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Why Aveson Ended up in Pasadena

The head of the one-time Altadena charter school, Kate Bean, tells Patch in an interview about the process of trying to get space at Burbank Elementary and why it did not work out.

A year after Aveson Charter School's 6-12 grade school was moved from its campus at the top of Allen Avenue after neighborhood complaints about the school, the school has finally found a more permanent home in Pasadena for the 250 students who attend it.

The campus will be at 1206 N. Lincoln Avenue, where a private school facility is currently located, and Aveson has a five-year lease to take over the space this fall.

But moving to that campus was not the school administration's first choice, said Kate Bean, the director of Aveson's K-5 program in Altadena.  Instead, the administration preferred to relocate to the campus of , which will no longer host an elementary school at its campus.

Bean was well aware that Burbank is in the same area where neighbors opposed having high-school age students in the first place, and she asked Pasadena Unified School District officials to give her a chance to make her pitch directly to the public.

The school never got that chance.

"We did not get an answer in any kind of timely manner that would have allowed us to even discuss the idea with the community," Bean said.

The District Response

District officials instead told her that neighbors in the area would never accept a school, she said.

Carla Boykin, PUSD’s coordinator for mandated programs and charter schools, told Patch that while Aveson's formal first choice was for the vacated Loma Alta campus, the school made repeated requests for the Burbank campus from January to May of this year.

Boykin said that district officials already had as far back as January and that they also felt that the neighborhood around Burbank is not "suitable for middle and high school-age students."

Instead, Bean said, the district offered three buildings at John Muir High School, a solution that Bean saw as inappropriate, as it would have mixed students as young as 11 years old into the middle of a campus with older students, and spread the students out across the campus.

Offering the Muir facility fulfilled the district's legal obligation to provide space to a charter school, but with two newly-opened campuses in Altadena, Bean said she was baffled that Muir was the district's suggestion.

The new facility on Lincoln Avenue will be a big step up for the school, which has been meeting in a small space at the Pasadena Boys and Girl Club where they have to set up and break down classrooms each day.  But Burbank would have given Aveson students an auditorium, a full-sized cafeteria, and sports facilities.

Neighborhood Opposition

The move to the Lincoln Avenue facility marks the end of a serious attempt to keep the campus in Altadena.  The school was told to move by PUSD in the Spring of 2010 after a group of neighbors filed a lawsuit about the school - rather than fight it, the district offered to relocate Aveson to the campus of John Muir High School.

But Aveson officials tried their hardest to find their own upper-level campus in Altadena, near their elementary school: in addition to requesting the Burbank space, Aveson officials at the northeast corner of Lincoln and Loma Alta, requested the campus at Loma Alta Elementary, and even met with community members about moving to the former campus of the Edison Elementary school at 3126 Glenrose Avenue.

Whether or not Altadena residents would have accepted upper level students in their neighborhood is a matter for debate: Gino Sund, a town council member who lives near Aveson and was part of the opposition to having the upper level schools there, said in an interview in Patch that he believes the same objections would be applied to Aveson at the Burbank campus.

Prior to a meeting about Burbank's future in June someone circulated fliers about Aveson moving to campus and it was an issue raised at the meeting.

Sund said that he still opposes having a high school in the area and figures a lot of local residents would feel the same way.

"I take the view that these small intimate school sites are not legitimate venues for a high school," Sund said.

The issues at the time with neighbors were traffic, noise, parking, and more Sund said.  Older kids tend to be at campus more often, he said.  Additionally, turning Burbank into a high school site would probably make it likely that the site would never revert back to an elementary school use in future years, Sund added.

Kim Kenne, the sole PUSD board member from Altadena, also said her experience has been that there has been a lot of opposition from neighborhood members.

"It was amazing how much ill will there was," said Kenne, who was not on the board at the time but was active in PUSD affairs.

The District and Charter Schools

But some community members have also expressed on on this site their concerns that Altadena has become too rigid in its opposition to schools and express their wish that Aveson had been able to find a home in town.

For Bean's part, she believes that many people don't give the same priority to charter school students as they do to others.

"Often charter school students are not seen as public school students, but that's what they are," Bean said.

Ramon Miramontes, a PUSD board member, said that he understands Aveson's frustrations as his experience with PUSD under Superintendent Diaz was that the district did not have "a good working relationship with charter schools."

He said that was one issue that he considered during the hiring process for the .

