Rough Treatment At Palm Lane Elementary

Let’s just say it was not the warmest of welcomes from Superintendent Linda Wagner at Palm Lane Elementary School today.

As noted in an earlier post, the Anaheim City School District began contacting parents yesterday and scheduling them for meetings with Superintendent Linda Wagner in groups of four or five, beginning today. Today’s meetings were at 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.  Since then, I’ve learned the school district is picking up the pace and scheduling hourly meetings next Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with five parents per meeting, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  Parents who asked if they could record the meetings reported being told they could not, and that their phones would be taken if they attempted to do so.

These meetings are only being scheduled for parents of Palm Lane Elementary students. Anyone who thinks this is unrelated to the Parent Trigger Law petition submitted last week to convert Palm Lane into an independent charter school, might also be interested in buying the Brooklyn Bridge.

I went to Palm Lane Elementary School today, along with representatives from Senator Bob Huff and Assemblywoman Young Kim and long-time school choice activist Mark Bucher. Huff is co-author of the Parent Trigger Law and Kim has been a strong supporter of the petition effort. Their interest was ensuring the parents were provided with accurate information about charter schools in general and the proposed re-start charter model for Palm Lane Elementary. It’s not as if Superintendent Wagner has been a font of accurate information for parents in that regard.

Four moms and a district staffer waited in the little meeting room for Wager to arrive. A staffer came in and scooped up the handouts that were stacked on the table. Wagner breezed into the meeting room around 1:15 p.m and wasted no time in telling us we had to leave, over polite protests from the legislative reps and Bucher.

Curious about what information was in the handouts, I went back to the school office a few minutes later to ask the secretary for a copy. I had just entered the small office lobby and was heading toward the receptionist when Superintendent Wagner emerged from the meeting room and approached me. I introduced myself, and Wagner replied by telling me to leave. I tried several times to tell her I was only there to ask the receptionist for a copy of the handout but each time I tried to explain the simple nature off my errand, Wagner brusquely cut me off and ordered me to leave. And so I was bulldozed out of a public facility by the district superintendent.

In one of today’s meetings was a parent who is a leader of the Parent Trigger Law petition effort. According to her, the meeting consisted of four parents, Superintendent Wagner, Palm Lane Principal Tracey Golden and ACSD Board of Education member Bod Gardner.

Wagner began by telling the parents how great their school is. A parent then asked for one of the handouts (which had been brought back in), to which Wagner replied they were not giving it out. The parent insisted and Gardner directed the superintendent to provide the handout. At this point, Gardner discussed the new programs the district had approved for Palm Lane, and then opened the meeting for questions.

[It’s worth noting here that these new programs were approved by the district the same morning that the Palm Lane parents group turned in its Parent Trigger Law petition (which Wagner was not there to receive).]

Wagner was asked if these programs were permanent, and replied that they were. A parent asked why the district had waited until now – until the petition was submitted? She said they has been ignored by the ACSD Board, had at times been cut off during public comments, and been humiliated and attacked.  None of the school officials in the meeting responded to this.

Another mom asked about tutoring, and was told by Wagner it would be coming at a cost of $30 per student. Another mom asked about pre-school, and was told by Wagner that it was coming. 

The parent activist in the room asked why there were empty classrooms at the school when other classrooms were overcrowded. Wagner answered that she was unaware of that but would investigate in the coming week. She asked about homework, and Principal Golden responded that it wasn’t important (!). This parent also asked why the district was conducting these tiny meetings instead of inviting everyone to a single meeting, and including charter school experts. Wagner told her  “it would too noisy to have all parents present at one time.”

This same parent stated her surprise at the sudden attention and after 12 years of low performance. Another mom – who said she hadn’t signed the Parent Trigger Law petition- expressed her conviction that district officials “only care about us now because of the petitions.”

The Palm Lane Elementary charter petition was not brought up, but the parent who reported the content of the meeting suspects that is because she is known to the school district as one of the leaders of the petition drive. She also mentioned that the parents in that meeting with her were extremely nervous, and that she had to calm them down.  

