Virginia Tibbetts is a teacher with 26 years of experience in California public schools. This is her account of the Anaheim City School District’s school board meeting and ACSD’s rejection of Parent Revolution’s ‘parent trigger’ petition to convert Palm Lane Elementary School from a fully publicly-funded and -run public school into a charter school. She attended the school board meeting in person.
The board room of the Anaheim City School District was packed this evening, February 19, with people from various factions, all there with one purpose: to hear the report from Superintendent Dr. Linda Wagner and her cabinet regarding the verification of signatures collected and turned in on January 15 to restart Palm Lane Elementary School as a charter under the Parent Trigger Law.
After this presentation, the trustees would vote to either approve or refuse the petition. The Board President, Bob Gardner, motioned that the time limit for one subject be lengthened from 20 minutes, as per board policy, to 90, so everyone could have time to speak. Speaking during this 90 minutes were mostly parents, both for and against the petition. Many of these parents spoke with much emotion, but whether they supported the trigger law or not, all spoke highly of their children’s teachers from Palm Lane.
The California School Employee Association and the Anaheim Elementary Education Association only sent up one representative as they wanted the parents to be heard. [Former California State Senator and author of the Parent Trigger law] Gloria Romero and her lawyer each spoke. Her lawyer, Robert Lome, said he had 11 affidavits from petitioners who swore they did not offer any gifts for signing. CSEA also had 7 affidavits of parents who swore they were coerced with gifts of after-school tutoring and iPads for their signatures. These affidavits were delivered to the trustees this evening.
After these speeches, Superintendent Wagner turned the meeting over to her Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Mary Grace, who presented the district’s report on the petition.
According to the findings, the Parent Trigger Law states that in order for a school to be a subject, it would not have made adequate yearly progress the previous year, 2014. Since there were no test scores in 2013-2104, as the former STAR, or CST state tests were suspended by law as the state transitioned to Common Core tests in state law AB 484, this meant that Palm Lane could not be considered a subject school.
Then it was noted that there was no separate document added to the petition identifying the option for restart which, according to the law, must be established when the petition is turned in. It was also found that the Spanish version of the petition did not include information about the restart, so the Spanish speaking parents were not alerted in the petition about the consequences of signing.
Finally, the signatures did not meet the maximum amount to validate the petition. According to the law, there must be 50% plus 1 valid signatures. Of the original 332 signatures, 95 were found to be duplicates or inactive at the time of the petition, 26 were signed by non-parents, and 12 parents could not be reached after many attempts. When these were subtracted from the total, the calculated percent was only 48.43% found to be valid. For these reasons, DR Heywood, ACSD Board Trustee, moved that the district not approve the petition and Ryan Ruelas seconded his motion. The votes came quickly, without discussion from anyone, 5 – 0. The Parent Trigger would not be supported.
Even as those about rejoiced this decision, it was noted by Board President, Bob Gardner, that the petitioners have 60 days to make corrections and the district has 25 days after that to make their decision.