Palm Lane School Charter Petition Saga: District Dragging Feet; City Council Vote On Supporting Charter Petition

The Anaheim City Council will vote tonight on a resolution agendized by Mayor Pro Tem Lucille Kring, urging the Anaheim City School District to be supportive of the parent-led effort to convert Palm Lane Elementary into an independent charter school via the Parent Trigger Law.

Will there be at least three votes? Kring will obviously be a “yes”; Councilwoman Kris Murray was an early supporter of these parents and has stood with them and spoken with them before the ACSD Board of Education. Mayor Tom Tait supported last years application by GOALS Academy to become a charter school within the ACSD, which Councilmember James Vanderbilt voted for as an ACSD Board member. Hopefully, they will be on board to support this resolution. I do not expect Councilman Jordan Brandman will be a “yes” vote, but hope to be proven wrong.

The OC Register published on editorial today on the subject, which I excerpt here:

Despite the setback, hope is not lost for reshaping the lives of the school’s 750 students. School choice petitioners have 60 days to alleviate the board’s concerns and support is growing for reforming the troubled elementary into a public charter, as the Anaheim City Council is expected to vote today on a resolution in support of the proposed change.

Some may have reservations about the council getting involved in specific district issues. These pages have long opposed undue influence being exerted on independently elected agencies. However, both the City Council and school board represent the people of Anaheim. Therefore, it only seems natural for the council to log its support and we encourage its members to unanimously approve the resolution.

Further, while opponents have criticized the way in which the parent trigger process has been used here, we hope Mayor Tom Tait, who has been an overt supporter of charter schools in the past, will lead on the issue. The case for Palm Lane is a clear one, as the school has had more than 12 years of underachievement.

Footdragging from the Anaheim City School District
At last week’s ACSD Board of Education, district staff recommended rejection of the Parent Trigger petition submitted by Palm Lane Elementary parents. Staff said only 48.8% of the signatures could be verified, short of the 50% threshold. Staff also said there were some other technical deficiencies, including a claim that Palm Lane Elementary is not a “subject school” – a contention proponents dispute.  Click here for the PowerPoint presentation made by the assistant superintendent.

According to district staff, 95 signatures (or “student petitions” in the jargon used) were deemed invalid because they were duplicates; “inactives” (were no-shows or had moved away as of the submission of the petition on January 14, 2015) or were not found in the district’s Aeres System.  Another 26 were deemed invalid because they were signed ny non-parents or non-guardians, or claimed they didn’t sign the petition.

Finally, another 12 student petitions were held to be invalid because they could not be reached after multiple attempts (I don’t know how many is “mutilple”).  It’s important to note that only 12 more valid signatures are needed to meet the 50% threshold.

Under the Parent Trigger Law, the petitioners now have 60 days to fix any deficiencies, including those regarding signatures. Since the 60-day clock began ticking last Friday morning, the ACSD should have supplied the petitioners with the information they needed to address claimed deficiencies, such as which names/signatures were invalid. Instead, petitioners say the district basically jerked them around all day on Friday and failed to deliver that information, despite promises to the contrary.

Late on Monday morning  – after proponents had already lost three days – the district provided the petitioners with a copy of the petition and the names of the 12 unverified signatures. However, the superintendent refused the petitioners request for the district to identify the other 116 people who were deemed invalid signatories. How are the petitioners supposed to make a thorough effort to cure claimed deficiencies in the petition if the district refuses to tell them which signatures were deficient?

Look at this way: when the California School Employees Association asked the Anaheim City School District for the names and signatures of everyone who signed the Palm Lane petition, the district didn’t hesitate to provide that information. Now, when the petitioners are asking – as is their right under the law – the district to point out which signatures are supposedly no good, the district is essentially telling them to pound sand.

Why? What public interest is served by withholding this information? If the district’s lawyers sanction the superintendent’s refusal to furnish this information, what is the legal basis for that device? Surely that is not confidential information.

What would be the reaction if a county election official conducted a recount, barred outside observers and refused to allow anyone to see which ballots were disqualified and why?

When school districts are verifying Parent Trigger Law petitions, the law expressly states they can enlist the assistance of the petitioners in tracking down persons whose signature or eligibility are in question. The district never did so, despite the number of apparently problematic signatures.

When school union activists made unsubstantiated allegations about the conduct of petitioners, Superintendent Wagner sent out a letter and a robocall to Palm Lane parents repeating these allegations and warning them they did not have to sing the petition.

School union activists are now scaring parents with claims that a charter conversion will lead to Palm Lane’s teachers being fired and are trying to get parents to sign rescission forms that have no legal validity (signatures cannot be removed once a Parent Trigger petition is submitted).  But no letter or robocall from the district countering those allegations or telling parents the rescission forms have no effect and they do not have to sign them.

The Anaheim City School District’s actions during the last few months, in the aggregate, are not those of a disinterested party but of an antagonist.

2 comments

  1. Teachers will not be fired from Palm lane but they will be removed from a charter so those teachers will not teach there anymore. They will be placed at other schools within acsd

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