All of this begs the question: why doesn’t the district simply hold one or two meetings to which all palm Lane Elementary parents are invited? Why utilize the horribly inefficient and time-consuming method of dividing them into small groups of four or five and stick them in a little room for an hour with the ACSD’s bulldog of superintendent? I don’t buy the “too noisy” excuse furnished by the superintendent. The answer depends on what one is trying to accomplish. If the ACSD is trying to quickly, efficiently inform parents about new programs coming to Palm Lane Elementary, then a single meeting – or even handouts – is the way to go.  

On the other hand, if the goal is to parse the parent population for those who can cajoled/manipulated/pressured into to claiming they didn’t understand what they were signing or don’t want a charter school now that school district authorities have “explained” what they’re “really” about, then a cumbersome, inefficient but close-up series of meetings is preferable to an all-hands meeting where parents don’t feel like they’ve been called into the principal’s office and can mingle and exchange impressions afterward. 

One cannot blame Palm Lane Elementary parents for wondering whether the sudden authorization of new programs for their school isn’t hasty attempt to quell parent discontent, and whether these promises and programs will fade into the ether once the ACSD leadership sense of urgency has passed. This is especially true given treatment I’m hearing about: threatening to confiscate a parent’s phone if they use it to record what is said in a public meeting? That’s how one treats a disobedient child.

At the moment, the ACSD basically has one job as it pertains to Palm Lane Elementary School: to verify the parent signatures on the Parent Trigger Law petition. If 50 percent-plus-one are valid, then the law requires the district to work with parents to re-start Palm Lane Elementary as a charter school.

I had the opportunity to speak today with ASCD Board member Bob Gardner, who struck me as a sincere and honorable man. Among other things, he expressed his commitment to having the district do exactly that regarding the Parent Trigger Law petition.


  1. Outraged Parent of Palm Lane Against Charter

    Interesting. What new programs are you suggesting just started because of all this. The music program in collaboration with Pacific Symphony was organized about a year ago. The program of Outdoor ed ended last year but has been re-established because of generous donations. There has always been after school help if you ask for it. I know first hand of a teacher that has been at PL for over 10 years who stays after school (on her own time) to help kids.

  2. Bob Huff and Assemblywoman Young Kim and long-time school choice activist Mark Bucher. Huff is co-author of the Parent Trigger Law and Kim has been a strong supporter of the petition effort. They’re interest was ensuring the parents were provided with accurate information about charter schools in general and the proposed re-start charter model for Palm Lane Elementary.

    I think we know what the politicians interests are.

    I think we know why the super was there.

    I think its good that the parents went down there and had time to voice their concerns in person. Sometimes you need to drag people to the table to negotiate. There is still a half of a year of school. They should take what they are offering, especially if there interested in their kids education.

    Sure, the district is doing what it can to hear the parents out, and give them the voice they always wanted. I think that in large groups people tend to follow a few people and the “crowd.” I am sure there are a lot of parents who just wanted the music program to be restarted or preschool, which is a great idea, but not mandated by the state.

    People are being manipulated on both sides of this debate, that is the problem. The kids are stuck in the middle.

    It is like an ugly divorce, where both parents blaming the other. In the end, the kid is the one who suffers. I bet if you asked those kids, they love their teachers, and the school. Its the adults, who cannot play nice and mediate the issues like grown ups.

    Everyone is so interested in this issue now and they are not just doing the right thing anymore. Its about winning and making the other side pay. That is the kind of theater that should be saved for “house of cards” not our elementary schools.

    I hope people start to think in terms of what is best for their child and community. This charter stuff only divides communities and causes wounds that will not heal easily.

    In the end, I hope the district, politicians and parents do what is right for the kids!

    And I hope this “parental involvement” that is being shown now, continues for as long as these kids are in school. Because, that is what really matters in my opinion.

    Again, I find it hard to believe that the parents and politicians seem to put all the blame on the school. Educating a child takes involvement from parents, teachers and the willingness to learn on the part of the child.

  3. I believe that Palm Lane has had a Head Start Pre-school for a very long time. It also has a learning link for younger children. These seem to be great programs that service our community. The parents volunteer in the classrooms and work with their children.

  4. So all you need is to invoke a Parent Trigger and you will get programs?
    All schools should invoke it.

    Parents are much better for looking out for their own kids, much more so than a union that thinks Mark “Tasting Game” Berndt deserved a $40,000 payoff.

