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Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Parent Trigger" Law Bodes Ill For Emery Schools

Emeryville Schools To Be Turned Into A Charter School?

In the ongoing Republican war on teachers and hijacking of the public commons, the California Board of Education has laid down the gauntlet: It must be made easier to fast track the charter school phenomenon at the expense of traditional public schools.  Although charter schools have shown no aggregate improvement in academic achievement over traditional public schools but has been shown to decimate the teaching profession; it seems those hostile to the teacher's union will get their union stripping agenda imposed on the entire State.
It's about privatization of the commons and power; do we grant it to those actually in the trenches doing the real work of teaching our children; the teachers?  Or is the power to be shifted to outside private political ideologues with profiteering in mind?  Of course this question is hidden with a phony narrative (as are most Republican agendas): parental empowerment.
Is there a private corporation somewhere, licking its chops, headed to Emeryville?

Please read the re-print from the Los Angeles Times:

Regulations approved for schools' 'Parent Trigger' law

The state Board of Education sets rules to clarify the law that gives parents the right to petition for new staff, management and programs.

July 14, 2011|By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times
After months of controversy, the state Board of Education set out a clear road map Wednesday to allow parents unparalleled rights to force major changes at low-performing schools.
The board approved regulations clarifying the "Parent Trigger" law — the first in the nation to give parents the right to petition for new staff, management and programs at their children's schools. Organizations representing parents, teachers, school districts and other parties overcame sharp differences to reach consensus on such contentious issues as how to draw up petitions, verify parent signatures and ensure public disclosure about the petition process.
Disagreement over those issues exploded last year in the law's first test case at McKinley Elementary School in Compton. There, parents sought to oust the school staff and convert the campus into an independently run, publicly financed charter operation. The petition campaign divided the campus, sparked lawsuits and fueled charges of harassment on both sides.
Controversies also inflamed efforts to draw up regulations at the state board, with various charges that board members were trying to ram through rules favoring charter schools, teachers or other interests.
So when the board unanimously voted to approve the regulations Wednesday, the room exploded in cheers and applause.
"It's like a dream come true to know that I have a voice in my community as well as my state, and my children will have a better future because parents like these took a stand for their children," said Daniel Jackson, a Los Angeles parent who took an overnight bus to Sacramento with other advocates to support the regulations.
Gabe Rose of Parent Revolution, the Los Angeles-based education reform group that helped lobby for the law, said the regulations will allow parents to move forward with confidence and organize petition campaigns across the state. He said six to eight parent empowerment groups have formally filed papers to affiliate with his organization.
Even the California Teachers Assn., which opposed the law last year, supported the regulations, and board member Patricia Rucker, a former CTA lobbyist, voted for them.
But CTA spokeswoman Sandra Jackson said the union believes that parent trigger petitions calling for a charter school conversion must obtain support from half of the school's teachers, as is currently required under existing charter school law.
Board President Michael Kirst, however, appeared to reject that view in comments Wednesday.
"It's called the parent empowerment act, not the teacher empowerment act, for a reason," he said.
If no issues are raised during a public comment period, the regulations will take effect with no further board action.
The regulations require the state to create a website with information about the petition process, including a sample petition so organizers will not inadvertently make errors in drawing it up, as occurred in Compton.
They also require the public disclosure of organizations providing financial or other support to petitioners. In addition, the regulations ban payment per signature and require disclosure of those who are paid to gather signatures.
And, school districts will be required to verify signatures through written documents already on hand, such as emergency contact cards. That issue sparked a lawsuit in Compton when officials required people who had signed the petition to come in person with photo identification.
Not all contentious issues were addressed. The regulations do not require public meetings at the schools, nor specify which parents can trigger change with a successful petition. The law allows parents of half the students at the targeted school or those campuses that feed into them to force school districts to convert to a charter campus, replace staff, transform the curriculum or close the school. But the California School Boards Assn. and other advocates argue that the majority of petitioners should be from the targeted school.

The public meeting and petitioner issues are being addressed in legislation by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), who heads the Assembly education committee.
Despite such continuing concerns, Sherry Griffith, the school board organization's legislative advocate, hailed the consensus.
"When you decide to roll up your sleeves and decide to work together, you can get pretty far," she said.
And Lydia Grant, a San Fernando Valley parent who also rode the bus to Sacramento, said the regulations would give children in failing schools a new start.
"Every parent like myself has had the door slammed in their face when they have tried to improve the education of their child," she said. "This legislation finally gives us that army behind us to stand up and demand that our children get a better life."
Los Angeles Times staff writer Michael Mishak contributed to this report.


