School Union President Accuses Palm Lane Parents Behind Parent Trigger Petition of “Cowardice”

Kathleen Heard is the president of California School Employees Association, Chapter 54 – which is the bargaining unit for non-teacher employees of the Anaheim City School District. She’s also of a member of the CSEA’s Political Action for Classified Employees (PACE) committee.

On the morning of January 14, a group of Palm Lane Elementary parents turned in a petition with several hundred signatures seeking to re-start Palm Lane as a charter school, as is their right under the Parent Trigger Law.

At the ACSD Board of Education meeting that evening, Ms. Heard took an outrageous verbal shot at these parents during the union “updates” portion of the board agenda. She called them cowards.

“I would also like to say that CSEA stands behind our Palm Lane students, and I will be speaking about this later. And I notice that some people are missing…that we thought were gonna be here. I call that cowardice.”

You can listen to her here:

How can Ms. Heard pretend to “stand behind Palm Lane students” while calling their parents cowards? It’s a stunning display of arrogance and contempt for those parents. There’s no delicate way to put this other than to ask where does she get off speaking that way about any parent with children at Palm Lane Elementary or any other ACSD school? Especially when they did nothing more than exercise their rights as parents under state law in an attempt to reform their school into something they believe will provide a better education. Organizing, knocking on doors, asking other parents to sign the petition in the face of misinformation, falsehoods and hostility from the union and the district – that is hardly the behavior of cowards.

And how did her fellow unionists in the audience react? With cheers and applause! They couldn’t even feign embarrassed silence.

This is the sort of behavior that fuels the charter school movement and pushes parents to the tipping point where they decide enough is enough and take action for the sake of their children. Folks like Ms. Heard and other school unionists ought to wise up and stop acting as if it is an “attack on teachers” every time parents speak up, question the status quo or desire more control over the governance of their local school.

29 comments

  1. Matt,

    I was present at that meeting, heard what Kathy had to say, and applauded along with the crowd. I cannot be described as any kind of activist, much less a “union activist.” I just speak up when I perceive that something this very wrong is being attempted (i.e., taking over ACSD schools,) which is why I’ve been peppering your blog with my comments lately.

    I believe it was perfectly clear to all of the attendees that Kathy’s statement was aimed not at parents from Palm Lane or any other school within ACSD, but at Senator Huff and Gloria Romero and their associates, who have been spearheading this effort to privatize Palm Lane and did not bother to show up at the Board Meeting on the day the petitions were delivered.

    I note that you make no mention of the several Palm Lane parents present who applauded along with the rest of the assembly, and that several parents spoke about their opposition to the petition and the way the signatures were gathered (one said parents in her apartment complex were being hounded by signature gatherers and that some finally gave in and signed just to be let alone; one parent said she thought the petition was for free after-school tutoring — is that on the recording? Please let me know, as I was unable just now to play it on my computer – but as I said, I was present, and know exactly what Kathy said and what was meant by it.)

    You also make no reference to the speech I gave on behalf of my fellow non-teaching employees at Palm Lane, which had absolutely nothing negative in it, just a statement of how important this 50+ year old school is to our community and promising our full support to all Palm Lane parents. Other parents also spoke about how important Palm Lane School is to the community and how they would like it to remain under the umbrella of the ACSD (one parent who spoke is a graduate of Palm Lane herself.)

    So arrogant, probably. Contemptuous, Ok, I’ll buy that, but after all, Kathy represents a union, your opposition. The side of the matter you have been representing has been making statements I consider not only arrogant and contemptuous, but untrue as well, all couched under the umbrella of “commmentary” or “editorial.”

    I realize this is a partisan blog, but Matt, honestly, “This is the sort of behavior that fuels the charter school movement…,” really it’s too big a stretch from the truth.

    Terry O’Brien
    Palm Lane Library Media Assistant
    Loara HS ’66

    • @ Palm Lane Media Assistant:

      You know perfectly well that Senator Huff was there in an official capacity. Cease the lies. You are giving a bad example of how to lie to the Palm Lane students.

      Sincerely,

      The Batman
      City of Gotham
      Class of 1939

      • The Anaheim community demands that the union President retract her comments and immediately apologize to the parents.

        The Batman
        City of Gotham
        Class of 1939

      • Hello Batman,

        I did not see Senator Huff in the Board Room during the meeting. I did see his representative, Mr. Garcia, when he moved to the front row just to the left of where I was sitting after the meeting started. Mr. Garcia also made a brief statement to the Board.

