By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Marlene Romero says she joined Parent Revolution after Tellez and McKinley failed to teach math to her son, Ivan, despite his need for long-overdue help.
Other parents said they had been threatened with deportation to Mexico by Compton officials if they tried to close McKinley Elementary. But at a subsequent school board meeting, the anti-Trigger/PTA parents turned tables, making the identical claim against Parent Trigger petitioners.
The accusation of potential wrongdoing on the part of Compton school officials — not Parent Revolution, as reported in the L.A. Times — prompted the California State Board of Education and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to ask Attorney General Jerry Brown to investigate. The Times fed an atmosphere of misinformation with a story titled "California Board of Education seeks probe of Compton charter campaign." It implied the probe was prompted by actions of the reformers, Parent Revolution.
State Board of Education president Ted Mitchell tells the Weekly, "The Times got it backwards."
Repeating that misinformation, the Associated Press reported nationwide that the state education board had sought "a state investigation into alleged Compton charter school petition drive misconduct."
One mother of a McKinley kindergartner, who wanted to remain anonymous because she's frightened by the attacks on Parent Trigger, spoke to L.A. Weekly about her decision to sign the petition, and to rescind it after the accusations by the PTA and others.
And then to rescind her rescission and put her signature back on the petition.
"I was a bit confused at first about the facts and what-not," she says. "I was still 50/50, but I was really interested in what the Celerity teachers have to offer technologywise, and the small student ratio."
But after a private "town meeting" between parents and McKinley administrators, this mother says the failure of school administrators to communicate any real reform plan to help her little girl made her go with Parent Revolution. The Compton school leaders "didn't have a [formal] agenda," she says. Some people she had never seen before arrived at the town meeting, claiming they were parents, and she says they "were yelling, 'Don't believe Parent Trigger' because of all these things that didn't make sense."
The mother believes some opponents are "afraid to experience a change" or have personal ties with employees of nepotism-riddled Compton Unified. "I know some people who maybe know someone — who maybe have relatives who work at the school who are afraid of losing their jobs," she says. "But the charter has a lot more to offer the students."
Outgoing state Sen. Romero calls the attacks on the Parent Trigger "the disinformation campaign." She adds, "I'm not going to cast doubt on some of the parents. I think there are some really good parents who are confused. But there's active interference by those who have an economic interest in the body count of kids."
The California Teachers Association and California State PTA have decried the "stealthy" way Parent Revolution gathered its signatures. They want organizers to notify the district before recruiting parents to sign a petition.
Sen. Romero compares that to a woman notifying her abusive boyfriend before filing a restraining order.
"You're telling the parents they have to go and stand before their batterers and tell them, 'I'm going to go file papers on you!' " she says.
Parent Revolution deputy director Gabe Rose says leaving McKinley in the hands of a district that let it remain at the academic bottom for years wouldn’t be a change at all. He says Celerity was the only charter school Parent Revolution felt could handle the challenge of children who have fallen as far behind as the students at McKinley.
PTA president Cynthia Martinez strenuously disagrees. She showed up with four parents at a Celerity-hosted forum on Dec. 17, where she argued loudly with Celerity representatives over their data, which compared McKinley’s dismal academic results to the strong results at Celerity campuses.
Celerity has three charter schools in Los Angeles. One rates a very high 9 out of 10 in the state’s “similar schools” ranking, with a 932 Academic Performance Index score — which includes the high scores of the school’s Latino and black students.
Another Celerity campus rates a 10 out of 10 among similar schools statewide. Its English-language learners alone scored 814 on the API. The third campus rates 9 out of 10, with a respectable API score of 776 for English-language learners.
McKinley Elementary, which is about 40 percent black and 60 percent Latino, rates 1 out of 10 among similar schools in California. Its Latino students earn only a 713 on the API, and its black students are struggling at 635. The school has gained 77 points overall on the API in the past two years — a statewide trend that doesn’t signify major changes at McKinley.
Romero explains that “The California Department of Education has put the district on notice” after placing McKinley on an official list of chronically failing schools. “The district has kept this quiet for two years,” she says.
California Teachers Association spokesman Frank Wells says the CTA believes many parents were not informed of all their options before being pressured to sign the petition.