  1. Chartering Emeryville schools would be the best thing to happen to the schools. We've got to release the strangle hold these teachers have on the schools. The teachers union don't care about educating the children, they only care about money. Free the schools from the teachers union and watch how good the kids learn.

  2. I strongly disagree with the preceding comment. I think enough of the Emeryville school system to entrust all three of my children to it. I'm not someone who talks about understanding the problems parents face in Emeryville, then ships his kids off to private school, as was done by a former council member.

    Also I think it is wrong to demonize unions. It seems to me that only unions and plaintiffs' attorneys have really fought for employee rights. Whatever employee protection legislation has been passed over the years at federal and state levels came about as a result either of direct union pressure, or to fend union organizing. Anyone want to turn the clock back to the onset of the age of industrialization in England?

    Also see this article in the NY Times which says nice things about Emeryville's achievements:

  3. Creating a charter school is not the only option used when applying the "parent trigger". The option of removing staff and being more hands on in the education process of the district is what Emeryville needs. We as parents and members of the community need to have a more critical view of what is happening to a district that is too small to have such an unsuccessful rate of students. It is time to stop be blinded by so called community life buildings , ipads, fancy trips. The time is now to create an substantial education for our children and to raise standards. Cut the bureaucratic tape already, its not needed for this district.

  4. If we could create a "teacher-centric" as opposed to "administrator-centric" approach I would be all for that. BTW why does Anna Yates work better than Secondary?

  5. Mr Webber, I hope you are not going to start demonizing former or present council persons on their independent choices for their families--hands off. It's unclear what your platform is, but I hope it is constructive and not destructive.

    The Article:
    Education is not about test scores nor is it about filling the child full of facts and asking them to spout back that information. How did we get to the point of test-score frenzy as a way to measure learning? (Look to the private text and test-score companies for that.) Children are born driven to learn, they explore, discover and make sense of their worlds, and yet we do not support children's interests and ways of learning.
    Blaming teachers and unions for what ails schools is missing the point. If you have a teacher that should not be in the profession, a good administrator working with the union can solve that problem. Demonizing public institutions and public workers is the worst of all solutions to the problems of infrastructure in this country. In order for a country to succeed, the citizens and corporations must invest in a sound structure that supports all of its citizens. We all have a role to play.
    The article published is of concern to me as it is yet another tool to chip away at public institutions of which we all need. I do not see many charter schools working with children who have special needs, particularly social and emotional needs. Do we really want the public schools to become the dumping ground for children who are not compliant or need more supports? MS

  6. I just think if someone is going to portray themselves on campaign materials as a family guy with wife and kids, implying a greater connection to the community, that candidate should send their own kids to the public schools, otherwise there is a disconnect.

    For those of you who don't follow Emeryville politics, the person I mentioned (but not by name, so I don't consider this "demonizing"), is not an incumbent or a new candidate. Also, just to be clear, the only other current candidate with children definitely sends her kids to school here.

    On most issues, you don't want a candidate to be too vested personally - for example, I don't think a developer would be the kind of candidate we would want in Emeryville.

    But when it comes to school issues and a commitment to work for the best possible education in Emeryville, I think you definitely want any candidate with children to make the commitment that his or her own kids go to school here, and I make that commitment.

    With respect to your comments on the article, I agree with you on all your points.

  7. Actually Mr. Webber, I do not believe there are any current Council members with children attending Emery Unified.

  8. Has any past or present Council members ever had children in Emeryville public schools?

  9. Webber, you sound like Nora's sock puppet, babbling about John Fricke. Afraid to name him? What a sniveling worm you are, just shameful. Did Dick Kassis tell you to say that? John Gooding? Can the faux-populism and put it on the shelf. We all know your record at the H.O.A. just shameful.

  10. I agree with commenter 9/11 10:10. Something is fishy about this Webber guy. I don't know exactly what it is, but something is awry.

    Maybe it's that he comments on every single post here and on the Secret News, yet he doesn't seem to have any clue about how any city is run. He recently posted a comment on the Secret News where he admitted to not knowing that city budgets are prepared each fiscal year rather than each calendar year. You don't have to be paying very close attention to know that. I learned that in high school civics. It sounds like Mr. Webber has never seen a municipal budget. If you are purporting to be well-informed enough to hold office, that is basic information that you should know. It’s not rocket science; it’s called informed governing, and it doesn’t look like we’ll get it from Mr. Webber.

