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Alison Yin for EdSource

An Orange County Superior Court judge will hear arguments Monday in a trial that will likely determine whether a group of Anaheim parents can force the city school district to hand over the management of their children’s elementary school to a charter operator.

The Anaheim City School Board and district leaders have been at odds with parents at Palm Lane Elementary School who launched a parent-trigger campaign last year. The school board rejected the parents’ petition in February, alleging that the parents failed to collect enough valid signatures from parents.

The parents, however, balked at the school district’s analysis of petition signatures, contending that they gathered more than enough support from parents. Meanwhile, according to court documents, the Anaheim City School Board is arguing that Palm Lane is not “trigger-eligible” since California has suspended its school ratings system. Both sides filed legal complaints with the court in April, leaving their disputes in the hands of Orange County Superior Court Judge Andrew P. Banks.

Under the state’s Parent Empowerment Act, parents whose children attend a chronically failing school can compel school systems to make a wide range of education reforms, including replacing the principal and teachers, or transforming the school into a charter.

Since 2010, only one school, Desert Trails Elementary School, in Adelanto, has enacted the law to become a charter. And although the law has led to the ouster of only one principal at Weigand Elementary School in Los Angeles in 2013, a group of Fishburn Elementary School parents launched a parent-trigger campaign at the Maywood school last week to force the Los Angeles Unified School District to remove their principal.

But the most recent parent-trigger efforts have ended in district-parent negotiated agreements. Parents at 20th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles ended their parent-trigger petition on May 29 after overwhelmingly voting to accept a district-penned proposal to improve student achievement at the low-performing school.

Advocates and opponents of Palm Lane’s parent-trigger campaign, however, have been at odds throughout the petition campaign and will present vastly different images of the 750-student school during the trial.

Court filings portray Palm Lane as either a school on the verge of a comeback with promising academic gains or a campus in academic crisis needing a drastic educational overhaul.

In a press release issued by Kirkland & Ellis, the Los Angeles-based law firm representing the parents, lawyers contend that Anaheim district leaders have been uncooperative in resolving the petition’s issues and implemented “obstructionist tactics” to derail the parents’ effort. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office was contacted twice on separate occasions regarding allegations that school district officials were intimidating and harassing Palm Lane parents as they sought signatures for the petitions.

“We trust that justice will prevail and no longer will the district be able to scare and intimidate the parents who only want a better education for their children,” Celia Ochoa, a Palm Lane parent and one of the lead petitioners, said in the release.

According to court documents, Palm Lane parents are arguing that:

  • Palm Lane parents can enact the parent-trigger law because the school failed to meet state standards (adequate yearly progress) in nine of the past 10 years.
  • School district officials have stated in a letter, email, and verbally that Palm Lane was a trigger-eligible school.
  • District officials did not make a “good-faith effort” to contact parents and guardians of students to verify signatures but instead summarily rejected some petitions and relied on incomplete information on students’ emergency contact cards to validate petitions.

Former State Sen. Gloria Romero, who authored the Parent Empowerment Act, said in a release that she’s hopeful that a ruling in the Palm Lane parents’ favor would encourage more California parents to use the parent-trigger law to improve their failing schools.

“We are tired of the district’s shameful shenanigans and efforts at taxpayers’ expense to block the (Palm Lane) parents,” said Romero, who founded the California Center for Parent Empowerment, a nonprofit that has been advising Palm Lane parents.

Bob Gardner, president of the Anaheim City School Board, disputes the parents’ claims that the school district was uncooperative or did not thoroughly review the petition signatures. (The school board’s attorneys, however, have asked the judge to allow district staff to “recount” the petition signatures rather than rule outright in favor of the parents.)

Gardner stressed that the district’s relationship with Palm Lane parents is not contentious because the school is improving under the leadership of its new principal. School board members held a meeting at Palm Lane in March to listen to parents’ concerns. Gardner characterized parent feedback at the meeting as mostly positive.

“We’ve tried very, very hard to be respectful,” Gardner said, adding that the school board would “abide any decision the court comes to.”


