Ocean Charter School Board members unanimously approved a $13,000 contract Aug. 11 for a consultant whom they hope will help them navigate the inner circles of the Los Angeles Unified School District leading up to the district’s decision on who will be awarded the opportunity to build on a parcel of land at Walgrove Avenue Elementary School.

The money will come from Ocean Charter’s reserve fund.

“I just want to point out as much as I personally despise it, political engagement and strategic engagement at a much higher level than the past board was involved in is required for competition for the Walgrove site,” new board member Josh Dome told the board before the vote. “And it’s also required for Plan B.”

Plan B is the school’s alternate plan for relocation if they do not win the land lease option. The administration has said LAUSD officials have told them that Westminster Avenue Elementary School in Venice and Mark Twain Middle School in Mar Vista are options, but most are skeptical due to the middle school’s new magnet program that will bring in new students in the fall and Westminster’s reluctance to share their campus.

Earlier this year, the Westminster faculty and its parents rallied against an attempted colocation by Green Dot Public Schools, the charter organization that will be competing with Ocean Charter for the Walgrove site in Mar Vista. Green Dot eventually withdrew its petition and is now involved in a colocation at Cowan Elementary School in Westchester.

Colocation is an outgrowth of Proposition 39 where a traditional community school and a charter share a campus, often including common areas such as an auditorium, playground and cafeteria.

There is a sense of urgency to act quickly for Ocean Charter officials. The school’s colocation agreement with Walgrove runs through 2012 only, so officials say acquiring the unused space is crucial because if they are unsuccessful, they will be forced to move to another location.

Ocean Charter Director Kristy Mack-Fett, who is in charge of the Walgrove campus, suspects other charters may have an advantage when bidding on the Walgrove parcel, so having a consultant who can assist them during the bidding process could benefit the school.

“I believe that the process does favor a large organization that has the personnel to draft a proposal more quickly than a smaller organization like ours,” she said.

Ocean Charter officials recently created an outreach committee that is trying to access the level of community support for their school. Grades four through eight have shared classrooms with Walgrove for five years.

Kindergarten through third grades are in Del Rey.

Board treasurer Charles Francis was convinced to vote to approve the contract because he feels the school should exhaust all options in order to stay at Walgrove.

“The thing that swayed me was that we have to do everything that we possibly can to get that site,” he said. “This will help us establish a line of communication with getting ourselves seen to the people at LAUSD who make the decisions.”

There are three consultant candidates that are being reviewed, said Kenneth Kutcher, an attorney whose daughters attend Ocean Charter.

LAUSD is slated to issue its request for proposal for the Walgrove site tentatively Sept. 15.

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