Kenne echoed Miramontes' concerns - though she was not on the board when Aveson was forced to move its 6-12 grade students out of Altadena, she said" it felt like PUSD went back on its promise when it kicked the 6-12 out."

And all too often, Kenne said, it seems like either the district is closing a school the community does not want or getting heat for closing a school the community does want.

"I feel like we should have taped and gotten the name of everyone who says don't close its school to show later when people seem to want a school closed," Kenne said.

Redmond Carolipio contributed to the reporting on this story

Robby July 22, 2011 at 09:07 PM
Altadena might continue to be hostile to THIS school. A lot of us still remember the graffiti incident.
Steve Lamb July 23, 2011 at 09:12 PM
I just don't understand how under the law the PUSD can deny them available space. Aveson is a charter school and under the Ed Code is a PUBLIC SCHOOL. Its no different than were the PUSD to reopen Burbank under it's direct control. Would the PUSD have the SLIGHTEST concern for the desires of the neighbors if they wanted to reopen? I dont think so. This is just a ruse being used to give Burbank and other Public School campuses to well connected Not For Profits at the expense of Children going to public Schools. Hideous!
khadija July 24, 2011 at 07:13 PM
I agree with Steve's comments above. We had a similar problem with my daughter's charter school in LAUSD (when we lived in Highland Park). They eventually forced the charter to close on ridiculous charges. LAUSD closed the school a month before the end of the school year and the kids were told to "go to your neighborhood school", thus insuring that all the money for those kids went directly back in LAUSD coffers and the teachers and administrators lost their "rogue" jobs. I have seen that PUSD's attitude and treatment of charters is similar, in fact the stipulation that PUSD charter schools must request to renew their space EVERY year is outrageous. We were involved in the community meeting that Aveson held when they were trying to get into Edison. I (and many neighbors) felt that Aveson would have been a perfect match for the Edison campus but PUSD's attitude at the meeting (after Ms. Bean left the meeting) was hostile and closed to any positive discussion. I was pretty disheartened. As a result both of my daughters who could have potentially attended their neighborhood school (across the street from us!) have to go to private schools. I don't believe that PUSD or LAUSD (I know teachers in both districts) have students and families best interests at heart any longer. It's sad because educators truly do.
navigio July 24, 2011 at 07:54 PM
I dont think its fair to say its 'no different'. Lets say PUSD decided to close one of its High Schools and distribute the students to other schools/properties in the district. Would Burbank be appropriate for them? I also dont mean to be snide, but there are really only two things that prohibit the district from doing things: community outrage and lawsuits. In that sense, they can do whatever they want until someone stops them. That said, I dont think its clear that what they are doing in this case is an obvious violation of state law. There is already a preschool on the site and they clearly have intentions to move other things there. They threw the current (traditional) public school students onto the street that were at Burbank so in that sense, how are they treating Aveson any differently? At least wrt the Burbank campus (I agree with you on their original Muir offer). Also, steve, you seem to be pretty plugged in. Can you be more specific about what well connected NFPs you're talking about? I admittedly dont know enough about our local NFPs..
navigio July 24, 2011 at 08:24 PM
While its surely annoying to have to renew the lease each year, have any charters yet been not allowed to renew their lease agreement? From what I've seen its pretty much a formality. Traditional public schools are subject to closure usually less than a year from when the decision is made. Is there a good reason charter school kids should get even more security than traditional public school kids? I think if district enrollment were more stable, PUSD would think about making the terms longer, but as long as things fluctuate so drastically from year to year, I can see a desire to keep maximum flexibility. I'm also confused about your use of the term 'neighborhood school'. Do you mean to imply that a charter school would have been your neighborhood school?
khadija July 24, 2011 at 09:55 PM
That was confusing - sorry - the 1st "neighborhood school" LAUSD told us to go to was actually Muir since we had moved to Altadena and my daughter was finishing the school year in LA. Since school only had 1 month left before summer break, I was told at Muir that she would be taking finals the following week and when I told them she hadn't been taking the same classes they didn't care. LAUSD didn't care what happened to the kids switching schools a month before summer break either. When I said my daughters could have gone to their neighborhood school at the end, i meant the closest school to us and yes, that would have been a charter school (Aveson if they had been allowed to move to Edison).
Steve Lamb July 24, 2011 at 10:28 PM
