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Westwood Charter parents gather petition for address verifications

Mike Szymanski | September 18, 2015



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* UPDATE

A group of parents at WestwoScreen Shot 2015-09-17 at 10.01.58 AMod Charter School fear that families are faking their addresses to enroll their children in the highly sought-after LA Unified-affiliated school.

The parents were concerned that school
enrollment is coming dangerously close to its maximum capacity. First priority for enrollment in such schools usually goes to local residents. When the school gets filled, locals get bused to another district, and a lottery system determines how remaining openings are filled.

“We believe that at least 10 percent of the current students at Westwood Charter do not live in the boundaries of the school, and we need to fight this fraud to keep our class sizes small, manage the enrollment in the future and eliminate the risk of over-enrollment consequences,” said parent David Glazov, who was one of the concerned parents who signed a petition to give to LAUSD officials.

The school has also posted an anti-poacher message on its website: “WE ARE VERIFYING RESIDENCY AND CROSS-CHECKING FOR FRAUDULENT RESIDENCES.  ANY STUDENT FOUND TO HAVE ENTERED OUR SCHOOL USING A FRAUDULENT ADDRESS WILL BE REMOVED IMMEDIATELY AND SENT TO THEIR HOME SCHOOL.”

Kathy Flores, the school principal, said the school has 852 students and after checking the addresses of 150 homes “found no fraud.” The school added two extra steps to the enrollment process to prevent fraud.

Flores wrote: “Last spring I wrote a letter to the Westwood Charter families to clarify an abundance of misinformation in the community about our school and enrollment. I also spoke directly with the president of our larger homeowner’s association to convey accurate information about the enrollment process implemented by our school.”

The principal said, “Regarding a report that 10 percent of the addresses in the school directory are out of the area. That is correct. As an affiliated charter, Westwood must adhere to the enrollment process defined by The Charter Schools Act. Westwood gives priority to students who live within the boundaries of our school.  However, if space allows, we can pull names from our lottery and enroll students who reside outside our defined boundaries. Once a child is enrolled, a student is allowed continued enrollment, even if the family relocates outside the defined boundaries.”

The petition has more than 200 signatures and calls for an immediate address verification. Gayla Scoll said in the petition, “It is only fair and appropriate for equal rights to be ensured and for protection to be provided residents to be given first priority for enrollment in their local school.”

It not only concerns the people with children in the schools, but can also affect real estate prices in the area if residents can’t be assured getting into their local home school. The same issue happened two years ago at Carpenter Community Charter in Studio City when families faked addresses to get into the school that had high test scores and a good reputation.

District officials approved a series of address verifications that the principals can use including home visits, mailings, computer verification and a Pupil Service and Attendance coordinator (PSA) assigned to the school to help verify addresses.

Carpenter was also at capacity and decreased its enrollment by 20 percent using the systems, becoming a model for district-wide address verifications. Other LA Unfied schools such as Fairburn, Welby Way Charter, Colfax Charter, Warner and Overland are high-achieving elementary schools that have had issues with families faking their addresses to get into the charter-affiliate schools.

Jason Mandell, of the California Charter Schools Association, said that affiliated charter schools are run by LAUSD residential boundaries, and independent charter schools (most of CCSA’s members) do not have attendance boundaries and therefore would never have to verify student addresses. “All students can attend regardless of where they come from,” he said.

“It makes no sense to catch anyone in fraud if you tell them that you are coming over,” Glazov said. “It really defeats the purpose to make appointments. Other principals make surprise visits in these situations.”

School board member Steve Zimmer who represents the Westwood Charter area, said the school “is on the short list of schools in desperate need.” When attending a local city Neighborhood Council meeting on behalf of the school in April, Zimmer said, “Look at people and make sure they are living in attendance boundaries. I believe in not changing boundaries when there is a crunch in enrollment.”

Some of the parents still believe there is concern for overcrowding and address fraud.

The principal added, “Westwood Charter Elementary School is a collaborative community and I am proud of our efforts to support all of our students and celebrate the academic success they achieve.”

 


* Response from principal and correction on school population.

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