Parent Trigger Effort In Adelanto Results In Teacher Layoff Rescissions

ADELANTO—In an ironic twist, the “Parent Trigger” effort at Desert Trails Elementary School achieved precisely the opposite end that its participants intended.
The Parent Empowerment Act, authored by former state senator Gloria Romero and passed by the legislature in 2010, enables a majority of parents at a school at which students test out as low-performers on state academic tests to force a district to implement significant reforms, ranging from replacing the principal and up to half the staff to reopening the school as a charter academy. That process is known by the colloquialism “parent trigger.”
At Desert Trails Elementary,   where pupils there have consistently scored among the bottom 10 percent of students statewide in California’s standardized testing program for the last eight years, a group of parents which was egged-on by a group committed to greater parental control of the public education system, Los Angeles-based nonprofit Parent Revolution, formed a parents union and sought to invoke the parent trigger. Their stated goal was to  sack the school’s principal, David Mobley, and surrender to the school’s parents authority in hiring his successor, infuse in the new principal firing and hiring authority for the school’s faculty, get rid of several inexperienced teachers, reduce class sizes and increase the number of school days and instructional hours, and include more science, history and art in the curriculum.
Though the parent union gathered 466 signatures, which it claimed was more than enough signatures to advance its petition, district officials reviewing those petition forms threw out 165 of those signatures for technical reasons or on the basis of rescissions anti-parent trigger activists gathered from some of the signers. Thus, the district is claiming, the parent union fell 20 signatures short of the 331 required to force the school takeover.
As fate would have it, the dire financial circumstance facing the entire state and the school district seemed on track to accomplish at least part of what the parent trigger advocates were calling for, with the district having provided preliminary notification to 18 of the teachers in the district with the least seniority, including four at Desert Trails Elementary, that they were going to be laid off with the commencement of the 2012-13 school year.
The Desert Trail Elementary parent union, with the backing of Parent Revolution and its legal representative, the Los Angeles-based law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, contested the district’s action in disqualifying the petition, filing suit in Victorville Superior Court on behalf of five of the parents in the parent union on April 6. Meanwhile, an administrative law judge, Coren D. Wong, was enlisted to see if some compromise could be mediated between the district and the parent union.
Amid the parent union pushing for a radical makeover of the school and greater control of academic operations and the district seeking maintenance of the status quo, Wong on May 4 ruled the district, despite the pending legal action, had grounds to proceed as usual and layoff district personnel as the district’s administrators and board deemed fit.
But the school board, concerned that enforcing teacher layoffs that would increase class size at Desert Trail Elementary would feed the charge that the district is not being diligent about achieving educational goals at the school, at a specially called meeting on May 9 rescinded the layoff notices.
The school board in March voted to issue the preliminary notices because such notification is required under state law by March 15 in advance of terminating teachers’ employment with the onset of the next academic year. Had the parent trigger application succeeded, the district could have seen its funding by the state cut in proportion to the 660 students enrolled at Desert Trails.
This morning, at 8:30, a hearing on the Parent Desert Trails Elementary Parent Union’s pending petition for the takeover of the school is to be heard in Victorville Superior Court.

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