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Adelanto parents lose charter school bid

August 17, 2012 | 10:58 pm

A historic bid by Mojave Desert parents to convert their failing school into a charter campus under the state’s parent trigger law was turned aside Friday by school board officials.

Board members for the Adelanto Elementary School District voted 3-1 to accept the parents’ petition for an overhaul at Desert Trails Elementary School, where more than three-fourths of sixth-graders fail to read and do math at grade level. But they rejected the parents’ preferred choice for change, a charter campus, after concluding there was insufficient time to start one up for the current school year.

The board voted to reform the school instead by forming a community advisory council to oversee such improvements as an extended school day, new curriculum, more technology, school progress reports and a school site coach. Teachers will be asked to pledge support for the reforms in commitment letters; those who choose not to sign may move to another school. The council, which will be composed of teachers, administrators, parents and community members, will report directly to the school superintendent and school board,  board President Carlos Mendoza said.

 Mendoza said the action represented the final resolution of a year-long, bitterly contested campaign over the school. Using the state’s pioneering parent trigger law, Desert Trails parents had collected signatures representing more than half the students, asking for a charter school. But more than 90 parents subsequently rescinded their signatures, saying they were misled or confused when they signed. The district threw the signatures out, causing support to drop below the required 50% threshold and rejected the petition.

Parents, in turn, sued the district and board over that action. Last month, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Steve Malone sided with parents and said the parent trigger law does not allow recisions, ordered the district to accept the petition and gave parents the go-ahead to start soliciting charter school proposals. The parents, aided by the  nonprofit Parent Revolution educational advocacy group, have invited three charter operators to submit full proposals.

Mendoza said the board has now complied with Malone’s order to accept the petition. But he said the parent trigger law gives officials the right to reject school overhaul proposals they cannot implement. The district will move forward with the advisory council reform plan for Desert Trails, he said.

“It’s done. It’s over,” Mendoza said of the parent trigger process. “Everybody wants progress for the kids, and the sooner, the better.”

But Gabe Rose of Parent Revolution blasted the board action as a direct violation of Malone’s order and said the group would consult with attorneys about further legal action.

“It’s incredible,” he said. “They are continuing to waste money that should be going to kids on legal bills.”


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--Teresa Watanabe