  5. For once I WANT to side with Matt on something, I believe wholeheartedly in school choice and I have seen the arrogant attitude of too many administrators (and even a VERY FEW number of teachers) who are of the mindset that the kids belong to them and parents are merely an annoyance.

    HOWEVER…I cannot help wondering why a resident of Orange, without kids in the District much less at the school, is suddenly so hyper-involved? And as an unpaid volunteer, to boot, as is claimed! Anaheim runs a closed campus policy, allowing you to participate in discussion of education issues for kids you have no connection to is a privacy problem for the district and having you on campus with no visible reason to be there is a security issue for the district. We also do not let the public anywhere near the 3rd graders when on their local history field trip, despite the location being, under the law, a public park. This is no big conspiracy, only the district upholding their policy, with someone that had no legally enforceable right to be on campus.

    Public Relations 101 says NEVER let a large crowd of hostile people gather at once, it becomes a shouting match and nobody will leave with any more understanding than before the meeting, Clearly it is the District’s intent to create an opportunity for two way communication, not merely offering information to the parents but also hearing the concerns of parents, and that is best done is smaller groups. Honestly Matt, given how much time you have put into mocking those of us fighting for our legally enforceable RIGHT to access public information and participate in the public process, it takes some nerve to now create a conspiracy theory when you were rightly ejected from a meeting you had no business being at!

    Place your bets for a certain someone to have scored a lobbyist contract with a Charter School provider, and like Professor Hill, the team is ginning up hostility in River City, using the excuse of a pool table with the hidden motive to sell band instruments (and uniforms, gotta have the uniforms!) The problem with that scheme is sooner or later you gotta produce a band, or get out on the next train before locals brew up the tar and feathers.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      One of Cynthia’s primary flaws is her tendency to assert knowledge and certainty from a place of ignorance. I’ve have been an active supporter of school choice for many, many years. I don’t know what Cynthia was doing in 1993, but I was spending most evenings volunteering on Prop. 174, the school voucher initiative; speaking at informational events and forums, often debating a teachers union rep or some member of the public education establishment. I have been active in the issue ever since. I have no charter school as a client (I don’t know any charter school operators, for that matter), nor does anyone I know.

      Cynthia’s comments are the product of a conspiratorial ignorance; she fills in the gaps and chasms of her knowledge with the silly putty of her prejudices. They also illustrate that her politics are primarily driven by her feelings about the players, rather than principle.

    • “Public Relations 101 says NEVER let a large crowd of hostile people gather at once, it becomes a shouting match and nobody will leave with any more understanding than before the meeting…”

      That’s not public relations 101, and regardless of your position on charter schools (which I’m not for as I favor strong public schools), you cannot deride Matt for not living in Anaheim swhen he published this blog. If you do, you ought to deride Greg Diamond, Vern Nelson and Ryan Cantor — all of whom do not live in Anaheim either. And while you’re at it, perhaps you ought to pull your group out of the lawsuit in San Diego over that Convention Center expansion.

      You see Cynthia, everyone gets to play in the sandbox in Anaheim or only those who live there do. And if your choice is the latter, you can’t play in other sandboxes either. Be consistent.

      • Not exactly sure why I got dragged into this, but for the record, I neither own nor operate a blog dedicated to Anaheim . . .so any comparisons to me are tangential at best.

      • Amazing. Cynthia is DEFENDING the district’s behavior.

        Matt is exactly right. It’s all about personalities with her. If Matt were defending the district’s behavior, Cynthia would be blasting how the district is handling this, while trying to claim she’s a school choice supporter.

      • Why am I not surprised that Chmielewski also can’t tell the difference between speaking at a City Council meeting and hanging around an elementary school into which he is not legally allowed?


    • Matthew Cunningham

      “Public Relations 101 says NEVER let a large crowd of hostile people gather at once, it becomes a shouting match and nobody will leave with any more understanding than before the meeting…”

      Interesting how Cynthia Ward calls this group of concerned parents a “large crowd of hostile people” who will only start shouting if they are brought together.

  6. Cynthia, why are you such a nasty, mean-spirited person? What the heck are YOU doing to support these parents? Probably nothing. I’m glad Matt is bringing their fight to public attention, regardless of where he lives. If they succeed, it’s good for parents in poor-performing schools anywhere.