  11. what i find interesting is that until he filed papers to run for city council, mr. webber never signed his name to comments in the tattler or the secret news. could it be that he didn't have any opinion on articles previously? and it now seems that he is using both blogs as a platform for his campaign.

  12. Kind of like the 10 months leading up to the 2005 election when Ed Treuting would show up 20 minutes early for each council meeting to plop himself down in the council chamber in the one seat that's ALWAYS in the camera frame whenever anyone speaks at the podium. Of course, after he lost the election, **Poof** he vanished. I guess Bob Canter gave him permission to sit there.

  13. LOL at Ed Treuting. He wasn't very photogenic compared to John Fricke! But I wish he'd won, he would still be serving today and the council wouldn't be so dysfunctional.

    I promise you if I win the election I will continue to clutter the comments on articles I find of interest. :-)

  14. Emeryville schools cannot change due to the unions. Why does Emeryville have to have such a large school system that seems to be educating mainly Oakland residents? Why does the Emeryville property tax payer have to pay for this massive 100 million dollar bond for the new schools? I think when it comes down to it, all we are doing is just supporting status quo. Another thought is, what private schools are unionised?

  15. @ Shirley Enomoto -

    The Tattler and Secret News are the only "newspapers" serving Emeryville. Since many of the articles and comments on both are incendiary and/or mean spirited, I tended to avoid them in the past (I have never posted anonymously on either site). But they have served as guilty reading from time to time because they do ferret out "the other side of the story."

    Now that I am running for office I have to roll up my sleeves and do the dirty work. And it does get dirty at time - both what I am discovering under the rocks at City Hall and elsewhere in the City, and what I discover here not only from the articles but from the truly thoughtful comments.

    At least the viewpoints here aren't limited to a single side of an issue. We seem to have posters from both the "unions can do no wrong" and "unions can do no good" sides. What is most helpful to me, as an aspiring public servant, is the WHY, not just the anger, and the proposed solution(s). Someone once told me that the difference between heaven and hell isn't actually so much in the basic principles - both provide lodging for the afterlife - but in the execution of the details - heaven is administered and governed by angels, hell by devils. In Emeryville, the execution of the details is definitely fraying. One business owner told me that 10 years ago Emeryville had the most professional staff, at city hall, in the Bay Area, and the Council spoke with one voice, backing up staff. Now staff has deteriorated, and Council fights among themselves.

    What's most helpful to me, in terms of the "heat" in this particular "kitchen," is starting a meaningful dialog, not beating a fixed and inflexible position to death or engaging in personal insults. At the end of the day, if we don't build community in Emeryville, we are going to be in very bad shape. Not literally at the end of a single day, but I AM very worried about what Emeryville will look like, and what its core values will be, five years from now if we don't start changing our direction and policies with this upcoming election.


  17. I believe many private schools have teacher’s unions and some of them have a teacher representative on the governing board. One school, Maybeck High, is run by a teacher cooperative. Interestingly, this school is markedly less expensive than all but catholic schools, and it has a reputation for accommodating unconventional kids.

    One thing that all private schools have in common is that their students and parents have options. If the school doesn’t serve their needs, they can go elsewhere. That is not the case for most public school parents.

    I know the former Council member had very good family reasons to send his kids to that particular private school. He was not being hypocritical. He doing the best for his kids. And I assume Mr. Weber is sending his kids to Emeryville schools because he believes that is the best for them, not because it is politically correct.

    Instead of criticizing or trying to limit the choices of individual parents, why don’t we work toward expanding the choices of all parents? The Charter movement might be a step in the right direction, but it is very limited. If we change the Everyville schools to a Charter school, most parents will still have one choice: the Charter school, take it or leave it.

  18. For the poster who decried the use of standardized testing -

    "In Dr. Perrone’s view, which he disseminated for 40 years as a professor of education, first at the University of North Dakota and later at Harvard, the excessive use of such tests warped the education process, inhibited children’s natural interest in learning, caused teachers stress and prevented them from carrying out their real jobs: instilling in children a love of learning and teaching them the principles of citizenship in a democracy."

  19. My children are in Emeryville public schools because I don't believe in elitist education, and I am particularly appalled by "white flight" which has greatly dampened our ability to make integration a positive force in society. School integration was never meant to punish white parents. It was intended to overcome one of the main seeds of racism in this country, the deliberate separation of races which prevented children - where it all starts - from getting to know each other and learning to accept each other. By removing their children to private schools, the process of developing a society based on knowing and respecting each other was greatly hindered.