        Unless Senator Huff joined the meeting after it started and remained in the back of the room where I could not see him (as I mentioned, I was sitting in the first row on the right) and left before the meeting paused for a break, then Batman, you are mistaken.

        If you disagree with any of my postings here, please just clearly state your objections. If you call me a liar or mock me in any other juvenile way, I will not cease to comment on this blog, I will simply not respond to your postings.

        Terry O’Brien
        Palm Lane Library Media Assistant
        Loara HS Class of 1966
        Citizen, taxpayer, voter in Anaheim CA

    • Matthew Cunningham

      Ms. O’Brien:

      I don’t pretend to not have an opinion on this issue. So, let’s also dispense with any pretense that you are an objective observer. You and other anti-charter school commenters have repeatedly complained that I do not present the viewpoints of those who are opposed to converting Palm Lane Elementary to charter status. It’s a strange complaint, since neither you nor any other anti-charter commenter has done what you ask me to do.

      “I believe it was perfectly clear to all of the attendees that Kathy’s statement was aimed not at parents from Palm Lane or any other school within ACSD, but at Senator Huff and Gloria Romero and their associates…”

      Not only was it not “perfectly clear,” but it is intellectually dishonest to pretend you or Ms. heard can separate the Palm Lane parents who organized to circulate the Parent Trigger Law petition from those who assisted them. That sounds like after-the-fact back-pedaling.

      These parents decided to seek charter status for Palm Lane and organized for that purpose well before Huff, Romero and others with experience in Parent Trigger Law petitioning entered the picture. It’s disingenuous for the unionistas to claim these folks are sheep being manipulated by “outside interests.”

      “…this effort to privatize Palm Lane…”

      First, characterizing the conversion of Palm Lane Elementary to charter status as “privatizing” is totally untrue. Either you’re unaware of the definition of privatization, or you are engaged in deliberate misrepresentation. If Palm Lane re-starts as a charter school, it will be a PUBLIC school. That’s because charter schools are public schools.

      “…and did not bother to show up at the Board Meeting on the day the petitions were delivered.”

      I’m sorry – we’re they under some sort of obligation to do so? Or is Ms. Heard just disappointed because she couldn’t castigate them in person for having the effrontery of helping public school parents take action to improve and enjoy more control over their children’s school? The petitioners gave Superintendent Linda Wagner two-days notice before turning in their petition and asked that she be there to receive it, but Wagner didn’t “bother to show up,” leaving that to the receptionist and sending a crisis communications consultant instead.

      “You also make no reference to the speech I gave on behalf of my fellow non-teaching employees at Palm Lane…”

      Sorry – I didn’t know you spoke. And again, these requests for equal time are strange coming from an anti-charter commenter who declines to do the same even as she posts comments dripping with condescension for any who disagree with the party line.

      • Mr. Cunningham,

        Sorry to hear you think so ill of me.

        I think Anaheim residents should inform themselves about the charter school movement.

        Here are two places to start:

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/06/04/why-hedge-funds-love-charter-schools/

        http://www.dianeravitch.net/category/california
        the article is titled “The story of the Parent Trigger, an education fad that failed”

        Terry O’Brien
        Palm Lane Library Media Assistant
        Loara HS ’66

        • Matthew Cunningham

          Ms. O’Brien:

          I don’t think little of you. But you seem to think very little of these parents and those helping them. And you write as if there is a hedge fund involved with the Palm Lane Elementary charter drive. There isn’t. So, your point is…well, beside the point.

          The anonymous author of the blog post to which you link focuses on Parent Revolution – but the Palm Lane petition drive isn’t a Parent Revolution project. It’s clear the blog author’s hostility to charter schools is driven by ideology rather than empirical data. For example, claiming the Parent Trigger petitions are “divisive.” Parents organize to use the Parent Trigger Law; the unions and district fight back – and so it is the parents who are sowing division?

          The Palm Lane Elementary petition drive started with the parents. They want the re-start Palm Lane as a charter school. They’ve had to dedicate a lot of their evenings and weekends to this effort, they aren’t going to make any money by doing so, and their activism has garnered them the hostility and invective of the district and the school unions. They want something better for their kids, and future Palm and students. And opponents of this petition drive treat them at best, as if they are dumb sheep.