    Besides, you don’t mind people from other cities getting involved in Anaheim issues when they are on YOUR side. Your double-standard is so glaring it’s impossible to take you seriously.

  7. So what about the misinformation, Matt ? And what is your interest in little neifhborhood school? Pls share. So curious to know what your involvement includes.

  8. Colony Observer, I have no idea why I bother answering someone so lacking in conviction they cannot put their own name on their posts, but here goes.

    What part of what I just said was untrue? Matt does not live in Anaheim, his interest in Anaheim and its “civic affairs” appears tied to areas where his friends score lobbying contracts or other financial interests he can promote-or on the flip side attack anyone he thinks gets in the way of what they want. Do YOU want to bet against me in my prediction that someone close to Matt has a contract with a Charter School that is bidding for the job of running Palm Lane? Twenty bucks, I will drop it off with the middleman of your choice, to hold until the outcome, although then you would have to tell me who you are, because I am not putting up twenty bucks and not be able to collect from a ghost.

    What part of my response to Matt was incorrect in telling him he had no legal authority to be on campus? It is true. Anaheim runs a closed campus system for the safety of the children and only those with legit business on the campus may be there. What “right” was he enforcing in demanding access to discussions he is not a party to? He is not their attorney, he is not their priest, he is not a family member, (to my knowledge) the District should not and could not permit him to remain there. This makes me mean spirited to point this out?

    In the mean time, I file a legit legal complaint showing that the City denied the citizens of Anaheim of our rights to engage in discussion regarding the disposition of our most valuable real property asset, in ways that violated State law, City policies, and the public trust, and then buried documents about the whole deal that were legally disclosable, but because the docs offered info that was at best politically uncomfortable and at worst potentially illegal, the records didn’t see the light of day. No matter what side of the stadium deal you want to promote, isn’t public access and public participation something we should all be looking out for? But let me stand up for ALL OF OUR RIGHTS and I get creamed over here for it.

    Yeah, you go ahead and call ME nasty and mean spirited. Now maybe Matt can answer Jose. I won’t hold my breath.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      Cynthia routinely tries to discredit what I have to say by harping that I live in Orange. Readers should note that she never makes the same point about members of her cadre of gadflies such as Greg Diamond (to name just one), a Brea resident who opines about what Anaheim city government should or shouldn’t do at every city council meeting, and whom she uses to sue the city as attorney for her group CATER.

      She also personally attacks any anonymous commenter who disagrees with her as lacking the courage of their convictions — while at the same time defending her practice of hiding the identities of the CATER members and donors who underwrite her group’s litigation against the City of Anaheim.

      Again, this comment is SOP for Cynthia: a mix of smashmouth attacks, double standards, unsubstantiated allegations and red herring arguments with a healthy dose of martyr complex stirred in. I’ve been posting about a group of parents who are exercising their rights under the Parent Trigger Law in the face of ongoing hostility from the Anaheim City School District and the public school unions; Cynthia focuses on whether I and others were violating some closed campus procedure last week (despite her not being there and knowing next to nothing about the situation).

      • If I were hanging around elementary schools in violation of school policy, as opposed to in Council meetings and courtrooms where I have every legal right to be, you might have some sort of cogent point there. As it is, your analogy is sort of like defending child molestation on the grounds that some other people go to legal strip clubs and so why aren’t you criticizing them for the same thing.

        You REALLY think that going to a Council meeting is the same thing as skulking around elementary school grounds, Matt? (Starts whistling theme song to “Jeopardy.”)

        • Matthew Cunningham


          Like your comrade Cynthia, you aren’t one to let your own ignorance get in your way. Try reading the post. I wasn’t “hanging around” or “skulking” at Palm Lane, nor – as Cynthia ignorantly claims – violating any school policy. A sign at Palm Lane directs visitors to go to the office, which is what we did. When Superintendent Wagner came in, she kicked us out. We left. I went back to the office a few minutes later to ask the receptionist something. Wagner came out, barked at me while rudely refusing to even let me finish a sentence, and told me to leave. I did.

          “You REALLY think that going to a Council meeting is the same thing as skulking around elementary school grounds, Matt?”

          Where did I say my going to Palm Lane was the same as you bloviating at an Anaheim City Council meeting, counselor?

