Anaheim City School District Tries To Poison The Well With Letter To Parents

Last week, Anaheim City School District Superintendent Linda Wagner sent this letter to parents at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School:

District letter to Abe Lincoln parents

According to my sources, parents at several other ACSD schools received an identical letter, with only the name of the school changed.

No reasonable, fair-minded person could honestly characterize this letter as merely the district proactively informing parents about the Parent Trigger Law. If it had, the letter’s language and tone would have been anodyne.

This is not a communication from a “neutral resource,” but rather an attempt to poison the well in case Parent Trigger Law petitions are mounted at other ACSD elementary schools. The purpose of this heavy-handed tactic is to alarm parents; to put them on guard and more reluctant to sign a petition in the belief it might harm their school.

Superintendent Wagner refers about “outside organizations” gathering parent signatures at Palm Lane. This is a distortion: it was Palm Lane Elementary parents, not vaguely sinister “outside organizations” who decided to organize to convert Palm Lane into an independent public charter school.

She then attempts to alarm parents with a poorly-worded claim “these types of petitions” could “potentially “result in “replacing the teachers and principal.” Now, what Superintendent Wagner also knows – but declines to tell parents – is that when a school converts to charter status, it could retain all the teachers and principal, or keep some teachers and not others (depending on what the teachers and principal choose to do).

If Superintendent Wagner’s intention is – as she says in the letter – to “ensure you have all the information necessary,” then why does she only share some information – that which would tend to bias parents against signing a Parent Trigger petition? Especially a talking point that is also a staple scare tactic the school unions have been using to spook Palm Lane parents. Furthermore, parents could misconstrue Wagner’s vague wording to mean the mere act of signing a Parent Trigger petition could lead to teachers losing their jobs; that may be intentional.

Wagner goes on to warn parents that petitioners might “aggressively” solicit their signatures and describes Parent Trigger Law petition drives as having “the potential to divide communities” – while Wagner and the district want to “work together” using “ongoing dialogue” to “secure the best opportunities for this community.” In other words, Wagner paints parents seeking to avail themselves of the provisions of the Parent Trigger Law as aggressive and divisive, while she and the ACSD educracy represent the forces of sweet reason and cooperation.

Linda Wagner strictly neutral

ACSD Superintendent Linda Wagner

 

Wagner’s assurance to parents that “the school district does not have a position on these efforts” is a hollow one. The accumulation of the Wagner and the Anaheim City School District’s actions throughout the Palm Lane Elementary charter petition process has been that of an institution that opposes Parent Trigger Law petition drives. The district has given the cold shoulder to this group of Palm Lane parents from the beginning: preventing their use of school grounds to meet;  Wagner sending out a similarly inflammatory, misleading letter to Palm Lane parents that regurgitated unsubstantiated charges by the school unions; the district leadership formulating, just days after the petition was submitted, a strategy for rejecting the petition; the district refusing to enlist the help of petitioners in verifying signatures, even though the law expressly permits that.

That obstructionism continues even now, as the 60-day clock for Palm Lane parents to rectify petition deficiencies is ticking: Wagner has refused to turn over the names of the 121 petition signatories the district claims were ineligible to sign. Given the hostility of the ACSD administration to the Palm Lane petition effort, the petitioners are understandably reluctant to take the district at its word.

This and other examples of the Anaheim City School District’s biased and decidedly non-neutral behavior gives added impetus to the suggestion by the OC Register editorial board to entrust the signature verification to a third party such as the Orange County Department of Education.

 

7 comments

  1. The district’s letter is accurate. In all likelihood the entire staff would be replaced–teachers who want to stay would have to quit their jobs with the districts and be hired at the discretion of the new charter operator– not likely since charters tend to pay less with poorer benefits and little job security

  2. Superintendent Wagner has stated within the body of the letter that ACSD has no position on the petitioner’s efforts. She has acted with propriety as this issue continues to play out at Palm Lane. Based on the evidence given to the district by parents who were the targets of Parent Revolution’s efforts, it is appropriate these parents receive some information regarding possible impacts of a successful petition campaign. At the board meeting preceding the petition’s rejection, parents unanimously praised their teachers’ efforts at the school, regardless of which side of the charter issue they were on. Do you really think that if these same parents were told the truth about the likely loss all their children’s teachers when the school is restarted as a charter, that they would all have signed anyway? Duplicitous is as duplicitous does…