          • Mr. Cunningham,

            I do not think little of the parents of Palm Lane. I think everything of them, and will do everything I possibly can to support them and protect their children.

            There is more going on her than meets the eye. I do not believe this petition-gathering effort is a bona fide grass-roots effort on behalf of the majority of Palm Lane parents.

            If you question the sincerity of my support for the parents and children of Palm Lane, please visit the website below, the obituary of my maternal aunt, Flora Chavez, with whom I shared a great passion for social justice.

            http://articles.latimes.com/2003/sep/14/local/me-chavez14

            There is something else going on here besides an effort to protect the welfare of the children. I am quite sure my Auntie Flora would not approve.

            Terry O’Brien
            Palm Lane Library Media Assistant
            Loara HS Class of ’66

          • Part of the background given in the blog post is that it’s not parents who are starting these petitions. Look at the story of McKinley Elementary in Compton — even Parent Revolution eventually admitted that they forgot to include the parents, while claiming all along that it was a parent petition.

            It’s true that Parent Revolution doesn’t seem to be involved in Anaheim and seems to have had a hostile split from Gloria Romero — this tends to be the history of these “reform” operations — no honor among thieves and eventually they turn on each other.

            But the point of the blog post is to show the history of failure and of extreme divisiveness and hostility created by these petition drives.

            (In Anaheim, it doesn’t seem like there are any parents in support of the drive posting on here — where are they? Are there any actual parents in support of the drive or were they all told the petition was for after-school tutoring? Can anyone produce any parents who actually supported the real point of the petition?)

            • Matthew Cunningham

              Parent Revolution is not involved in the Palm Lane charter petition. Period.

              A group of parents exercise their rights under state law, and the district and the school employee unions respond by spreading misinformation and rumors, employing scare tactics and obstructing the process — and yet you blame the parent group for the divisiveness you deplore? You’re treading into blame-the-victim territory.

  2. The way this blog is run makes the OC Register seem like a left wing paper.

    I see videos and quotes of parents blaming bad teachers and the like. I am of the mindset that the parent is the primary teacher. My kids are at school for about 7 hours, and the other 17 at home. The school year is only 180 days, leaving the students with their families for the other 185. I think it is disingenuous to blame only the school for the struggles of the students. I think that too many people today are looking for someone to blame other than themselves.

    I am also not blind to the forces working behind the scenes. I understand that Republicans want to break the unions, why can’t we all agree on that. Democrats want to keep them around, and in most cases I agree. One looks at the last 20 years and see no real wage growth, very few companies offering full time employment or health benefits. Everything is in the favor of the business owner. The rich have gotten richer over the last 20 years, and I don’t think anyone could really argue that they have not.

    I know that in other states that like Massachusetts annually spends around $13,000 per year on each student in K-12 and in California they spend around $9000. Now think of the challenges that we have in our schools because of immigration and the fact that many students do not have mastery of their native language. That hurts them when it comes to learning English, yet we spend less than most states.

    Yearly testing is a joke. These are terrible measures of students progress. I trust parents and teachers to measure growth. If a student is two years behind and makes up 16 months in reading in 12 months, than that is progress. I know more about my kids growth than a standardized test. But you must be involved. My responsibility does not end when I drop them off in the mourning.

    There is nothing I will not do to help my kids do better. I read to them/with them. I review homework with them and do what is necessary to prepare them. I have on occasion, asked the schools for help and they NEVER say no. They offer to work before or after school with my kids, but they do not say now. They return my emails and do not ignore my requests.

    I would venture to say that the Palm Lane Teachers would not say no to a request for help. I am sure there are after school programs, tutoring made available at the districts expense.

    It takes a village to help raise a child. We should not expect the village to do it for us.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      67% of the parents and/or guardians of Palm Lane Elementary students signed a petition telling the school district they want to re-start their kids’ school as a charter school. Sixty percent. Since you concede that parents are the primary educators of their children, then why do you oppose the will of these parents regarding the education of their children?

      • Matt,

        I don’t equate signing a petition as parental involvement, especially if that’s all they are doing. I am sure that is the case for a few of these parents. I question the intentions of of all of those involved. When Parent revolution hires consultants, and the you hire people to get signatures and when senators are involved it is interesting to say the least. The same senators who had a hand in budget cuts to our schools over the last 5 years.