          • Greg, any parent knows a visit to any public school requires you to go to the office first. You can’t legally pluck your own kid off the school grounds unless you check in at the office and then they find you. You can’t even take a short cut through a playground during school hours. So it certainly appears that Matt followed the rules as it pertains to accessing public school grounds. Does that answer your question.

            • Matt, please explain to your comrade that you are not a parent of a child at that elementary school.

              Dan, please explain to Matt that “going back” to an office from which you have just been evicted is a breach of the public peace that would never ever be tolerated in Irvine.

              • Matthew Cunningham

                “Matt, please explain to your comrade that you are not a parent of a child at that elementary school.”

                Dan never said I was.

                But keep prattling on out of ignorance, Greg.

                • Actually, I think the superintendent overreacted and going back to an office to collect a handout which was withheld shows a lack of transparency that you say you champion.

                  Perhaps you can explain how newspaper acquisitions are financed because you seem to think that editorial content alone will pay for it.

        • Matt, Greg admits that his contract with CATER generates billable hours in exchange for his involvement in Anaheim. When will you do the same?

          Yes, you followed the rules and went to the office, where the staff followed the rules and told you to get lost.

          What was I doing in 1993? I am pretty sure I lived in that Palm Lane neighborhood (it might have been 1994 when we bought the house, but I think ’93) but that doesn’t really matter, I share only to say I do understand the challenges of the neighborhood, I lived a block from Palm Lane before moving to the Colony. Anaheim is my home. This is Greg’s job. So Matt, you are the only one here who does not have a clear motive, given the constant claim this is only a hobby blog for which you are not compensated.

          Mr. Valencia, when has CATER attacked the City? When have I as an individual attacked the City? The City Council and a handful of self-centered staff do NOT represent “the City.” The 350,000 people counting on a municipal agency to provide critical services is what constitutes the City of Anaheim, and I have NEVER in my lifetime attacked them! I have filed litigation to enforce the rights of ALL Anaheim residents and taxpayers, which were denied us in several areas the Council has been involved with. That is not attack, it is accountability, those involved know the rules and they were not followed and there is a consequence to that. This is not a popularity contest, and I don’t care if you like me or not, I really don’t. What I care about is whether this is a community I can grow old in or a place where my kids will be willing to raise my future grandchildren, and when Matt and his cohorts get their own way it depletes resources from that future vision of Anaheim.

          Too many people think “kindness” is some form of “everyone gets something they want.” When what SOME want is to siphon resources out of the neighborhoods where they are needed, and funnel the money into the pockets of connected clients of one lobbyist, offering any portion of what is wanted still results in a loss to taxpayers. I say no.

          I was just reading Michael Reagan’s book on his father, and the phrase “We win, they lose,” seems to apply here. That is my goal. Taxpayers win. Kleptocracy loses. Problem solved. You want to call that “attack” then I now know which side of that formula you are standing on. That simplifies things.

          I don’t object to these families trying for a Charter School, as I said I support parent choice and I am all too familiar with the demographic dynamics of the neighborhood and its economic challenges, and anything that gives the children of working class families a leg up is a bonus for all Americans. My objection, as I stated earlier, is in those who swoop in like vultures to pick the meat from the bones. Remove the opportunity for your preselected Charter provider to score the contract for this job and your passion for this subject disappears, you know it, I know it, those parents do not yet know it. I hope they are not counting on anyone on this team to stick with them through thick and thin. Support lasts only until the paychecks run out.

          • Matthew Cunningham

            Good grief – you are truly delusional.

          • Matthew Cunningham

            “Matt, Greg admits that his contract with CATER generates billable hours in exchange for his involvement in Anaheim.”

            Greg’s “involvement in Anaheim” pre-dates CATER.

            As for your endless incantations about “siphoning taxpayers resources blah blah blah” – it just isn’t true. But there is no budging your fixation to the contrary, so why bother trying?

            And it is certainly generous of you not to object to these parents trying to re-start Palm Lane as a charter school, even if you seem waaaay more concerned about the manner in which I and others arrived at the school office one day than you are about these parents and what they want for their kids.

            “Remove the opportunity for your pre-selected Charter provider to score the contract for this job and your passion for this subject disappears, you know it, I know it, those parents do not yet know it.”