Navigio- You clearly have not been paying attention to this issue locally. NO charter school leases are not renewed at least in the PUSD as a matter of course. In fact, the PUSD amazingly enough holds them to a MUCH higher standard than their own schools and closes them and has historically, on the slightest pretext. I guess they like having captive audiences of parents and children who have no affordable choice but to attend PUSD schools. It's odd but many neighborhoods where there are PUSD campuses want NO SCHOOL use once that campus is closed. They want them to never reopen. Ever. The Edison Neighbors and Noyes neighbors are examples of that and strangely enough people connected to the PUSD politically are also in those neighborhood groups agitating. one has to ask why.....OH yeah the agenda to hand these campuses over to well connected Not for Profit groups....Observe as it unfolds.
navigio July 25, 2011 at 03:12 AM
which charter schools have been denied renewal of their leases and/or closed?
Steve Lamb July 25, 2011 at 02:12 PM
Each of the ones that were at Edison.
Steve Lamb July 25, 2011 at 02:13 PM
Where have you been for the last five years?
Leslie Aitken July 25, 2011 at 02:46 PM
I am very nearly out of energy on this subject, but I will chime in one last time. Regarding Aveson, it seems to me that the PUSD has engaged in the coordinated failure of the 6 - 12 program. Sort of an "If you can't beat 'em, eliminate 'em effort"! You see, at one time, the best middle and high school test scores in the PUSD area belonged to Aveson Global. They were and did make a difference, far out-shinning similar schools in the PUSD. Instead of using it as an example, the PUSD has done its best to thwart it's survival. They didn't side with the school and its students against the neighbors around Noyes. I went to a PUSD council meeting where Aveson was applying for an additional charter for an Arts School. Even though hundreds of students and parents came to the meeting, it was denied. Well spoken children and parents pleaded with the district to make allowances for this addition to the curriculum, only to denied. After that, the district has made it IMPOSSIBLE for a new location, and denied the Edison campus, the Loma Alta campus and the Burbank campus. Even though the Edison campus had most recently hosted two different 6 - 12 programs. Those programs failed due to poor administration and poor attendance. Aveson 6-12 had over 250 students and a good administration, AND very nice students. My daughter's first year for 9th grade on the Noyes campus was one of the happiest school years of her life! Not many can say that about their freshman year!
Steve Lamb July 25, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Leslie- I agree with you except: The PUSD went way way way out of its way to make things difficult if not absolutely impossible for those schools at Edison. Really the State needs to have a baord that oversees all excess school district properties and hands them off for use to charter schools. the local boards have proved they will not act in the best interests of children or the public in this regard. State and Federal agencies only arise when local government is either totally unresponsive, or as is the case here, totally corrupt.
navigio July 25, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Well, lease renewals are different than charter renewals. I think the ones you're referring to lost their charters (apparently there is a debate as to whether that was justified, but you're right that my involvement with school issues has only been more recent).
Leslie Aitken July 25, 2011 at 03:04 PM
Without a location, Aveson Global was force to make an 11th hour arrangement with the Boys and Girls club for a year. They attended until 2:45 each day, at which the school had to pack up its belongings and clear out every day so the Club could set up for its after school program. Drop off and pick up were a nightmare! Parking was limited and difficult at best. The location was bad. A lot of students left, and the nomadic feel of the school didn't work. Spirits rose when we learned of two new PUSD campuses becoming available -- both of them being denied. There is a new building, Aveson Global deserved to have a location that had been built to house students, with classrooms and parking and space for physical activity and extracurricular activities. Instead it will be in a building that formerly housed a school but wasn't built to be one, right next to the 210 freeway, with lots of concrete and chain link. Very sad, is this any way to treat a great charter school, let alone the buffeted teenagers and their families? I guess that it just doesn't matter and the PUSD administration and school board will just go on doing whatever it wants the way that it wants as it has for the past 26 years that I have had school aged kids.
navigio July 25, 2011 at 03:24 PM
first let me apologize for being so agro about school issues. i know i can be tiring and apologize for that. but i believe the more we talk about schools, the better people will understand the issues and lack of understanding is one of the greatest barriers to better schools, imho. anyway, if there is anything PUSD has been toward charters it seems apathetic is the best description. It is not my impression that anything active was done that would have depressed Aveson's scores. PUSD is acutely fearful of lawsuits and seems to go out of its way to avoid even the hint of a threat of one. I think that partially explains how they reacted to the Noyes' neighborhood conflict and probably partially why they were so adamant against the Burbank campus. I also think it means had someone filed a lawsuit regarding their prop 39 related behavior (which I agree was sketchy) we may have seen a different outcome. There were reasons given for denying the additional Aveson charter. I guess its up to each to decide whether those were genuine. I do think its difficult to argue that PUSD is 'anti charter' given how many charters they have approved over the past 5 or so years. And btw, Odyssey is chartered through LACOE, not PUSD.