        I hope these senators cut their car allowance and per Diem over the last 5 years.
        Probably not.

        I say we hold politicians to the same standard. I believe everyone in office for the most part has been failing its constituents. We have no real progress on immigration, why because republicans need cheap workers for their businesses’ and democrats need someone to vote for them.

        I think the gridlock in congress is sad.

        I say we hit a restart for the government and actually get people in office who actually care about US! And if they do not show adequate progress towards lowering the numbers, say crime rates, unemployment rates, affordable housing, minimum wage keeping pace with inflation or those who require medi-cal and food stamps than fire them all.

        Matt,
        This is another move to privatize a public good and break one of the last strong unions. Though many people dislike the unions, I think they are one of the few groups who over the last several years have seen an increase in wages and health care coverage. The protection for their workers and idea of an honest pay for an honest days work is still important. Most teachers have college degrees, which by itself is not a guarantee of easy money, but it did cost some money, and people with these higher degrees are usually paid better than those without one.

        The tests were designed to eventually create a punitive system that would lead down the road to charter schools. Do you think it is reasonable for 80%-90% of kids in California to score proficient or advance? OF course not.

        There are so MANY reasons why students are not successful in school. I do not think that the kids in this particular school had a bad teacher for all 6 years and that is why they are scoring below the mark. I am a realist, I know how hard it is to be a parent. These kids probably have challenges that I would never even understand. Single parents, poverty, violence in their neighborhoods and even within the family. But I would not place all the blame on the teachers. That is just not fair. Those factors are a HUGE part of it. I don’t think you can argue that.

        It is a way for Koch, Gates, Broad, Green Dot, Bushes of the world to make even more money off of the backs of the middle and working class. Charter Schools have no unions and receive 1/2 the pay than a public school teacher. They grab very inexperienced teachers usually straight out of college or those who are still completing school. Most of the money saved in salary on teachers is not used on everyday operations but on administrators large salaries. The teacher attrition rate is sky high, few make it through two years before quitting.

        Would you be okay with a brain surgeon who is right out of medical school operating on one of your children. I would look to someone with experience if it were my kid. I think experience counts for something. Just saying.

        I hope they hire people with experience. I hope they pay them well. I hope they get benefits. I hope we take the POLITICS out of this and do what is right for the kids.

        I hope they make the parents attend meetings and back to school nights and the like.
        I hope the parents share in the success and in the failure.

        I hope the parents are required to do more than sign a petition.

        I hope.

        • Thank you, John.

        • Matthew Cunningham

          “John”:

          “Union busting”? Congressional grid-lock?

          Can we get back to reality – specifically the reality of this group of parents?

          Be real. I’ve met these parents. “Union busting” is the furthest thing from their minds, and Gloria Romero’s political track record doesn’t fit the “union busting” profile. Yelling “this is about breaking the unions” may be good for whipping up the troops, but it is totally divorced from the reality of what these parents are trying to accomplish for their kids.

          You question the intentions of these parents because you disagree with their goals. They are free to accept help from anyone they please. And given the active attempts by the school district and the unions to undermine their efforts, no one can blame them for accepting that help.

          Also, this is not an attempt to “privatize the public good.” First of all, you don’t understand what “privatization” means; if you did, you wouldn’t characterize this effort as such. Charter schools are still PUBLIC schools.

          And if you are claiming an poor-performing public school is a “public good,” I’d hate to see your definition of “public failure.”

          But back to the point: 67% of Palm Lane Elementary parents and/or guardians want to convert their school into an independent charter school. State law gives them that right. Do you think the ACSD and the school unions ought to respect that right? Or will your commentary continue to be limited to directing condescension and criticism at these parents, who are purting themselves out there for the sake of their children?

          • The PUBLIC school is run by a PRIVATE company which has a PROFIT motive and shareholders. So I use the would privatize. You get that.

            It is an attempt to WALmart education, go non union. That is why they donate so much to this cause. If they wanted to help, maybe they can improve the wages they pay their employees and provide them with healthcare.

            But I agree the parents have a right and they have a responsibility to do what is right for them, as well as the community. I am saying that this is not the way to go in my opinion. I know I am not going to change your mind, but I might give some food for thought for the readers.

            You know 70% of OC schools do not meet the AYP’s unrealistic goals. You really believe that 70% of OC schools are failures. REALLY.

            http://www.ocregister.com/articles/schools-374253-year-school.html

            Lets apply the parent trigger law to a doctor, shall we.

