When the Bear Valley Unified School District board of trustees voted unanimously in April 2000 to close down Glen Martin Elementary School, Superintendent Ronald Peavy told the Los Angeles Times, “I believe in my heart that we are making the appropriate decision.”
But parents of the school’s then-24 pupils believed differently. Abandoning the one-room school, nestled in the Southern California mountain-resort community of Angelus Oaks, would have meant busing children down the hill to an elementary school in Redlands. Angelus Oaks’ high schoolers already made the grueling, hourlong commute down the steep, winding road before sunrise, but parents felt that the trip would be too great a burden for their younger children. So they formed the Angelus Oaks Education Committee and set out on a quest for funding.
When district officials wanted to shut down this mountain community's elementary school, parents fought back and won.
Spearheaded by Corina and Mark Jurovich, a couple who had a daughter at the elementary school, and faced with a closure notice of only two weeks, the committee sprung into action. Members held a series of meetings with Peavy at which the group presented him with a challenge: Match with district money what they could raise on their own, and they would hire a lobbyist to pursue legislation to bail out Glen Martin. Three days later, the committee had raised $5,000, and the district followed through with the matching aid.
The bill passed both chambers of the state legislature, but was vetoed by the governor. By that time, though, the committee had the full attention of the Bear Valley board of trustees.
The pivotal moment in the campaign to save Glen Martin Elementary occurred at a meeting when the final school board vote was to be taken to close the school. During public-comment time, Mark Jurovich reiterated his group’s commitment to the school and explained that members were willing to do whatever it took to keep it open, including pursuing charter school status. Board members voted to delay the closing.
“We fully expected that that night they were going to close the school,” says Corina Jurovich. “We actually had tears in our eyes.”
The first battle had been won. Next, the committee set about filing the charter proposal—with the signatures of the district’s board of trustees. Approval and a $35,000 grant from the state were not long in coming. Because the charter emphasized technology, a majority of the money was used to buy laptop computers, educational software, and computer furniture. And a whole new technology-focused curriculum was adopted. In the end, the school even showed a $7,000 surplus, which was given back to the state.
When the committee proved to the district board that it could run Glen Martin Elementary without a deficit and that test scores were on the rise, the board decided to continue the school’s funding. The charter plan was put on hold. And members of the Angelus Oaks Education Committee breathed sighs of relief.
Superintendent Peavy acknowledges that the commitment from the community and parents helped sway him and the school board to a change of heart. “It was a very positive experience.”