science Academy 2 in Van Nuys. The other campus, Magnolia Science Academy 3, is located in Carson.
All three charters have five-year operating agreements that are expiring. LAUSD must either approve or deny their renewal applications, and a vote could come at the board’s Oct. 18 meeting.
District officials have not yet released its rationale for recommending that the schools’ renewal requests be denied. But, according to the Times, sources inside and outside the district say one major issue is Magnolia’s foreign workers, most of whom came here to teach.
The schools are part of a group of 10 campuses operated by locally based Magnolia Public Schools, which had leaned on imported Turkish instructors with temporary work visas.
According to published reports, the Magnolia schools are under the increased scrutiny following a failed coup in Turkey in July. The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Turkish cleric Muhammed Fethullah Gulen of being behind the revolt.
Erdogan has accused American charter schools with Turkish ties of supporting and helping fund Gulen’s alleged activities.
District officials would not comment about schools on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Magnolia Chief Executive and former LAUSD board president Caprice Young took issue Wednesday with the view the schools should be closed.
“[The Valley schools] are two very high performing schools,” Young said. “Van Nuys is the No.1 charter in Los Angeles Unified, and third best of all high schools including non-charters. Reseda, was named in the top 100 high schools in California. Both high schools are in the top three percent of all U.S. high schools. Most all students go on to college.
“It makes no sense to me why the district would try and close these schools.”
Young said The school group did apply to bring in 138 teachers from abroad, almost all from Turkey. “But that was between 2008-2012,” she said. “We haven’t had to recruit outside the US last couple of years because we found teachers here in the US.”
Ninety-seven Turkish instructors eventually worked for Magnolia; 37 are still employed. Young said instructors from Turkey “are about 10 percent of all teachers we employ.”
The most recent immigrant teacher hired by Magnolia Public Schools was from China, Young said. She also said she has, for now, ended the practice of importing foreign instructors.
L.A. school board president Steve Zimmer, however, says Magnolia’s past hiring practices remain a problem. Magnolia never indicated it intended to import teachers en masse, he said, according to The Times.
Young said Magnolia officials probably won’t learn of any reasons the board would consider denying the renewal applications “until about three days before the board meeting,” giving them little time to prepare a response.
“The only time we’ll get to respond is in our three minutes of testimony [at the meeting],” Young said. “But I can tell you more than one person is expected to speak.
“It seems unfair. But the thing I know of why Zimmer is against us is because of immigrant teachers.”
City News Service contributed to this report.