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  1. Don 1 year ago1 year ago

    I concern myself with the lawful rights of the students of Palm Lane. There are other forces at work that have as their intent to bring down any efforts to use the Parent Trigger. I don't claim to know what the facts are and they will be sorted out at trial. The context I provided was just that, not a diversion. Caroline only raised one point concerning Palm Lane and that was the … Read More

    I concern myself with the lawful rights of the students of Palm Lane. There are other forces at work that have as their intent to bring down any efforts to use the Parent Trigger. I don’t claim to know what the facts are and they will be sorted out at trial. The context I provided was just that, not a diversion. Caroline only raised one point concerning Palm Lane and that was the issue of two separate petitions. The other two points in her comment concerned reviews of another Trigger school and organizational issues within PRev itself.

    Replies

    • TheMorrigan 1 year ago1 year ago

      Replying to Caroline's post and not addressing her specific points is a diversion. We can also call it not reaching stasis or slightly changing the topic or straw man in argumentation. Take your pick of labels. It is definitely an argument strategy to confuse and misdirect--no doubt about that--but you are arguing with yourself there. You claimed that "Caroline only raised one point concerning Palm Lane and that was the issue of two … Read More

      Replying to Caroline’s post and not addressing her specific points is a diversion. We can also call it not reaching stasis or slightly changing the topic or straw man in argumentation. Take your pick of labels. It is definitely an argument strategy to confuse and misdirect–no doubt about that–but you are arguing with yourself there.

      You claimed that “Caroline only raised one point concerning Palm Lane and that was the issue of two separate petitions.” Caroline did NOT raise a point regarding Palm Lane. Go back and read it. It was about Adelanto. Perhaps that’s the cause of your misdirection–really misunderstanding is the cause? Caroline didn’t address Palm Lane at all.

      As you say, your argument is with “Palm Lane” and ” forces at work that have as their intent to bring down any efforts to use the Parent Trigger.” Caroline didn’t address any of those two points, Don. So what’s your point again? How is what you said not a diversion? Chalk it up to reading incorrectly or projecting if it will make you feel better, but it is nonetheless a diversion.

      • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

        I concur I mistook Caroline's comment. I made an assumption she was talking about the school that is the topic of this post and apparently I glossed over the name. My bad. Thank you for pointing that out, The Morrigan. Is that THE Morrigan or are those initials?So it appears that Caroline had nothing to say about Palm Lane at all and was simply taking a cheap shot PRev for other reasons unrelated to Palm … Read More

        I concur I mistook Caroline’s comment. I made an assumption she was talking about the school that is the topic of this post and apparently I glossed over the name. My bad. Thank you for pointing that out, The Morrigan. Is that THE Morrigan or are those initials?So it appears that Caroline had nothing to say about Palm Lane at all and was simply taking a cheap shot PRev for other reasons unrelated to Palm Lane . Thank you for pointing that out, too!

        I’m not sure what you are calling a diversion on my part at this point. I think you might be referring to my story about the union is SFUSD. I suppose you could see it that way, but I couched it in terms of context to demonstrate what an uphill battle parents have against big-monied interests. It wasn’t my intent to confuse or distract you. God forbid! I try to not to lose sight of the concerns parents have for their children, all legitimate or illegitimate charter-bashing aside. It’s worth noting that the unions understandable react negatively to teacher bashing, but engage in bashing charters which, too, are staffed with teachers, albeit mostly non-union teachers. I guess when it comes to good bashing and bad bashing it all depends upon whether one pays dues. But I digress and lest I be accused of diversion…..

        • TheMorrigan 1 year ago1 year ago

          I won’t accuse you of diverting the course of this thread, Don. Did you feel that you were or is that another projection of yours?

          • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

            Is your criticism referring to my brief explanation of harsh union tactics in SF? If so, I don’t understand why you’re so concerned about it – straying a little from the topic- given that you haven’t had anything else to say about Palm Lane or related to the Parent Trigger.

            • TheMorrigan 1 year ago1 year ago

              ” given that you haven’t had anything else to say about Palm Lane or related to the Parent Trigger.”

