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Education

Why Compton Unified Rejected the Parent Trigger (and Why It's in No Position To Do So)

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Fri, Feb 25, 2011 at 4:30 PM
click to enlarge CUSD Board President Mae Thomas - YOUTUBE
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  • CUSD Board President Mae Thomas

On Tuesday night, as reported by the Weekly, the Compton Unified School District rejected a parent petition to change McKinley Elementary into a charter school.

In this seven-page document, CUSD board members detail all the ways in which they feel the petition did not follow California law and the State Board of Education's Parent Trigger regulations.

What follows is our translation of the legal jargon littering the rejection letter, along with video of a CUSD board meeting, to help illustrate the long history of utter incompetence and resistance to reform that plagues the failing district.

WHY COMPTON UNIFIED REJECTED THE PARENT TRIGGER:

• First, district officials found that only 250 of the 275 students represented in the petition are active non-duplicates. (Parent Revolution, the organization that helped parents file the petition, has gone back over its signatures and cannot locate any of these alleged discrepancies.) In any case, 250 of the school's 445 students are enough to push the petition through.

• Next, district officials found no evidence on the signature pages (FYI: each student gets his or her own page) that parents were presented with the California Board of Education's formal description of what would happen to McKinley Elementary if they signed. Parent Revolution deputy director Gabe Rose claims a copy of this description was originally paper-clipped to each signature page -- just not included in the final petition package presented to the district. However, since board members saw no evidence of staples having been used to attach the description, they're not buying it.

Having followed the Parent Revolution troop around for a month while they gathered signatures, the Weekly stood witness while dozens of parents were informed of the type of change that would occur. But in any case, there would be no way to prove that each signer received a copy of the formal description -- or whether it was attached before or after they signed. So point is moot.

• Next, district officials found that each signature page did not contain a date and the complete heading: "Petition of Parents, Legal Guardians, and Persons Holding the Right to Make Educational Decisions for Pupils, Including Foster Parents to Implement an Intervention." Also, Education Code section 4804 was incorrectly printed as section 33031. These are minor technicalities that Parent Revolution lawyers do not believe will stand up in court.

• Next, district officials found no evidence of a "rigorous review process" of the proposed charter school by the signers. This is not possible to document. Aside from that, Celerity Educational Group, the charter school chosen by Parent Revolution organizers, hosted multiple forums and invited parents to come check out the campus. Celerity has no affiliation to any of the organizers, and was chosen after a rigorous review.

• Finally, district officials found they couldn't verify 55 parents because there either weren't previous signatures on file to compare the new ones to, or the signatures didn't look like the ones they did have on file. Eight more signatures allegedly didn't belong to the students' true guardians, and 18 student birthdays didn't match up. All of these findings should have been followed up by calling the phone numbers provided on the signature pages. Compton's records could easily be out-of-date or haphazard, especially since so many parents aren't legal citizens.

The only legitimate argument is that 10 parents rescinded their signatures. (Remember when the Times reported there were over 50?) But that isn't enough to reject the petition.

Anyway, Parent Revolution just put together the following video, which -- forgiving the atrociously spaced narrative font -- is a damn accurate depiction of a CUSD board meeting. And so, we give you...

WHY IT'S IN NO POSITION TO DO SO:

Parent Revolution and the Compton Unified School District go to court on March 22.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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