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Local Board Rejects 'Parent Trigger' Petition at California School

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UPDATED

A parent-trigger campaign in Anaheim, Calif., ran into its first roadblock Thursday.

The Anaheim City School District Board of Education found that the petition submitted by a group of Palm Lane Elementary School parents failed to collect enough valid signatures to enact the state's the state's so-called "parent trigger" law.

According to a story in the Orange County Register, the district verified 48 percent of the petition signatures, but about 130 of the Palm Lane Elementary parents' signatures were determined to be invalid or unverified. (Some parents signed the petition twice or two parents of one student signed the petition, for example.) California's Parent Empowerment Act allows the parents of a chronically underperforming school to force school districts to adopt sweeping changes, which can range from replacing the principal to turning the school into a charter. 

Alfonso Flores, an organizer assisting Palm Lane parents, told me that the group has two months to verify the signatures of fewer than 10 parents in order to meet the law's threshold of 50 percent plus one. He said parents advocating to transform the school are confident they can correct the petition's alleged errors. 

Almost 70 percent of Palm Lane parents had signed the petition when it was submitted Jan. 14. However, Flores said, the number of students enrolled on the day the petition was submitted is currently in dispute, which would change the number of parent signatures needed to pull the parent-trigger.

Flores, who is chief executive officer of the Hesperia, Calif.-based consulting firm Excellent Educational Solutions, said that district officials did not seek the lead petitioners' assistance in verifying any of the signatures, which is usually customary. Instead, during a presentation to the board, Flores said district officials indicated that they could not locate some parents whose signatures they could not verify. UPDATE: (Feb. 21) According to the board presentation, the lead petitioners were not identified when the petition was submitted. However, Flores said petition organizers made several attempts to reach district officials prior to the board meeting. 

Bob Gardner, president of the Anaheim City School Board, said district officials are trying to ensure that the petitioners meet the parent-trigger law's requirements. Whether or not the parent-trigger campaign is successful, he said Palm Lane's principal and district officials are working to respond to parents' concerns about the school. 

"I don't know if negotiation is still possible," Gardner told me. "I don't want to give false hope but I don't want to rule that possibility out."

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