The first group of parents in the nation to successfully invoke California’s Parent Trigger law has voted on a new operator to take over a failing school: LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy, a non-profit charter organization based in nearby Hesperia, will run the new school starting next August.
After 18 months and two court victories, members of the Desert Trails Parents’ Union voted overwhelmingly for LaVerne because of its success with low-income students.
Doreen Diaz, a leader of the trigger movement, said that was the deciding factor for her. As a member of the selection committee, Diaz said she and a handful of others spent a day at the charter school and emerged impressed. “I looked in the classrooms and I liked what I saw. I liked that the teachers keep the children engaged,” she said, adding that the children also appeared enthusiastic about being in school. “That’s what did if for me and why we recommended them.”
Desert Trails has some of the lowest standardized test scores in the state – its most recent Academic Performance Index rating is 699 on a scale of 1000. LaVerne recently ranked more than 200 points higher than that.
The next step for the Parents’ Union is to take its proposal to the Adelanto Unified School board. So far that board has opposed the conversion and managed to stall the charter transition by a year.
Teachers at Desert Trails aren’t happy either. Although it remains unclear, it’s likely the entire staff will have to reapply for their jobs once La Verne takes over the school.
The principal at the school, David Mobley, thinks the fight is far from over. Mobley said the board could argue that the low turnout for the vote indicates most parents are against a charter. Only 53 parents of an eligible 180 cast ballots.
“The low turnout for the vote maybe is a signal that maybe parents are as a whole turning around that the school is working hard for the students,” he said.
If the board rejects the La Verne plan, Diaz said his school and its parents will appeal to the San Bernardino County Board of Education.