  3. I’m a little puzzled about the hostility toward the school district, the unions, some parents, and anyone on who is opposed to the trigger being pulled. The superintendent is accused of “poisoning the well” for telling parents that the staff would be replaced (which is definitely true in the limited number of cases where the trigger has been pulled and a charter has taken over) and of encouraging dialogue, but aren’t trigger promoters guilty–and I”m not saying deliberately so–of really questionable behavior when they ask well meaning parents to sign a petition without telling them basic facts like what a charter school is and isn’t, and that their child’s current teacher and other staff will not be at the new school? If what Superintendent Wagner is saying is wrong (and I don’t believe it is), let the trigger promoters call her out on it, and explain how it is that it is quite likely the staff will remain, and that “ongoing dialogue” is a bad idea. This site seems to want parents to only hear from one side of the argument.

    • Danny-there’s an –I think, but I”m not a lawyer–unconstitutional restriction in the parent trigger regulations which basically says, “you can persuade someone to sign the petition but you can’t persuade someone not to.” And any time a school district says “hey, wait a minute, here are the facts,” the other side cries foul. I don’t get what the problem is with Superintendent Wagner’s letter–she told parents what would probably happen if a trigger is implemented and encouraged them to be involved in dialogue. There are no false claims or gloom and doom predictions, so in my opinion this is a pretty benign letter, but a responsible one.

  4. Hi Matthew, it’s fair to have different opinions about parent trigger, charter schools, and what’s best for Palm Lane, but it’s not fair to have different facts shaping those opinions. I’m assuming you are in the same boat as many of the Palm Lane parents and have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the parent trigger would do. If in fact the trigger petition is approved, the school district will put the school “up for bid” for lack of a better term, to any interested charter operators. Those, if any, who express interest will be able to make presentations to parents who signed the petition (or to others, but they will have no say, a major problem with the law). Whichever charter the parents select will then take over the facility and staff it with their own employees, in all liklihood new hires with little experience (unless they are a multi-site charter that can transfer more experienced employees to Palm Lane). The current staff who are permanent employees will be transferred to other schools, and, if there are not enough openings, the school district will initiate layoffs. Temporary and probationary employees would probably be let go. I’m not arguing that schools should maintain current models solely for that reason, but I am arguing that parents should be fully informed of this. Many that we have heard from did not know this when they signed the petitions, and are in fact very supportive of the Palm Lane staff and the school.
    So while I respect your right to support the trigger, it’s a disservice to the readers of your blog to tell readers that the school “could” retain all its teachers. Given that they would have to quit the district and become employees of a new charter school (and give up their salaries, benefits, contract rights, vested pension, etc), the reality is that this is not going to happen. And I don’t see anything wrong with Superintendent Wagner, or anyone else, telling that to parents.

    • Just because parents say “I support the teachers”, doesn’t really mean actually support the teachers.
      After all these teachers now hold their children hostage for 24+ hours a week, so it is ok to be nice to them. For now.

  5. Dr. Wagner has the right as superintendent to inform the parents in her school district of the argument against what the Palm Lane opposition is trying to accomplish. Just as it’s the right of the parents of the Palm lane to exercise their right to enact the parent trigger law, and gather like minded parents to their cause. What I feel the bigger issue is, is that ACSD is failing to address is the frustration of the parents in Palm Lane Elementary. All you hear from ACSD and the letter put out is, “teachers Jobs”, “dangerous change”, “let’s talk”, but that is exactly what this growing faction of disgruntled parents are tired of. The bottom line is that Palm Lane has the dangerous potential of becoming the model of action for those that feel their child’s school is failing them. The Teachers Union makes it damn near impossible to remove those not performing to par. Through my own personal investigation and interview of ACSD employees, there are allegations of union special treatment, and favoritism. “The buddy hook ups”, no longer representing employees fairly. Fraudulent waste of district funds by employees milking the system, hollow district jobs, inflated salaries for upper positions. This information is coming from teachers and faculty themselves. However I must say, there are a lot of good teachers and employees in the district, that serve your children with the best of their ability and what they are given to work with. But they are forced to operate in a “educracy” that’s broken. The end state of the argument is that its become “no longer about the children” and the education they are receiving, but about district politics, and empty words and promises, as well as district employees, teachers and faculty pay and benefits. “Pay me more”, “I need more benefits”, but as any employer would say, “lets take a look at your track record, what have you done lately, do you deserve it”? The parents at Park Lane don’t think so. Change needs to happen now. Change that’s apparent, and that the parents can see. That ACSD is making the effort to not just listen, but address the issues. In the end, play politics with these parents and their children’s future, and more and names are going to show up on that list.

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