Reforms > Charter Schools

LAUSD to compete with charters to run 'parent trigger' school



The parents at 24th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles Unified will have plenty of choices for an operator to take over their school under the “parent trigger” process they initiated this month. One of the contenders will be the district itself.

The school’s Parents’ Union announced Monday it had received letters of intent from eight organizations saying they would submit detailed proposals on how they would turn the low-performing school around. They include six outside charter school operators, a former teacher at the school who created a management organization and Superintendent John Deasy, who pledged “to collaborate with the parents and students of 24th Street by implementing the necessary reform efforts to vastly increase student achievement and the community engagement efforts to date.”

Ten days ago, parents at 24th Street Elementary became the third group, following efforts in Compton Unified and Adelanto Unified, to file a petition under the state’s three-year-old Parent Empowerment Act. That law permits a majority of parents at a low-performing school to petition for a change in governance. The 24th Street Elementary Parents’ Union became the first to actually be welcomed by their district.

In receiving their petition, Deasy had promised to collaborate, not thwart, the parents, and he reaffirmed that commitment by meeting with parents at a park in the rain last week. His three-page letter, submitted by Friday’s deadline, outlined how the district will do so. The letter implied that the district will move forward immediately by assigning Angel Barrett, the district’s instructional director, to conduct a three-day comprehensive assessment of the needs of the school and then create an action plan..There will be a particular focus on English learners, who comprise 45 percent of the students. Deasy also pledged to work with community groups, including Parent Revolution, the nonprofit organization that has organized parent groups around the parent trigger.As a low-achieving school, 24th Street Elementary already is in the district’s Public School Choice program.

As part of that process, the principal and staff at the school submitted their own plan to turn the school around. But Deasy rejected that plan days before the parents submitted their petition. In his letter to the parents, Deasy said it “did not inspire confidence that 24th Street is on a path toward rapid improvement.”

Deasy also expressed appreciation in the Parents’ Union’s “confidence in LAUSD as the parents’ preferred partner in this transformational process.” The parents, though, will make the final decision after reviewing all of the proposals, which are due March 8. Charter operators that indicated they will submit are Academia Moderna; Crown Preparatory Academy; Frederick Douglass Academy Elementary School & Vista Academy Elementary School; Global Education Academy; Para Los Niños, and Celerity Global Development. Celerity was the choice of the parents’ union in Compton Unified, the site of the first parent trigger. After litigation prolonged the process, Celerity abandoned its quest to operate McKinley Elementary and started a school in a nearby church.

Filed under: Charter Schools, Parent Involvement

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11 Responses to “LAUSD to compete with charters to run 'parent trigger' school”

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  1. No Excuses on January 29, 2013 at 6:46 pm01/29/2013 6:46 pm

    • 000

    Now that the parents want to make changes and 45% of the students are English learners, will the parents 1) go to ESL classes now – no excuses; 2) read to their children nightly whether in Spanish or English; 3) speak English every day at home when the children are there. These aren’t impossible. Other immigrants did it. Don’t use excuses. There has to be a commitment from the parents.

  2. Zorro on January 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm01/29/2013 3:40 pm

    • 000

    Does anyone wonder what the 24th St. Elementary staff plan to fix the school looked like?

    In his Letter of Intent, Supt. Deasy wrote that in their plan “there was little to no connection between those critical issues [facing the school], the key priority areas, and actionable turnaround strategies to improve the educational experience and outcomes for students and families.” So basically, the principal, teachers and other school staff don’t have a clue about how to turn around 24th St.

    Deasy will call upon Dr. Barrett and some other LAUSD staff members to run a process by which these critical issues will essentially be re-identified and dealt with. That’s his plan, the one that he’s now suggesting the parent union of 24th St. prefers. Excuse me, Mr. Superintendent, don’t you think the people who teach these children know something about how best to educate them? Having been a teacher at a high school putting together its own action plan under the District’s PSC initiative, I know how difficult it must have been for those teachers and staff to put their plan together. It takes significant time and effort and must be accomplished in addition to the myriad other tasks they face just trying to educate their children. No one is suggesting that all’s right with 24th St. Of course not. But to blatantly disregard teachers’ expertise is tantamount to saying that they’re the biggest problem, perhaps THE problem.

    Somehow I doubt that. However, in the current toxic environment in which educators work, both in this school district and in the nation at large, that attitude will never change until the public educates itself about what teachers face every day in their classrooms.

    And Manuel is right. The handing over of the signatures to Deasy with the “unexpected” presence of UTLA President Warren Fletcher was a staged event. This teachers’ union can’t be trusted to remain vigilant, not just about teachers’ livelihoods but about the paramount needs of students. If Mr. Fletcher and UTLA are really interested in reforming education, they can start by identifying Parent Revolution as the corporate shill that it is, exposing the mendacity and gross mismanagement of the LAUSD budget, and doing something to help the thousands of RIF’d and displaced veteran teachers who’ve been replaced by TFA “graduates” and other inexperienced teachers.

    Replies

    • Manuel on January 30, 2013 at 8:49 am01/30/2013 8:49 am

      • 000

      Based on the way it was reported, the “event” was one where Deasy and Parent Revolution were to be the only actors. Fletcher was clearly not invited and was the “skunk at the picnic.” It must have taken a lot of convincing for Fletcher to have crashed their party. (If you have ever entered 333 South Beaudry you know you have to have a concrete reason to pass through security; I wonder what Fletcher told them to be allowed through.)

