School District Scheduling Small Meetings With Palm Lane Parents To “Educate” Them on Charter Schools

Slide from January 20 "educational" for Palm lane parents organized by the teachers union. The slanted framing shows It's clearly intended to lead parents to think they've been duped into supporting re-starting their school as a charter.

Slide from January 20 “educational” for Palm lane parents organized by the teachers union. The slanted framing shows It’s clearly intended to lead parents to think they’ve been duped into supporting re-starting their school as a charter.

The group of Palm Lane Elementary School parents seeking to re-start their school as an independent public charter school turned in their Parent Trigger Law petition – signed by 70% of the school’s parents – on January 14. At that point, the job of the Anaheim City School District became simply to verify the validity of those signatures (a task the district has 40 calendar days to complete).

Suddenly, the district has flown in to flurry of activity scheduling on-site meetings with small groups of Palm Lane Elementary parents. According to reports I’ve been receiving, district staff — including ACSD Community Liaison Coordinator Yesenia Navarro – have called parents who signed the Parent Trigger Law petition to invite to them to on-site meetings. There will be only a small handful of parents at each meeting, the topics of which reportedly are 1) educating them about charter schools and 2) asking them about their concerns and what changes they want.  The meetings start today, and are held at 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

I’ve also received disturbing reports (which I am trying to verify) about warnings given to parents about what they can and cannot do in these meetings.

First of all, why is the Anaheim City School District suddenly motivated to bring these parents – in small groups in which they will feel outnumbered by district officials — to “educate” them about charter schools after they have signed a petition requesting conversion of their school to charter status? Remember, this is the same school district that blasted out a misleading “educational” letter and robocall to Palm Lane parents containing false information and rumors about the Parent Trigger Law petition then being circulated, in a fairly obvious attempt to deter parents from signing.

It’s a good thing the ACSD has decided to inquire with these parents as to their concerns about the education their children are receiving at Palm Lane and what changes they’d like to see. But why now? The timing is suspicious, but also evidence of how even the prospect of competition incentives school districts to be more responsive to the parents of their students. Is this what it takes to get the district’s attention?

However, coming hot on the heels of similar “educational” parent meetings organized the teachers union two days ago, my experience-based instincts tell me this is part of a larger strategy to obstruct and ultimately defeat the desire of these same parents to convert Palm Lane Elementary into a charter school.  Given that goal, it’s a smart strategy: bring in parents – many, if not most, of whom are immigrants with limited or no fluency in English –  in small groups of four or five to meet with a bunch ACSD authorities and start “explaining” what charter schools are “really” about. I think the goal of these district- and union-sponsored meetings is, by hook or crook, flip some parents who signed the petition by inducing or “encouraging” second thoughts so they’ll request the removal of their names from the petition. Legally, the rescission option ends once a petition is submitted, but the anti-charter forces are in PR mode now and seeking to de-legitimize the petition.

I sincerely hope I am wrong, but the actions of the district and the unions on this issue (and years of observing how the public education establishment reacts to school choice efforts in general) lead me to the opposite conclusion.


  1. An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight.

    Jefferson is right.

    I am sure that those who gathered signatures explained all this to them before they signed. It can’t hurt to be sure.

    I think many times people sign documents and do not have a clear understanding of them. Reminds me of the awesome pick a payment loans brought to us by big banks and wall street. Nothing like a credit default swap to make billions of dollars off of unsuspecting people.

    This in their next money maker.

    I trust my local schools and teachers more than a slick talking charter school advocate being backed by deep pocket donors.

    I know you hate unions, but they do a lot more harm than good. I think it is a great idea to make it easier to fire bad teachers. Administrators also, but lets make it easier to get rid of ineffective government reps. while were at it.

    The same people who are trying to gut the Feingold/Dodd regulations/rules and who brought you the search for WMD’s in Iraq which were never found.

    I say 50% + 1 worth of signatures and we can get special election to vote for a new candidate to rep. us.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      OK, John. If the district has no other purpose than merely “informing” Palm Lane parents, why has the district superintendent decided to spend several entire days meeting with Palm Lane parents in groups of 4 or 5? It would be a much more efficient use of everyone’s time – and in the superintendent’s case, her time is taxpayers’ money – by holding one or two parent meetings. So why is the district taking this very unusual approach?

      • Desert Trails-because this is what schools and their communities are up against.

        They rented a house in the neighborhood to use as their headquarters. Spent lots of money and pressure tactics to get petitions signed. Hired parents from the neighborhood. Even had parents enroll their students in other elementary schools trying to get other schools taken over. It got pretty ugly.

        After it was over most parents saw what had really happened. Not many of the students that went to our Desert Trails go to the new Desert Trails, they are enrolled in other schools in our district. So they ended up not even servicing the students they said they were going to help. Just another pawn in a political game.

        Parent from Desert Trails

      • See my post for the other tabloid article “Rough Treatment At Palm Lane Elementary” and it should be clear.