              That’s because I am conflicted on it. How can I add to the grandeur of what is when I do not know myself? I’ll leave that to the wonderful better or the vomiting lesser.

              What I had to say is as plain and as old as what was said–nothing more, nothing less.

            • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

              TheMorrigan, who must we consider first, the teachers or the children? If there is a conflict, who should we support? From what I've seen, the teacher always wins. If a bad teacher could be replaced by a good one, helping kids, the union fights that with all their might, meaning they feel education of children is less important than job security/comfort. These are all egregious cases by the way, not borderline cases. … Read More

              TheMorrigan, who must we consider first, the teachers or the children? If there is a conflict, who should we support? From what I’ve seen, the teacher always wins. If a bad teacher could be replaced by a good one, helping kids, the union fights that with all their might, meaning they feel education of children is less important than job security/comfort. These are all egregious cases by the way, not borderline cases. Whey you see it over and over, you gotta call a duck a duck.

            • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

              Caroline's basic drift is that PRev is a disreputable front group for corporate charter interests, therefore, their efforts should be opposed. Even if they weren't ostensibly disreputable she would oppose Trigger efforts because of her anti-charter/pro-union views. I actually agree with her on the disreputable part, but not on the anti-charter part. I do not think the families of Palm Lane should be punished for any possible malfeasance in the petition process. That said, … Read More

              Caroline’s basic drift is that PRev is a disreputable front group for corporate charter interests, therefore, their efforts should be opposed. Even if they weren’t ostensibly disreputable she would oppose Trigger efforts because of her anti-charter/pro-union views. I actually agree with her on the disreputable part, but not on the anti-charter part. I do not think the families of Palm Lane should be punished for any possible malfeasance in the petition process. That said, if there are serious questions about the authenticity of petition drive then the facts must be learned and the process reevaluated. But it isn’t good enough to simply claim signatories were confused about what they were signing. If that became the standard, no petitions would ever pass muster.

            • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

              I've never seen Caroline criticize any union decision to defend a bad teacher and intimidate schools from even trying to ever fire anyone, or ever say anything positive about a charter school. It's just automatic. She didn't even admit the LA union was reprehensible in forcing LAUSD to pay Mark Berndt 40k before he started a 25 year prison sentence for molesting children. She avoided that. I don't think you can … Read More

              I’ve never seen Caroline criticize any union decision to defend a bad teacher and intimidate schools from even trying to ever fire anyone, or ever say anything positive about a charter school. It’s just automatic. She didn’t even admit the LA union was reprehensible in forcing LAUSD to pay Mark Berndt 40k before he started a 25 year prison sentence for molesting children. She avoided that. I don’t think you can say all teachers are good or bad. You have to look at each one as an individual case. Some young teachers would be better retained over older teachers. Some old teachers are great, some are bad. To say no teacher should ever be fired is as insane as saying all teachers should be fired. You just have to withhold judgement and base it on the facts. And charter schools have done a lot of good and added to our knowledge base. In Harlem and some other places they’ve been a lifeline and an alternative to truly awful schools.

  2. Mary Langer Thompson 1 year ago1 year ago

    Thanks for the defense, Don. Here's a quote from an L.A. Times 9/3/12 article: and one board member, Jermaine Wright, was prepared to be held in contempt of court. "I brought my own handcuffs," he boasted. "Take me away today. I don't care anymore." I didn't see the person accusing me of inaccuracy at this particular board meeting. Read More

    Thanks for the defense, Don.
    Here’s a quote from an L.A. Times 9/3/12 article: and one board member, Jermaine Wright, was prepared to be held in contempt of court. “I brought my own handcuffs,” he boasted. “Take me away today. I don’t care anymore.”

    I didn’t see the person accusing me of inaccuracy at this particular board meeting.

    Replies

    • TheMorrigan 1 year ago1 year ago

      If defense is seen as a diversion then that is what Don did in his argumentation and what you are thanking him for, Mary. Don didn’t actually address any of Caroline’s points at all. Don’s “Hey, look over there” argument just repeats the chorus for why the law was enacted in the first place while deliberately avoiding the messiness of aftereffects and throwing in some shoot the messenger appeals.

