Cecilia Ochoa

The parents behind the successful petition drive to convert Palm Lane Elementary School into an independent public charter school have selected New Century to be their charter school operator.

The parents who signed the Parent Trigger Law petition in 2014-2015 selected New Century Charter Schools from the charter operators who had made presentations on their programs. Parent signatories cast their ballots on October ___ and overwhelmingly favored New Century. According to its website, New Century offers an iSTEAM (Inquiry, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) curriculum:

“…a daily instructional block dedicated to hands-on, STEAM-focused learning where students, starting in transitional kindergarten, engage in meaningful study and the hands-on application of STEAM concepts on a daily basis.

iSTEAM allows students to demonstrate their learning through exhibitions, demonstrations, performances, and competitions on campus and in the community. All instructional materials will be aligned to the California State Adopted Standards and there will be an active incorporation of technology tools in the classroom.”

New Century also incorporates character-building education “through the Medal of Honor Character Program provided by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. In addition, we focus on a restorative justice approach, providing an effective alternative to punitive responses to wrongdoing. Inspired by indigenous traditions, it brings together persons harmed with persons responsible for harm in a safe and respectful space, promoting dialogue, accountability, and a stronger sense of community.”

AESD Notified of Selection, Vote Scheduled
The Anaheim Elementary School District was notified of the parents selection on October 23. According to state law, thee AESD Board of Education has 60 days to vote on it. The AESD Board is scheduled to take public comments at its November 15 meeting, and will vote on December 13 to approve or reject the parents selection on New Century. Public school unions have been fighting the Palm Lane charter conversion since its inception, and are expected to organize members and allied parents to speak against the selection.

The AESD Board does have the option of rejecting the parents’ selection and choosing the Alternative Governance Arrangement under which it “institutes any other major restructuring of the school’s governance arrangement that makes fundamental reforms, such as significant changes in the school’s staffing and governance, to improve student academic achievement in the school and that has substantial promise of enabling the school to make AYP,” according to the California Department of Education’s FAQ on the Parent Empowerment Act.

If the AESD Board of Education rejects New Century Charter Schools, it would be an incredible act of contempt toward the Palm Lane parents and cap years of hostility by the district leadership. It has spent nearly a million dollars on lawsuit against the Parent Trigger petition – a lawsuit the AESD leadership knew was doomed but which has delayed the charter conversion by three years. As a result, a number of those parents won’t be able to send their children to the charter school they fought for because they have aged out.

Can the Palm Lane Parents Get A Fair Shake From The AESD Board?
That is the big question hanging over the next phase of the process. Are there three members of the AESD Board will are willing to lay down their arms and respect the will of the Palm Lane parents legitimately exercised via state law?

AESD Board President Ryan Ruelas is a vocal opponent of charter schools. The progressive political activist and Anaheim High School teacher represents the Anaheim high school district teachers union on the state council of the California Teachers Association; halting the expansion of charter school and smothering them with additional regulations is one of the CTA’s top political priorities.

Magcalas OCCORD FB post 12-15-15Jose Paolo Magcalas, a Loara High School teacher who represents Trustee Area 3, is another charter school opponent. He was the only candidate who filed in Area 3; consequently the election in that district was cancelled and Magcalas took the seat by default.

He is a radical political activist and close Ruelas political who launched the Anaheim Union High School District’s first Ethnic Studies. His curriculum – which more closely resembles a progressive political indoctrination program – which has new spread from Loara to other AUHSD high schools and even into junior high schools.  In this paper describing why and how he created the Ethnic Studies program, Magcalas mentions helping his students organize a campaign to blunt any incipient parent support for charter conversions like Palm Lane:

After learning that our feeder elementary and middle school was on the verge of a corporate charter takeover, one group decided to work with the local community and raise awareness on the positive things that our neighborhood schools were doing. This event was called “A Walk to Celebrate Our Schools.” Students walked door-to-door with school staff, parents, local politicians, community leaders and activists.

The event was splashed all over Facebook by Magcalas, Ruelas and left-wing political allies such as now-Anaheim Councilman Jose F. Moreno, AUSHD Board Member Al Jabbar and AUSHD Superintendent Michael Matsuda. Magcalas paper at least reveals the true nature of the event: an anti-charter schools precinct walk organized using public resources.

Magcalas also started putting together this anti-charter school Prezi presentation in December 2015, entitled “Who’s [sic] Schools? Our Schools!: The Fight Against the Corporate Takover of Our Schools.”Jose Paolo Magcalas anti-charter school prezi AB feat

While the presentation is uncompleted, the author’s hostility toward charter school operators is very evident.

Given these board members’ stark ideological prejudices against charter schools, it is fair to ask whether the Palm Lane parents will receive a fair and open hearing by the Anaheim Elementary School District Board of Education? It seems a safe bet Ruelas and Magacalas will vote against what they view as a “corporate takeover of our schools.” Will their board colleagues join them in ideological resistance, or extend the olive branch and respect the selection of New Century Charter Schools by the Palm Lane parents – their constituents and primary educators of their children? We’ll find out on December 13.