navigio July 25, 2011 at 03:41 PM
@leslie: "Aveson Global deserved to have a location that had been built to house students, with classrooms and parking and space for physical activity and extracurricular activities. " To be clear, I could not agree with you more. I wish all our kids had access to appropriate facilities, charter or otherwise. I wish communities were more accepting of schools. I wish parents made it easier for communities to be more accepting of schools. I think Aveson needs to continue to be vocal. Obviously much of the PUSD community is focused on its traditional schools (since most of its kids attend those) but I agree your current location is essentially unacceptable and the more people hear about it the more I feel they'll agree. You can also continue to make the point that even though some people might disagree with the charter concept, they are currently legal and have laws related to them. People can work to change the laws if they dont like them, but disserving kids is not the approach to take (I have the same stance on traditional public schools).
Steve Lamb July 25, 2011 at 05:06 PM
Navigio- Well you keep saying the PUSD is fearful of lawsuits. Having volunteered as a free paralegal on three of them with the PUSD All I have ever seen is a attitude that says "Don't like it- Sue us." So I find your statements that they are fearful, particularly say of Land Use based law suits where the ed code is frighteningly in their favor, very odd. I think its part of their plan to destroy the compitition
navigio July 25, 2011 at 06:33 PM
Hi Steve. I guess its true that if a law were heavily in one's favor, one would be more likely to take the 'sue me if you dont like it' attitude (what else should they do?). But many recent PUSD decisions seem to have been driven by the threat of lawsuits. Perhaps that was just an excuse to scare the community. Unfortunately there are not many ways to 'test' that short of filing lawsuits, which of course have the problematic side-effect of taking money away from the district (ie schools). While I understand people may feel its a general district goal to 'destroy the competition', I dont see how this jibes with the number of charters it has approved over the past handful of years. Charters cost districts money and I dont mean just in lost revenue limit funding. I cant think of any incentive for a district to approve a charter in the first place other than a responsibility to serve the needs of the community. Since you have been part of legal proceedings related to these schools, maybe you have some other thoughts?
mister altadena July 25, 2011 at 10:50 PM
we wouldn't even need to have charter school chat if PUSD hadn't fouled things up a generation+ ago. Charters came in to "serve the needs of the community" b/c PUSD couldn't properly serve those needs.
Joanne Louisa July 25, 2011 at 11:35 PM
I don't know about the entire district but from what I have heard from people who work in special ed, the ONLY thing that matters there is lawsuits. If a parent wants something for their child and threatens to sue, he will receive it even if it's not in the child's best educational interest. Conversely, parents who don't have the means or inclination to sue are sized up and ignored (not by the rank and file but by the special ed leadership). It's sickening, and I hate that my/our tax dollars are used in this fashion. All children should be treated fairly and every effort should be made to meet their learning needs, no matter how much money or influence their parents have or don't have. BTW, I have only heard these complaints since the newest special ed director was hired. It may have happened before but my friends who work in PUSD were not mentioning it or complaining about it like they are now.
Steve Lamb July 25, 2011 at 11:55 PM
Mister Altadena- we TOTALLY agree on this issue! Joanne Louisa- well, I've helped a fistfull of special ed student parents who had to sue the PUSD to get the services they needed so I see that VERY differently.
navigio July 25, 2011 at 11:57 PM
although I dont have direct personal experience, from what I understand the special ed system is a microcosm of procedural chaos. I think that fact is exacerbated by a number of things: - district (supposedly) loses money on special ed students (eg unfunded mandates) - acquiescing to parent demands is likely cheaper in the long run than trying to fight them in court - parents can benefit financially from special ed related decisions Although there very well may be dysfunction within the district itself, I think its possible to argue that these things in particular are mostly outside of the district's control. Out of curiosity, has anyone ever met a special ed parent who was satisfied with the system (PUSD or otherwise)? I have yet to..

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