            I find it interesting that if your told by your doctor to watch what you eat because your gaining weight and the doctor then gives you a book on how to exercise, and I fail to follow his recommendations, and gain weight, he should lose his license? REALLY. Is there not personal responsibility?

            Like a teacher, they have given instruction, given homework, reviewed, etc. etc. when they don’t learn it is the teachers fault, and only the teacher.

            Again it takes a village, but the parents are part of that village.
            At least acknowledge that the poverty in the area is a problem, the issues surrounding the communities do have an impact on the students learning. If those things did not matter than why do schools provide breakfast and lunch at no cost? Cause it does matter if a kid is hungry, he/she will do better if they are not worried about going hungry. You get that right? That is why there is Anaheim Achieves in our communities, to provide after school care, at no charge because they get that the kids need a safe place to go after school, instead of an empty house or apartment.

            A charter does not address these issues. These are the issues that need attention.

            Nothing will change unless we address those issues Matt.

  3. Because of Linda K. Wagner, Keppel was assigned a district assistance team. Acton had a student commit suicide. Monrovia was desperate for this pariah to leave town. What possessed the Anaheim Elementary School District to hire the most abominable of superintendents? But alas you have all seen what she does. Linda is known in many parts of LA county as Tornado Linda. She is effectively destructive and equally ignorant as to what happens in her districts. And frankly, she doesn’t care what happens.

    When the first stories came out of Anaheim after having left Monrovia, it would seem that she would have left town quickly but instead she stayed to continue the one-woman demolition of a school district. And now, she has made history. She has become the first Superintendent in Orange County to be petitioned by parents utilizing the state’s Parent Trigger Law to take over one of its schools. CONGRATULATIONS, Dr. WAGNER, you continue to live up to expectations.

  4. @ Palm Lane Media Assistant:

    You know perfectly well that Senator Huff was there in an official capacity. Cease the lies. You are giving a bad example of how to lie to the Palm Lane students.

    The Batman
    City of Gotham
    Class of 1939

    • The Anaheim community demands that the union President immediately retract her comments and apologize to the parents.

      The Batman
      City of Gotham
      Class of 1939

  5. Superintendent Linda K Wagner came to destroy this district when she first got hired. She likes to suppress parents, students and staff by showing her authority. Wagner has done enough harm to the district and its time for her to pack her bags and go. We parents need to stand up to Wagner and the union representatives since nobody is standing up for our children. If it takes getting a hold of senator Romero and having her inform the community about the law we will do it since we are you tiered that there is no accountability for how the students are performing in the underperforming schools. We want our children to succeed in life and we need to work together. Also Ms. Herd if you would care so much for the students as you say you do you should act upon what you know and mentor some students help them vs just standing up on every meeting and just talk BS. WE NEED ACTIONS from you or is it just your paycheck you are protecting. Enough is enough and the attacks from the unions to the parents or who ever is trying to help our children get a better education needs to stop.

    By the way I understand the inportance of an education and I can assure you my children are getting good grades. Is that going to be enough when my kids start middle school? I think not. They will not be as prepared as the students from à school with a better academic achievement.

    • Ms. Lamuerte, just as the author of these essays accuses naysayers of not being in support of the parents, with your sentence, “We parents need to stand up to Wagner and the union representatives since nobody is standing up for our children,” you negate all the hard work that the teachers of this school have contributed to the education of the Palm Lane students. Nobody stands up for your children? Can you imagine what this sounds like to the teachers of this school, and for that matter all the teachers in this district? Now, these teachers’ jobs are in jeopardy. Maybe this was not the intention, but it is certainly the consequence of the actions brought on by this trigger being pulled.
      As far as your accusation that Ms. Heard’s speeches at the school board have been ineffective, our district recently reinstated full-time librarian assistants in all our school libraries again through the LCAP. I think this is a direct result of Ms. Heard’s insistence that keeping our libraries open full-time instead of every other week gave our students an opportunity to increase access to books and in turn increase their comprehension, vocabulary and writing development. I applaud her for her actions and know that the kids, parents and teachers at my school are grateful.

  6. Outraged Parent of Palm Lane Against Charter

    Bravo John. I want to highlight the take home message: parents are responsible for the education of their kids. Stop blaming and pointing fingers at our qualified, passionate , capable teachers at Palm Lane.

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