  2. Outraged Parent of Palm Lane Against Charter

    What is really disturbing is that a once thought of as a community leader is using his political ties to advanced his political agenda using uninformed parent followers. All this Parent Trigger movement was stimulated by one person who seeks personal gain and has nothing to do with our school “failing”. In the contrary, data demonstrates we have improved our scores, an API of 746 is certainly not an embarrassing number. In fact, not even the entire state of California reaches the “golden” number of 800. I happened to learn later today that you (MC) were at PL today. How dare you show up when you dragged our school through the mud. I would have certainly liked to speak with you in person. Because you and other media outlets have never seeked the opinion of those parents that are against this dramatic unnecessary change to PL.

    • They come into the area, stir things up and do not care about the consequences that follow. They are self serving. They are interested only getting press and furthering their agenda.

      I am more concerned with the kids and the community and allowing people to negotiate and seek compromise. With these people someone has to lose. They are like the tea party where they have to be right at any cost.

      When all is said and done these families and communities must live with each other. This charter stuff is so divisive that in the end, the communities lose.

    • “Data demonstrates [sic] we have improved our scores.”

      Improvement? The percentage of students proficient in Language Arts at Palm Lane for 2011-2013 is as follows:
      2013 38 %
      2012 46%
      2011 47%

      Students at Palm Lane did not record satisfactory Annual Yearly Progress for more than 10 years!

      AYP Data:

      Program Improvement Reports:

  3. Your article is misleading, as is most of the press surrounding Palm Lane, but I guess that’s what happens when you get your info from people who sneak in and eavesdrop on closed meetings. Accusations of wrong doing by the school district or the teachers union are way off base. Why shouldn’t the parents be allowed to hear both sides? What is Parent Trigger afraid of? This sounds a lot like the kettle calling the pot black.

  4. There were two meetings for parents held Tuesday–the presentations were largely informational about the trigger law although presenters did briefly go over their concerns on the pictured slide (and they made it very clear that they were their concerns and opinions, and not an attempt to tell parents what they should think). At no point were parents told what they should think or if they should support or oppose the trigger. The overwhelming majority of concerns were raised by the parents themselves. Many parents expressed concern that they had a) either misunderstood the petition or had been misled or b) hadn’t been asked at all, and therefore had been excluded from the vote. The meetings were of the type that should be required in the parent trigger law, so that everyone is fully informed and not just responding to a request to sign a petition. Why anyone would object to an informational meeting and a chance for parents to get together to weigh pros and cons of using the trigger is beyond me, but in every use of the parent trigger law so far, that’s exactly the type of meeting trigger promoters have deliberately avoided holding.

  5. Open questions about what has occurred at Palm Lane:

    Why are parents claiming they were asked repeatedly to sign a petition without having accurate information regarding the outcome of a successful signature-gathering campaign?
    Why were parents promised free tutoring if they would sign?
    Why was a demoted administrator addressing parents and promising reinstatement if PL was converted to a charter?
    Why did Parent Trigger advocates rudely interrupt a parent informational meeting and refuse to leave when politely asked to do so?
    Why are the Trigger advocates critical of district employees meeting with parents and asking about program needs?
    Don’t these “Reformers” know new state LCAP laws require that districts do so before submitting their budgets to the county?
    Did Parent Trigger signature-gatherers tell the parents that it was in part the teachers at Palm Lane who helped pass Proposition 30 to increase billions in funding for schools of greatest need like Palm Lane?
    Why are parents of Palm Lane now claiming they were deceived?

    It’s time for honest answers.

    • Matthew Cunningham


      Who are these parents you say are making these claims? Opponents of the Palm Lane petition have been leveling that and other allegations like offers of free iPads, etc. – but no one has come forward and said, “I was offered a free iPad if I would sign this petition” or “I was promised this or lied to about that.” So here we have an anonymous commenter regurgitating allegations from anonymous sources and demanding that I respond? Absurd.

      I did ask the petition organizer about several of these allegations a few weeks ago, and they unhesitatingly denied them.

      Your comment is a gaggle of rumors, unsubstantiated allegations and red herrings. May I suggest you experiment with honest argumentation, instead?

  6. Outraged Parent of Palm Lane Against Charter

    Great questions simple answer. Sheeps are simply following their herder.

  7. It is shameful and low what the ACSD is doing. Parents dont have a voice in the ACSD. In many occasions we went to the district office asked to speak to Wagner but she was never available. Charter schools are not bad I do not know why the district cares about the school now. I know its about the money the district will stop getting. As a parent I want to tell other pare to look at the charter schools near by. Santa Ana has charters that are doing very well better that what the ACSD has to offer. On the contrary parents will want to transfer their children to Palm Lane once this school becomes a charter.

  8. I love Ed and his observations and his questions. Matt? Where are you to answer Ed?

  9. I am eagerly waiting….

  10. And while you’re at it, why not back up your facts on palm lane pre-school, learning link and the dates that other after school programs started at palm lane. The school has had thru the years guitar classes, reading groups, Girl Scout troops (with teacher leaders), art, dance, cheerleading, Grip… For parents, alm lane has had computer literacy, English classes, parenting classes, chats with principal . I sure there are more …. Those off the top of my head.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      What facts are you disputing? I reported what Superintendent Wagner told a group of parents. If you dispute the factuality of what she told them, then you should take it up with her rather than attacking the messenger.

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