Steve Van Zant former superintendent of the Mountain Empire Calif district

Steve Van Zant, former superintendent of the Mountain Empire (Calif.) district.

Superintendent charged with conflict of interest in connection with approval of charter schools

As administrator in Mountain Empire (Calif.) district, Steve Van Zant allegedly approved charter schools that later hired his consulting company.

A former school superintendent in San Diego County, Calif., has been charged with one felony count of conflict of interest in connection with the authorization of charter schools.

The San Diego Union-Tribune says that Steve Van Zant, who was superintendent of the Mountain Empire Unified School District in from 2008 to 2013, authorized charter schools that subsequently hired his consulting firm, EdHive.

Van Zant now is superintendent of the Sausalito Marin City (Calif.) School District; that district has placed him on a leave of absence.


Under Van Zant’s direction, Mountain Empire authorized its first charter, San Diego Neighborhood Homeschool. About a dozen more followed before he left Mountain Empire in 2013.

Officials from small and cash-strapped districts such as Mountain Empire have approved charters to operate outside of their boundaries in part for financial reasons. The authorizing districts don’t stand to lose students and they receive up to 3 percent of the charter’s revenue in exchange for varying degrees of oversight.

More than 80 “out-of-district” charters are in operation in San Diego County. The practice has led to several lawsuits throughout the state.

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