Adelanto PC Chairwoman Hit With School Vandalism Charge

(December 17)  DELANTO—Adelanto Planning Commission Chairwoman Lori Yuan has been charged with felony vandalism stemming from a June 26 incident on the campus of Desert Trails Elementary School.
Allegedly, Yuan’s action and that of another parent of a child attending the school, Chrissy Guzman, was prompted by their dissent over the successful parent takeover of Desert Trails Elementary  by a group of parents and their out-of-community supporters using California’s controversial “Parent Trigger” Law.
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 score 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 School, which falls within  the Adelanto Elementary School District, a significant number of the students there had parents whose first language is not English. For the seven years between 2004 and 2011, Desert Trails students had the lowest scores within the district on state standardized academic tests. The school’s students have also collectively scored in the bottom 10 percent of all California elementary schools. In the school’s 2011 graduating sixth grade class 72 percent of students were not proficient with the English language and 70 percent were not proficient in math. Since 2007 Desert Trails has been classified as a failing school.
Pursuant to the Parent Empowerment Act, a parent union was formed by parents at Desert Trails Elementary in 2011, in large measure at the instigation of the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Parent Revolution, which is devoted to challenging the traditional authority of school districts.
On January 12, 2012 the parent union submitted 466 signatures on petitions asking the district to undertake a set of what the parents union maintained would be reforms at the severely underperforming school.
Those petitions, which called upon the district 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 hiring authority for the school’s faculty, reduce class sizes and increase the number of school days and instructional hours, and include more science, history and art in the curriculum, were sufficient to meet the requirements of the Parent Empowerment Act, parent union members believed. The parent union subsequently modified that agenda to request that the school be converted to a charter academy, offering an intensified curriculum.
A group of parents opposed to the parent takeover of the school formed, including Yuan and Guzman, and went to work obtaining rescissions of many of the signatures on the petitions.
In February 2012, the school district, to whom the parent trigger petitions had been entrusted, announced that it had validated the signatures of only 317 of the 466 signatures on the petitions. The Desert Trails Parent Union, represented by a law firm on retainer with Parent Revolution, Los Angeles-based Kirkland & Ellis, demanded a recount and reconsideration of that invalidation of the petition effort. After the district conducted that recount, the board, on March 28, 2012, voted unanimously to give a final rejection to the reconsideration of the parent trigger petitions, finding they fell 20 signatures short of the 321 signatures needed.
In response, Mark Holscher, an attorney with Kirkland & Ellis, filed on behalf of five of the members of the parents union – Doreen Diaz, Kathy Duncan, Teresa Rogers, Olivia Zamarripa and Bartola Del Villar – a petition for a writ of mandate and a complaint in Victorville Superior Court seeking a court order that the district verify the signatures and allow the Parent Trigger process to advance, as well as asking for the  recognition of  the educational rights of students at Desert Trails.
Judge Steve Malone, to whom the case was assigned, restored 97 of the signatures tossed out by the district, ruling that the district did not have the authority or a basis in law to discount signatures that proponents gathered and the district had abused its discretion in doing so. By his ruling Malone raised the number of qualified signatures to well above 50 percent. He ordered the Adelanto Elementary School District to accept the petition as filed by the parent union within 30 days and seek proposals from charter school operators to take over Desert Trails.
The ruling made the Desert Trails Parent Union the first group to successfully enact California’s 2010 Parent Empowerment Act, although the district did not get the reorganization in place in time to charterize the school in the 2012-13 school year.
Subsequently, LaVerne Preparatory Academy was accepted as the operator of Desert Trails, and  beginning in September has been operating the school.
Less than three months prior to that, according to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, Yuan and Guzman caused in excess of $8,000 worth of damage to a classroom at the school by spraying ketchup and mustard on the carpet and walls of the room. Both Yuan and Guzman had served as parent volunteers at the school while it was still under the control of the Adelanto School District and as such, according to the district attorney’s office, had access to several of the school’s classrooms, including the one that had been vandalized.
Yuan and Guzman were not alone in opposing the parent trigger effort. Many parents of students at Desert Trails Elementary and within the Adelanto School District as well as observers outside the district considered the drama in the Adelanto School District to be an unseemly spectacle, with agitators in the parent trigger movement seeking to exploit large numbers of parents at Desert Trail Elementary School whose own educational shortcomings, including a lack of facility in the English language, contributed to the poor academic performance of their own children.
The district discovered the vandalism on June 26 and contacted the Adelanto Police Department, which is a subdivision of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. An investigation was conducted.
It has not yet been publicly disclosed how sheriff’s department investigators came to the conclusion that Yuan and Guzman were involved or what evidence exists to support that conclusion. It is unknown, as well, whether there were other suspects considered during that investigation.
On December 2, the district attorney’s office preferred electronically filed PC 594(B)(1) charges, felony vandalism entailing damages of more than $400, against both Yuan and Guzman. The complaint seeks restitution equal to the damage done. They are scheduled for arraignment on January 13 in Victorville Superior Court Department 9.
At press time, Yuan, who serves on the planning commission at the pleasure of the Adelanto City Council, had not been removed from her appointed position.

Leave a Reply