  3. ED GREGORIO 1 year ago1 year ago

    I am a community collage student and got involved in this when they came around with the petiton and saw the way the way they were collecting them was wrong they lied about what it really was ; said it was to get resouces to the school but they were being really vague avoiding all the questions that would expose what the petition truly was and they said it all in English now … Read More

    I am a community collage student and got involved in this when they came around with the petiton and saw the way the way they were collecting them was wrong they lied about what it really was ; said it was to get resouces to the school but they were being really vague avoiding all the questions that would expose what the petition truly was and they said it all in English now I am hispanic and they didn’t want to talk to me but my spanish speaking and they didn’t want me there. They didn’t want me there but I told them to . They went around using the language barrier to their advantage to lie to the parents and a lot of them arn’t as educated or know English but once I gave my voice to explain what is really going on they were outrage y the petioners. The school never intimadted anyone. They got supporters because we saw nothing wrong and that for a school to improve it needs timey and from thhere data I saw they were almost there. I don’t get anything from this I just hate to see people get taken advantage of to further someone else agenda. I was threatened by the parents who wanted the parent trigger law; they made attempts to discredit me;. The pro-parent trigger law parents were the threatning ones they made parents feel guilty when they did nothing wrong,they targeted people who don’t know english to get easy petitons. In truth the school can only do so much to teach but the parents also need to help their kids learn and succeed. I was there at the board meeting spoke and I SAW how the pro parent law parents tried to get signatures still there. The media all they got was a one sided story;the side of the parent trigger law parents; but not once did they ask us the people that don’t want it. The teachers are fantastic. look i came out of school like Palm Lane in their district and now I am in college.

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    • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

      Ed, your comment shows you care deeply about this issue and that you want what's best for students. Unfortunately, it was hard to understand what you were saying. After making my way through the whole comment, even after mentally placing periods and capitals where required, I was left with one impression: You felt the petition was unfair to some people. Obviously, no one should ever sign a petition if it isn't clearly understood … Read More

      Ed, your comment shows you care deeply about this issue and that you want what’s best for students. Unfortunately, it was hard to understand what you were saying. After making my way through the whole comment, even after mentally placing periods and capitals where required, I was left with one impression: You felt the petition was unfair to some people. Obviously, no one should ever sign a petition if it isn’t clearly understood and agreed with, regardless of language barriers. This is just basic Democracy 101. If you do you can only blame yourself. Do you think the petitions circulated in general elections are not misleading, vague, confusing, etc? It is one thing to complain and quite another to want to retract a signature. Don’t sign anything you don’t agree with. Ed, they should teach you that in “collage”[sic].

    • Julie 1 year ago1 year ago

      Either you really believe all the lies told by Wagner and the unions or now you are the one lying.

  4. Bill jones 1 year ago1 year ago

    I respect the parent trigger law. I also respect parent choice and their RIGHT to their duly paid property taxes. What happens when a parent moves to a good neighborhood so their child can receive a solid advanced education only to see the district boundaries redrawn to include loads of students in need of remediation and significant moral tutelage and a no excuses regime? Do parents consign their children to a Walmart charter school … Read More

    I respect the parent trigger law. I also respect parent choice and their RIGHT to their duly paid property taxes. What happens when a parent moves to a good neighborhood so their child can receive a solid advanced education only to see the district boundaries redrawn to include loads of students in need of remediation and significant moral tutelage and a no excuses regime?

    Do parents consign their children to a Walmart charter school education devoid of AP courses and third rate teachers and deceptive non-profits?

    No. They push for vouchers so the corrupt patent trigger lobbyists do not RUN OFF with THEIR tax dollars. The parent trigger law is PLUNDER by shadowy, corrupt lobbyists and anonymous, fronting non-profits run by hedge fund managers.

    Choice is never real choice when it is done with someone else’s money.

