LEGAL FEES CLIMB AT WEST COVINA UNIFIED'S CHARTER SCHOOL, October 24, 2010, San Gabriel Valley Tribune (CA)
WEST COVINA - Murky contract language and poor communication with its charter school's management company is costing West Covina Unified tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, according to district documents.
Edison Learning, Inc. manages the operations at San Jose-Edison Academy, the district's charter school. WCUSD oversees those operations to ensure it is in compliance with contract agreements and state law, according to Superintendent Liliam Castillo.
Rather than dealing with problems with a quick phone call, the district and the charter school have been using attorneys for correspondence, officials said…
West Covina Unified spent about $76,000 on legal fees related to San Jose- Edison Academy between the 2007-08 school year and the 2009-10 school year. District-wide, it spent about $812,000 in legal fees during the same time frame. Most of the fees were for union negotiations, construction issues, employee complaints and other matters unrelated to the day-to-day operation of schools.
No other schools have comparable legal costs, Castillo said.
For example, the district spent less than $200 on issues related to Edgewood Middle School between January 2008 and September 2010, Castillo said.
"Legal fees for a school are rare unless it's a settlement," she said.
The contract with Edison Learning, Inc. has become increasingly complicated as board members and the management company's personnel change…
Board member Jessica Shewmaker said she agrees that attorney fees are costly, but it's a last resort when the district doesn't get answers to varying concerns.
"We have an obligation to oversee that school," she said. "If they're breaking the law, the district as a whole can be sued.
"I think what's happening is there are certain board members who have a conflict and who would rather Edison be left alone. When it comes to Edison, there's a blindness to the need to oversee the school."
Both Spence and board member Eileen Miranda Jimenez have children who attend the school, Shewmaker said…