      I am of the opinion that UTLA does not engage in a frontal assault on Parent Revolution because of the toxic environment that Zorro refers to. There is a lot of inside baseball going on between LAUSD, UTLA, and AALA to keep up without a scorecard. I would like UTLA and AALA to be more aggressive in their approach to the mentioned problems, but my opinion is likely not aligned with what they hear from their strategists and consultants. Thus, the world goes on while I ask some uncomfortable questions.

      • CarolineSF on January 30, 2013 at 9:26 am01/30/2013 9:26 am

        • 000

        My observation is that teachers’ unions in general have not updated their PR/outreach/advocacy mechanism to keep up with changing circumstances. They obviously have a long history of traditional-style lobbying and campaign involvement, but in education there’s a barrage of new situations that I think most observers would say warrant a nimble response.

  3. Manuel on January 29, 2013 at 2:48 pm01/29/2013 2:48 pm

    • 000

    BTW, isn’t it interesting that Deasy rejected the “local” proposal before receiving the trigger demand?

    Also, I am under the impression that the Superintendent does not reject proposals, as reported above. It is the job of the Charter Division to examine proposals and forward them to the Board with an “accept” or “reject” recommendation. In fact, the minutes of the Board meeting that took place on January 15 do not even mention that a petition for 24th Street had been considered.

    There is another quirky thing about this affair: Watanabe reports on January 18 (a Friday), that the parents “descended on the Los Angeles Unified School District office Thursday and…”. (Romo reportes essentially the same thing.) The on-line Times article has a photograph showing the parents handing a binder to Deasy in the chamber used for Board meetings. Curiously, none of the Board members are in their usual seats in the front row although some people are sitting in the chairs in the back. This is, however, not surprising since the Board calendar does not indicate that a meeting took place on Thursday. So Deasy did not met with them in his office but in the Board room.

    Even more interesting is that Watanabe wrote “Ina an unexpected twist, the president of the teachers union, Warren Fletcher, also showed up…”

    Call me paranoid, but this whole thing seems like it was orchestrated for the press.

  4. el on January 29, 2013 at 10:38 am01/29/2013 10:38 am

    • 000

    I like that the district is creating a competing proposal that will be one of the options for the parents to select. I would like to see that as part of the process for any of these parent triggers.

  5. CarolineSF on January 29, 2013 at 9:19 am01/29/2013 9:19 am

    • 000

    In the category of “unverifiable things you hear from posted comments,” I read that the community at this school had wanted the principal replaced for a long time, but that she (the comment I read said it was a woman; I haven’t confirmed) has a close contact — a sorority sister — on the LAUSD school board, and has thus been protected. I’m curious about whether any of that is borne out by verifiable reality.

    The issue of a school community dealing with a problem (unpopular/controversial) principal is a whole topic in and of itself.

    I would question whether Parent Revolution can legitimately be called a “community group.” It was founded by charter school operator Steve Barr; is funded by an assortment of wealthy foundations; and functions with an entirely paid staff, including an executive director with no prior background in volunteer education advocacy. It’s not a membership or grassroots organization.

    Replies

    • el on January 29, 2013 at 10:34 am01/29/2013 10:34 am

      • 000

      Since Parent Revolution is not working in any community where its leadership lives, I would agree that it doesn’t count as a community group, unless you consider for example the Gates Foundation to be a community group. :-)

      • John Fensterwald on January 29, 2013 at 11:31 am01/29/2013 11:31 am

        • 000

        Parent Revolution recruits parent leaders from the local school community as organizers.

        • Manuel on January 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm01/29/2013 2:27 pm

          • 000

          Maybe so.

          However, here is what was reported by Vanessa Romo of KPCC (story link:http://www.scpr.org/blogs/education/2013/01/17/12086/temp-parent-trigger/):

          ‘For years parents have been pushing the district intervene. The district itself recognized that the school is in trouble and put it in line for serious reforms. But nothing changed.

          Parent Revolution, a well-funded education advocacy group, got involved and began organizing parents.

          “This is a school that has been an abject failure for years, you know, parents can’t wait for pilot programs or half measures… their kids get older every year and these parents need a great school for their kids next year and they’re going to get it,” said Ben Austin, of Parent Revolution.

          Since launching in 2009, the organization has been encouraging parents to take over struggling schools by replacing staff or facilitating charter school conversions.

          On behalf of the parents at 24th Street, Parent Revolution acquired an office space, set up phone banks, and helped them canvass the neighborhood for signatures.

          Austin said 24th Street Elementary is “a poster child for why parents need power.”’

          Given this, I would say that Parent Revolution, an organization external to the 24th Street Elementary community, went looking for a school with problems and recruited the parents into doing what Parent Revolution wants: to turn a “failing” school into a charter. This is not an idea that came out of the community, despite the billboards I’ve seen promoting the “trigger.”

          Also, there seems to be some confusion among the parents just like in the Adelanto case. Here is what Teresa Watanabe of the LA Times reported (story link: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0118-parent-trigger-20130118,0,7458449.story):

          “The petition asks for a charter organization to take over the campus. But Villeda and others said they would try to work for changes with the district before pursuing that option.”

          If the LAUSD Board accepts the petition, the Board will have no choice but to open the school for bids. The parents cannot pursue other options.

        • educator on January 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm01/29/2013 5:00 pm

          • 000

          Yes, they recruit local parents, but Parent Revolution has a large hired staff that controls every move. They organize a “parent union”, help parents create a wish list of reforms, used hired staff to get petition signatures, and distribute flyers in the neighborhood as starters. They operate out of a rented facility in close proximity to the school. Basically, Parent Revolution acts like a general, and the parents are just foot soldiers. Also, check out the bios of their paid staff. The vast majority have absolutely no experience in the education field, including the president, Ben Austin.

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