Meeting District Needs

Third California ‘Parent Trigger’ Petition Submitted

By Michele Molnar — May 14, 2013 3 min read

UPDATED

For the third time since California’s “parent trigger” law passed, parents have filed a petition for the transformation of a California elementary school, with parents this time demanding that the school’s administrators be removed.

The petition was filed Monday in Los Angeles by the Weigand Parents Union, which has received support from Parent Revolution, the organization that pushed for passage of the first parent trigger law in 2010 in California. Weigand Avenue Elementary School is a low-performing school in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles.

This particular petition does not involve a search for a charter operator to replace the existing structure. Instead, it favors keeping Weigand’s teaching staff in place and replacing leadership at the low-performing school. As Llury Garcia told The Sun, a newspaper in San Bernardino, “We support our teachers.”

Yesterday, the petition from Weigand parents—61 percent of whom signed it—received approval from the Los Angeles Unified School District Board. The vote was 5-2 to approve the petition. On April 16, the board ratified a partnership between the district and Crown Preparatory Academy to operate 24th Street Elementary School after parents there petitioned for a change at that school.

Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, California was the first in the country to have officially approved any aspect of implementing a parent-trigger law, which allow schools to be restructured through a majority vote of parents. There, the parents ultimately embraced a non-profit charter school to turn around their failing school. At 24th Street Elementary, the parents selected an unprecedented partnership between the Los Angeles school district and a high-performing non-profit charter school. Weigand is the first pure in-district reform.

David Phelps, national communications director for Parent Revolution, said parents at Weigand are asking for “the least disruptive” of all the options under the parent-trigger law. “It allows the teachers and parents and a new principal to work together on a school improvement plan,” he said.

Asked whether Parent Revolution anticipates any more activity this school year in California, Phelps said no more parent-trigger petitions are in the pipeline.

“We are doing our process where we look at schools that would be eligible for a parent trigger—not only in LA and Greater Los Angeles, but in California. We’ll review those and decide whether we want to make an approach to parents in those schools,” he said. “Generally, if we’re going to make an approach, it would be because we’re aware that parents have tried previously to make changes and have not been successful. There may be ways we can support that,” he said.

“At the same time, given the attendant publicity around Desert Trails and then 24th Street and now Weigand, we are receiving a lot of proactive requests from parents to see if we could work with them and assist them. We have to look at those carefully, to determine whether there are parents on the ground in the community who are willing to form a parent chapter, take leadership roles and really follow this through,” Phelps said.

The parent-trigger law has been criticized by opponents as a way for private charter-school operators to establish a foothold where local schools traditionally operated. Ben Austin, founder of Parent Revolution, is quoted in The Sun as saying: “If you’re against what the Weigand Avenue Elementary parents are doing, you’re against parent power.”

All three elementary schools will open as newly transformed schools this fall.

Note: This post was updated with the news that the Los Angeles Unified School Board approved the petition last night.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.

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