Allegiance STEAM Academy charter received support of the Chino Valley school district and all except one of its school board members on Feb. 6 when the board voted 4 to 1 to renew Allegiance’s charter petition for five more years.

The school’s conditional petition from 2017 was to expire at the end of this school year.   

Chino Valley Superintendent Norm Enfield and his staff recommended the charter renewal, based on “positive academic outcomes for students,” according to agenda reports.

Board clerk Irene Hernandez-Blair refused to tell the Champion why she voted against the renewal. 

Ms. Hernandez-Blair and former board member Pamela Feix opposed the original charter in 2017 when the board voted 3 to 2 for its approval. 

Allegiance had been founded by several former parents of Oxford Preparatory Academy, a high-performing charter school which closed in 2016 amid allegations against founder Sue Roche regarding a charter management company that she had established for the Chino school and two other campuses in Orange County.   

As the authorizer of Allegiance, the Chino Valley school district will continue to provide oversight to the charter school.  

Allegiance operates a transitional kindergarten through eighth grade on the former campus of Oxford on C Street, between Benson and Oaks avenues in Chino. It was also the campus of El Rancho Elementary from 1951 to 2009 when it was one of three schools closed by the district because of low enrollment.

Allegiance leases the facility from Chino Valley school district. 

The original charter had been approved for up to 660 students.  

Enrollment is set to increase to 810 students next school year and to 960 by the fifth year of the renewal petition. 

A 2017 district requirement that Allegiance pay $150,000 per year in salary and benefits for a charter coordinator who works for the Chino Valley school district was removed in the renewal petition. 

In the renewal, Allegiance will pay the district an annual fee of three percent of its revenue, which equates to about $210,000 next year for its oversight, according to school principal Sebastian Cognetta, 

Allegiance’s former charter coordinator Laurie Warner recently replaced Al Bennett as temporary principal of Butterfield Ranch Elementary in Chino Hills.  

Student academic performance on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress qualified the school for renewal, according to the Feb. 6 board agenda. 

State test results from 2019 indicate 65 percent of Allegiance students had met and exceeded performance standards in English and nearly 54 percent had met and exceeded standards in math.  

In comparison, 51 percent of students statewide met and exceeded standards in English and 40 percent hit those targets in math.

The schools’ subgroups for disabilities, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and ethnicities including Asian, Hispanic/Latino and white students, all scored higher than state averages in English and math. 

The special student population at Allegiance consists of 34 percent socioeconomically disadvantaged, nearly 11 percent disabilities, four percent English learners and less than one percent foster youth. 

The school had reported no student suspensions last year.  

Its financial condition, projected in a multi-year budget, indicates a positive fund balance every year for the five-year term.

There were no public speakers against the charter renewal or admission preferences, which were included in a separate item for vote. 

Several from the community spoke in support of Allegiance and shared appreciation with the school district for their support for the school. 

A large group of Allegiance parents and students filled the school board room and overflow room, shouting in joy when the renewal petition was approved by the board.

Principal Cognetta said the Chino charter school and the Chino Valley school district has an “unprecedented authorizer-charter relationship.”

“This school was born through collaboration and continues to thrive as a result of it,” Dr. Cognetta said. 

The school board on Feb. 6 also approved Allegiance admissions preferences which includes lottery exemptions for current students and their siblings. 

Children of staff members, who may not exceed 10 percent of current enrollment, are also exempt from the lottery.  

Admission preferences in the public lottery are given with a 2:1 weighting to children residing within the school district boundaries and a 3:1 weighting for students living in the school’s attendance area. 

Principal Cognetta said the sibling preference was the only change to the admissions preferences. 

A public lottery, to be held Saturday, March 14, will include more than 520 applications received during open enrollment for the 2020-21 school year. Current waitlists do not roll over from one year to the next.

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