    Tell me why I owe my tax dollars to a low income housing family who moves into the district? If my voice is not heard simply give BACK MY TAX DOLLARS so I can CHOOSE my own school with advanced courses and not ELL for children illiterate in their native language.

    Why punish the talented for the ignorance of the weak?

  5. Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

    You know, there are more than a few of us who have actually taught in the schools, as opposed to the usual self-styled "reformers," who are more than sick and tired of Romero's dead-ender efforts and "shameful shenanigans and efforts at taxpayers’ expense" to keep her name and face in the media. Romero is still bitter after having run for SSPI and crushed in the election on the platform of: "Let's all beat up … Read More

    You know, there are more than a few of us who have actually taught in the schools, as opposed to the usual self-styled “reformers,” who are more than sick and tired of Romero’s dead-ender efforts and “shameful shenanigans and efforts at taxpayers’ expense” to keep her name and face in the media.

    Romero is still bitter after having run for SSPI and crushed in the election on the platform of: “Let’s all beat up and generally scapegoat teachers to keep the public distracted from the fact that for all the years I spent in the legislature I did little to nothing to improve the resources available to schools or the lives of the poor children who attend them.” She was shocked and awed when the educational community did not rally to her campaign.

    It appears she has created a bit of a sinecure for herself, first with DFER (just why did she “leave” that groups of “worthies?”), and now with her own organization. Follow the money!

    Not mentioned in the above article is the real nature of the “astro-turf” organizing [sic] of the parents in Anaheim. It is being done by a “consulting firm” formed of former employees of the Broad/Gates funded Parent Revolution.

    Replies

    • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

      Some people are in bed with the profit-seeking reformers who brought us Common Core, but snarl at the Parent Trigger efforts of the same and spit in the face of the poor parents of Palm Lane who only exercise their legal rights on behalf of children. The idea that readers can be bullied into believing that Romero's interests in this matter only go so far as to create publicity for herself … Read More

      Some people are in bed with the profit-seeking reformers who brought us Common Core, but snarl at the Parent Trigger efforts of the same and spit in the face of the poor parents of Palm Lane who only exercise their legal rights on behalf of children. The idea that readers can be bullied into believing that Romero’s interests in this matter only go so far as to create publicity for herself is the weakest kind of accusation. How is this known or does it just fit the desired narrative – casting accusations and leaving it to the victims of it to prove otherwise? Hopefully, the average EdSource reader doesn’t buy into this bilge. There’s too much left-wing hate on the blog

  6. Mary Langer Thompson 1 year ago1 year ago

    At least the board says here they will abide by what the court says. In Adelanto the parents went to court twice because the board was willing to be hauled off in handcuffs rather than to obey the law. I think some evidence needs to be shown the parents of the now big improvements made.

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    • CarolineSF 1 year ago1 year ago

      Here's a corrected account in response to Mary Langer Thompson's inaccurate version. The issue that went to court in the Adelanto parent trigger brouhaha was that a number of parents who had signed the petition changed their minds or felt they'd been misinformed and wanted to withdraw their signatures. Parent Revolution went to court to get the judge to declare that they couldn't -- once they'd signed, that was that. One reason Adelanto … Read More

      Here’s a corrected account in response to Mary Langer Thompson’s inaccurate version. The issue that went to court in the Adelanto parent trigger brouhaha was that a number of parents who had signed the petition changed their minds or felt they’d been misinformed and wanted to withdraw their signatures. Parent Revolution went to court to get the judge to declare that they couldn’t — once they’d signed, that was that.

      One reason Adelanto parents wanted to change their minds was that Parent Revolution circulated two petitions. One called for changes in the school that most people (including teachers) would support, and the other called for turning the school over to a charter operator. Parents were asked to sign both petitions. Then Parent Revolution submitted only the petition calling for turning the school over to a charter operator. So a number of parents said they’d been misled by that hard-to-figure-out strategy.

      Reports of the current situation under the charter operator at Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto are extremely mixed. For links, Google “The story of the parent trigger” and Diane Ravitch.

