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Charter Renewal Drama At OC School Of The Arts Goes To The Next Act

The Orange County School of the Arts invited prospective students to check out the campus at a "Preview Day" on December 7, 2019. (Carla Javier/KPCC)
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Last month, we told you about the drama between the Orange County School of the Arts and the Santa Ana Unified School District over the terms of its charter renewal. Last night, the latest act played out before a packed house at the Orange County Board of Education.

The dispute heated up in December when SAUSD said it would renew the wildly popular arts school’s charter if it agreed to make changes in response to a critical district staff report. That report questioned OCSA’s admission policies and funding model. That critique didn’t go over well with OCSA, to say the least. It rejected the conditions and appealed to the Orange County Department of Education to see if its board will authorize OCSA’s charter for the next five years instead.

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Last night, both sides — first OCSA’s founder, then a deputy superintendent and lawyer for the school district — spoke before the county department’s five board members. OCSA’s representatives were backed by a large, vocal crowd of supporters which interrupted with applause.

Many of the questions posed by the county board of education were not related to the contents of OCSA’s charter renewal petition itself or SAUSD’s concerns about it. Instead, lawyers fielded questions about whether the county board could take up OCSA’s appeal. They were also asked about the ongoing legal battle between the district and the school over special education funding.

After almost two hours of presentations, public comment, and board member questions, the board closed the hearing, saying they may vote on the appeal at a future meeting. The next one is scheduled for March 4.