School Choice & Charters

School Board in ‘Parent Trigger’ Fight Could Face Shakeup

By Sean Cavanagh — November 16, 2012 2 min read
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A potentially important postscript to the 2012 election is taking shape in Adelanto, Calif., home to a fierce battle over attempts to overhaul a struggling school through a “parent trigger” policy.

The Adelanto district’s school board president, Carlos Mendoza, who had strongly opposed a group of parents’ effort to use California’s trigger law to convert Desert Trails Elementary School to a charter school, is on the verge of being ousted from his seat, according to the most up-to-date results from the Nov. 6 election.

Another incumbent board member in the 8,000-student district, Holly Eckes, would also lose her seat, if the current vote totals hold up. In a race in which the top two finishers win election, Mendoza and Eckes lag behind challengers Teresa Rogers and Elaine M. Gonzales—with Mendoza trailing Gonzales by a mere 24 votes, 2,831 to 2,807. In a separate board race, another incumbent, Jermaine Wright, has a wide lead over his opponents.

None of the vote counts are final yet, and so the results are not official, notes Felisa Cardona of the San Bernardino County Elections Office. But Rogers is a member of the Desert Trails Parent Union, the group attempting to use the parent trigger to overhaul the elementary school, and as such, her as-yet-unofficial victory is being greeted as cause for celebration by Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles organization that has helped guide the Desert Trails parent-trigger plans. Parent Revolution called the results “a great night for kids and parents.”

“Voters affirmed the courageous vision of Teresa and the Desert Trails Parent Union, backing with substantial margins her campaign to join the Adelanto School Board and change its direction,” Parent Revolution said in a statement.

For those new to the concept, parent trigger laws allow schools to be restructured if a majority of parents sign petitions agreeing to take that step.

Mendoza has been one of the most steadfast opponents of the Desert Trails parent union’s efforts. He’s accused the parent union of villainizing school district officials who have raised legitimate questions about their plans for a new school, and has argued that the parents have duped the public and media about the nature of their plans.

Neither he nor Eckes have responded to requests for comment about the school board election.

Whatever the composition of the Adelanto board, the parent union members say they now have a firm plan to make changes at the school. They have selected a charter operator, LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy, which is based in a nearby community and will be expected to help the parents bring about a restructured Desert Trails in the fall of 2013.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.