      Gary, for reasons unknown to the wide world, Parent Revolution and the parent trigger insiders have experienced a series of rifts and splits and conflicts, with various insiders turning on each other — Romero is just one of them.

      • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

        Caroline, I will not be an apologist for PRev. What I would like to add to your comment is a little context. The Trigger is difficult to use and rallying parents is a Herculean task, particularly at poor schools. Without some organizational assistance it is virtually impossible to put together a majority of parents who operate under fear for their standing at the school and by potentially devastating retaliation by school staff working in consort. … Read More

        Caroline, I will not be an apologist for PRev. What I would like to add to your comment is a little context.

        The Trigger is difficult to use and rallying parents is a Herculean task, particularly at poor schools. Without some organizational assistance it is virtually impossible to put together a majority of parents who operate under fear for their standing at the school and by potentially devastating retaliation by school staff working in consort. An organization like PRev can take advantage of parent amateurism in community organizing . Contrast that with the local union that has a well funded structure to advertise and enlist its members in causes. You’ll remember the Prop H neighborhood schools campaign I was involved with. We had no money, no business support (despite false accusations of such), and just a few parents with disparate ideas about the student assignment system. Once we were able to get the measure on the ballot, which was a phenomenal accomplishment in itself under the circumstances, the union came in and made every effort to defeat us and we only lost by a relatively few votes in one of the closest elections in SF history. The unions most effective weapon was its ability to spread falsehoods about the measure through its extensive outreach. For example, they told parents that their children could be transferred out of a school midyear, no matter that this was strictly a nonbinding advisory measure that posed no threat whatsoever of such an occurrance. But that didn’t matter to the union. It isn’t that I think they didn’t have a right to express their speech against the measure. It’s that they formally played no part in the assignment system debates until parents actually organized. They wanted to defeat a parent revolution because it represents a threat.

        What’s my point? It’s ugly out there and the notion you’re hocking here is that PRev is dirtier than the rest. Whether they are or not, is only a matter of degree. The real question here is whether parents should have the right to be able to act collectively, just as the teachers do. The teacher’s jobs are at stake. The students’ education is at stake. Why are the interests of adults put before those of children? Is the law is a failure because of PRev or because it was a bad idea to begin with. I think you don’t want to be associated as anti-parent so you use PRev as cover. After all, you’re a founding member of Parents Across America. Taking a stand against concerted unilateral parent action is problematic.

        • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

          Correction – working in concert

          • CarolineSF 1 year ago1 year ago

            I'm not discussing the pros and cons here, Don. I'm purely correcting the facts in response to Ms. Thompson's inaccurate version. (Regarding the neighborhood schools connection -- as someone with many years' involvement with this issue in SFUSD, I don't see how that has any connection to the parent trigger issue.) Read More

            I’m not discussing the pros and cons here, Don. I’m purely correcting the facts in response to Ms. Thompson’s inaccurate version.

            (Regarding the neighborhood schools connection — as someone with many years’ involvement with this issue in SFUSD, I don’t see how that has any connection to the parent trigger issue.)

            • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

              I cited the example of union action to contrast the ethics of that action with that of PRev - to contrast the difference between the power of the union and the lack of power of parents. Again, should parents have a right to transform a school that is years into Program Improvement and subject to turnaround? Some say no saying those parents will come and go but the school won't. It has to be tough … Read More

              I cited the example of union action to contrast the ethics of that action with that of PRev – to contrast the difference between the power of the union and the lack of power of parents. Again, should parents have a right to transform a school that is years into Program Improvement and subject to turnaround? Some say no saying those parents will come and go but the school won’t. It has to be tough to see your child doing poorly in an ineffective school and have no means to do anything about it.

      • Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

        Caroline:

        Absolutely. The more organizations are emotion and personality driven, and dollars flowing in from remote billionaires does not seem to make a difference, the more prone to these fracturing events.

        • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

          Gary does that go for the vast sums Gates has put in to Common Core, not only to develop and push them, but to keep people like you, who never misses a chance to berate corporate reformers like himself, quiet?

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