Tuesday, February 12, 2013


By Beau Yarbrough - San Bernardino County Sun | http://bit.ly/14R74QT

2/12/2013 01:50:24 PM PST  ::  LOS ANGELES - A group of parents got the unanimous thumbs-up for taking over their failing school.

The 24th Street Elementary School Parent Union is the third group to use California's parent trigger law, which allows groups that collect enough petitions to force dramatic changes on public schools. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Unified school board unanimously approved the petitioners' request to enact the "restart model" portion of the 2010 law. The decision cleared the way for parents to bring in a charter school operator to run the school starting with the next school year.

Outside LAUSD headquarters, a couple dozen blue T-shirted moms and dads of 24th Street Elementary students cheered the board's approval.

"We hope we get excellent proposals, that will give us strong and effective leaders, clean schools and a culture of high expectations," said Christina Sanchez, organizing director for Parent Revolution, the LA-based advocacy group that helped pass the parent trigger law.

"Today, I'm feeling very proud that we are getting" action, 24th Street Parent Union lead organizer Amibilia Villeda said through a translator at an earlier press conference. "Maybe the young children that are here will have a better future."

The group has received eight letters of interest from groups wanting a chance to reform the school. Six are from established charter schools, one is from a retired 24th Street teacher and one is from L.A. Unified itself. Full proposals from the

eight suitors are due March 8, and the 24th Street Elementary School Parent Union is expected to choose a proposal by the end of March.

"I shouldn't have to bus my kids out to the (San Fernando) Valley and find a school out there just to find a better education," mother Sharmaine Watson said.

Located southwest of downtown Los Angeles in the West Adams District, 24th Street Elementary received a 667 Academic Performance Index score in 2012, up 6 points from the year before. The score, derived from multiple statewide tests, ranges from 200 to 1,000, with 800 as the target number for schools statewide. Every one of the 357 students whose test scores were used to create the 2012 API ranking are socioeconomically disadvantaged, according to the California Department of Education. Almost 200 of them don't speak English as their native language. Despite being an elementary school, it has the second-highest suspension rate in the school district, according to officials at Parent Revolution.

"24th Street Elementary has failed these students for a generation," Parent Revolution executive director Ben Austin said at the earlier press conference.

Before the meeting, the parent group got a vote of support from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who spoke in favor of the petitioners' efforts at a press conference at a park just down the street from 24th Street Elementary.

"The parent trigger has given parents the opportunity to say 'I want to have a voice for what's best for my child,'" he said. "Too many of our schools are failing our kids. When parents come together like this, that's a beautiful thing."

With the vote by the LAUSD school board, the 2013-2014 school year could see two parent trigger schools opening their doors for the first time: Desert Trails Elementary School in the High Desert city of Adelanto will be reopened in August by the operator of a Hesperia charter school.

"I expect this board to vote in favor of this petition," Villaraigosa said. "Because it's right. And because it's time."

Staff Writer Barbara Jones contributed to this story.

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