            On the contrary, Cynthia – nobody “knows it” — because it is not true. Your claim that there is a pre-selection charter operator is a complete fabrication on your part. So much for your “I’m a truth-teller” claim.

            • So Matt, are you going on the record telling us that you have NO connection to any “educational opportunity” in the private sector who may be bidding for the contract to run a Charter School at Palm Lane Elementary? Or that you have no connections to those working for or with a Charter School provider looking to pitch a deal to the District to run the school?

              And can you tell us how you DID come to be involved in this issue where you don’t live, don’t send your kids to school, and are not a taxpayer of the District? Were you contacted by Palm Lane parents and asked to become involved?

              • Matthew Cunningham

                Who died and made you the Grand Inquisitor of Anaheim? You stomp into the comments and demand I allay your paranoid presumptions? However, I will indulge you – and remind you that are now obligating yourself to respond to inquiries directed at you.

                The answers to your questions are “no”; “no”; as I’ve already told you at least once, I’m covering this issue because it’s Anaheim news and because school choice is an issue I have cared about and been active in for many years; the Palm Lane parents group reached out to me to let me know what they were doing.

                It’s sad to watch you in action: always assuming the worst in others (or at least, in those who don’t agree with you), assuming your conspiratorial delusions about others are true, and then attacking them on the basis of those delusions.

              • As if Ward ONLY expresses opinions about Anaheim. What horrid woman!

  9. The irony is not lost on me that Cynthia and her special interests hide behind anonymity.

    I say “special interests” because she has stated here, that some of her members have business with and in front of the city. I am very interested to know who these people are that have business with the city but are attacking the city under the veil of anonymity. WHO ARE THESE SPECIAL INTERESTS?

    Cynthia Ward is a bully, a gladfly and whether right or wrong so off-putting that her good deeds are overshadowed by her brash nature and nonsensical rants.
    When I Google the name Greg Diamond, I get an amazing assortment of articles. Plainly, the city has nothing to worry about legally, unless of course, this guy slips on a banana peel at city hall, I get the impression he’d go for a million two (and eat the banana).

    • Uhhhh, there’s more than one “Greg Diamond.” (Did you get the dead disco producer, the hypnotist, the jazz guitarist, one of the dentists, or one of the several Democratic lawyers?)

      When I google “Richard Valencia,” I get stories about an apparently famous transvestite sex show performer. But do I assume that it’s you? Not entirely! You could also be the sock with a face drawn on it!

  10. Nope. Not me. I did go to Loara High school though, who had a famous “Gay” person. Maybe you’d like to make fun of her too!

    I was referring to the OC Weekly article, and if it is you the endless banter at a defunct Fullerton blog. From what I read I learned a few things:

    !) You are extremely liberal.

    2) You are active in nearly every cause/dust up in every city (EXCEPT your own).

    3) You try to intellectually bully people.

    5) You are said to not pay your own way.

    6) You have way too much time on your hands, need a job.

    That’s what I learned about you on Google.

    Go save a whale, you are indeed a rebel without a cause (or a job apparently).

    • This is the best laugh I have had all day! Love it!

    • Why would I want to make fun of some lesbian from Loara? I have no reason to think that she is an idiot. You, though…

      I’m active in local Brea politics. Didn’t used to be, which is apparently where you got that impression, but that changed with fracking and has intensified since. Next time, check the dates on Google results.

      When I speak to people intelligently and they can’t (or want to pretend that they don’t) understand it, they sometimes call it bullying as a defense. I do think that someone engaged in public debate should be able to count to 5. (By the way: the number that follows 3 is 4. Whoops — sorry if my saying so “bullied” you!)

      Something was said about me and you accepted it uncritically and without question. Ok.

      You don’t know the difference between unrmployed and self-employed. Ok. (Why bother arguing?)

      I’m a political activist, so I don’t see the time I put in at the Fullerton’s Future blog as having been wasted at all, as it played a significant role in deciding two races that I cared about very much. I recognize that this concept may be foreign to you.

      As for my “mental disorder,” I presume that you mean depression. I’m in good company there. Depressives tend not to be idiots who think that telling people to “save the whales” is an insult.

    • Never quite understood the dude’s obsessive need for attention.

      Like many academically successful people, he is just simply removed from reality.

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