    Terms like "politically correct" make a light joke of some of these important issues. I am probably NOT doing the best for my kids in the conventional sense. But I do not believe the conventional sense - overtesting and overstressing children, moving to the suburbs to get away from "urban decay" and other problems (mainly, all those non-whites in school!) - is right or decent.

    I want my children to grow up to be good neighbors, to accept other people, to have a work ethic, to question authority and to be a part of change not a bystander. To be proud of whatever work they do, and not to be elitist.

    My stepdaughter wanted to tour Albany High Shool to see what the alternative was. When we came back, we both had the same reaction. What a bunch of snobs. I'll take Anna Yates and Emery Secondary over that anyday. We can roll up our sleeves and build a good school and good community here in Emeryville.

    If I am elected to City Council, I will work very hard for you. For my children.

    P.S. - Josh Simon has not returned my email to him. Also I DO note security issues at Anna Yates.

  20. To return more directly to theories of education - please take a look at this article on the role of character development, rather than test-taking skills, as the key to success in life:

    The article compiles this list of character traits that are identified for success in school and life:

    "The list included some we think of as traditional noble traits, like bravery, citizenship, fairness, wisdom and integrity; others that veer into the emotional realm, like love, humor, zest and appreciation of beauty; and still others that are more concerned with day-to-day human interactions: social intelligence (the ability to recognize interpersonal dynamics and adapt quickly to different social situations), kindness, self-regulation, gratitude."

    The school that applied the philosophy of character development as an adjunct to pure scholarship was an "inner city" school and placed many more students in college than traditional schools. However, the subsequent drop out rate was higher than they liked (although comparable to or better than "normal" schools). So they examined what enabled the student who stuck it out to succeed:

    "As Levin watched the progress of those KIPP alumni, he noticed something curious: the students who persisted in college were not necessarily the ones who had excelled academically at KIPP; they were the ones with exceptional character strengths, like optimism and persistence and social intelligence. They were the ones who were able to recover from a bad grade and resolve to do better next time; to bounce back from a fight with their parents; to resist the urge to go out to the movies and stay home and study instead; to persuade professors to give them extra help after class."

    WHAT IS ESPECIALLY INTERESTING in the article is that two schools - one rich and elite, one urban and gritty - both implemented the character development skills program at about the same time. Which school did better? You need to read the article for the surprising insights and challenges it sets out.

    There are some awfully innovative educational ideas out there, ready to be implemented in Emeryville, and I would like OUR schools to review and consider some of these "new outlook" ideas. Emeryville isn't going to turn into Albany, nor would we want it to, and Emeryville isn't going to sprout families and support our schools without "borrowing" some motivated students from Oakland, I don't see that as a problem, I see it as an opportunity.

    I think we need to look to the future creatively. I am excited about what we can all do together. There is no need to send our children elsewhere. our schools are the doorway to our future.

  21. To Mr. Weber: The term "elite" sometimes means "achieving the very highest standards of knowledge, skill, and performance" such as an "elite chess player", or it can mean "a high position held as a matter of inheritance or right", such as "the elite of British society." I want my kids to go to an elite school in the former sense, not the latter, bad, sense. Albany High is certainly not anything like an elite school in either sense of the word. The Ivy League Colleges used to be elite in the bad sense of the word, now they are elite in the good sense, and all of them compete like crazy to attract elite minority students to their campuses, and pay them to attend. If the Emeryville schools can produce "A" students whose SAT scores are above 700 in each category, and who perform at a high level in advanced placement courses, and who have something else going for them outside the classroom (community service, or athletics, or leadership, or music and arts), these kids can go on to the best colleges, and they will be the elite will be running this country. If you can produce that result here in Emeryville, I will support you no matter what schools you decide to send your kids to.

  22. We need to make sure the schools attract or recruit the best teachers and cultivate a good relationship with the union so any bad hires don't become permanent fixtures if they can't or won't improve.

  23. To Mr. Weber:

    A very worthwhile article. Thanks for the citation:

    One of the schools mentioned is elite in both senses of the word. The KIPP school is an inner city school that appears to be elite in the sense of high performing. I believe there is a KIPP school in Oakland. If Emeryville does eventually go the charter route, we should definitely look into having KIPP run it.

  24. Here is another interesting article, although it is purely anecdotal: