[UPDATED with response from ACSD Board of Education member Bob Gardner]
Former Sen. Gloria Romero has a new column in today’s OC Register, in which she relays the latest travails of the group of Palm Lane Elementary school parents who are trying to re-start their kids’ school (in the Anaheim City School District) as a charter school using the state Parent Trigger Law. This is the first use of that law in Orange County.
Sen. Romero relates how the district and school unionistas have responded with foot-dragging and the misinforming of parents about what conversion to a charter school involves:
The parents became the first in Orange County to seek reform under the law.
Anaheim City School District officials had already readied their counteroffensive. Rather than meeting the parents to receive the petitions, District Superintendent Linda Wagner hosted a coffee meeting at the school, telling selected participants the district was making school “improvements” – even possibly offering Zumba exercise classes.
Some parents walked out in disbelief, wondering why they had never been “offered coffee” before.
On Thursday, Wagner and officials hosted a “divide and conquer” parent meeting, warning them the school “could close” and ignoring that parents had chosen a transformative school-restart model – not closure.
On Friday, parents discovered the district was holding a “special” board meeting closed to the public.
There’s something pathetically disturbing here: within 24 hours of the parents lawfully petitioning their own government to transform a chronically failing school, district officials chose to hide in a back room to discuss how to fight parents. They didn’t bother to schedule a hearing to even listen to the 332 parents.
Ironically, what Wagner and trustees failed to realize, was the room they chose to conduct their closed session has thin walls, enabling the public to actually hear their voices from the hallway. A transcript of the voices heard reveals the trustees were vowing to take actions against the parents.
Trustee Bob Gardner bragged that “the dirty little secret” they could invoke was the law’s implementing regulations – a bizarre assertion given that the regulations were drafted to actually protect parent petitioners from harassment and interference from district officials, such as what they themselves have been doing. Had they even read the law and its regulations? Did they understand them?
They continued meeting until a district employee alerted them they could be heard. Officials literally fled the room. Trustee Robert Gardner claimed “there is nothing to report” when asked in the hallway what they had discussed.
Rather than convening in a back room out of public sight – though not earshot – shouldn’t they have scheduled public deliberation rather than retreating? Why didn’t they officially report their actions?
At taxpayer expense, the district has contracted with a “crisis communications” specialist from a powerful political consulting firm aiding their fight against the parents. The crisis specialist was sent to videotape parents speaking and to the coffee meeting. Time will tell if he is sent to any Zumba classes.
You can read Sen. Romero’s entire column here.
In the comments section of this blog, one can see the educrats’ misinformation campaign at work. One can’t help but wonder why ACSD educrats are so alarmed and dismayed because poor and working-class have organized themselves to take control of their school for the sake of providing a better education for their children, and Palm Lane Elementary students to come?
UPDATE – January 21, 2015 – I saw Bob Gardner at Palm Lane Elementary School today and took the occasion to ask him about the comments above that were attributed to him. Mr. Gardner said that he did not make the comments attributed to him. At the same time, Mr. Gardner also did not say those words weren’t spoken in the closed session meeting. He also disputed the characterization of how the meeting concluded.