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Orange County

Ruling on Magnet School Gets F From Parents

Education: Placentia- Yorba Linda pupils can't attend Troy High's Int'l Baccalaureate classes because of plans for a similar program locally.

June 04, 2002|JENNIFER MENA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Troy High School's recent win in the national Science Olympiad was a sweet victory for the students and their parents. But for families who can't enroll their children in the highly regarded science magnet, it was a bitter reminder that their home district, Placentia-Yorba Linda, won't let them go there.

The high school in Fullerton attracts students from four counties to its International Baccalaureate program, which offers upper-level classes in science, math and other disciplines. In fact, 72% of Troy students come from outside the Fullerton Union High School District. Until this year, several dozen usually came from neighboring Placentia-Yorba Linda School District.

Now, the Placentia-Yorba Linda district is starting a similar program at Valencia High and does not want to lose students to the neighboring district beginning next fall.

"They want his test scores; they don't want a brain drain," said Shirley Krider, whose son earned top scores on state standardized tests but won't be allowed to attend Troy.

District officials say students will receive a similar education at Valencia High's International Baccalaureate program.

"The standards, the content [of the baccalaureate programs] are the same ... worldwide," said David Verdugo, assistant principal of executive services for Placentia-Yorba Linda. "You could go to Geneva, Switzerland, and it won't be different."

While Troy "has a track record" of high-achieving students in math and science, Verdugo said Valencia is academically noteworthy as an "outstanding high school that has previously provided a very high volume of Advancement Placement courses."

Parents, who say their children already had been accepted by Troy, argue that the Valencia program is not yet in place. They note that the school has not received approval from the International Baccalaureate program, based in New York.

"The Science Olympiad is just one of those things that shows what Troy is all about," said parent Tony Quinto, whose son, Lawrence, was accepted by Troy but denied a district transfer.

Troy won the prestigious national science competition for the fourth time in eight years--and Quinto was hoping Lawrence, now in a private Catholic school, could try out for the Troy team in the coming school year.

Valencia could not prepare him for such a team because it "doesn't have the program in place yet," Quinto said.

In 2001, Troy scored 850 on the state's Academic Performance Index, a measurement of school performance based largely on standardized test scores. That was the third-highest score in Orange County. Valencia ranked 38 with a score of 635.

Verdugo said a transfer is allowed only when a student will attend a program not offered at his district. George Giokaris, deputy superintendent for Fullerton Joint Union High School District, declined Monday to comment on the Placentia-Yorba Linda policy.

Parent Raj Sivalingan argues that similar programs or not, a college diploma from Harvard is not like one from another college.

"They will not get me to send my kid to Valencia, and none of the other parents will send their kids there either," he said.

All of the parents appealed Placentia-Yorba Linda's decision to the Orange County Board of Education, but, on May 16, were turned down.

The board has reviewed a mass of transfer appeals only once before, said board president Elizabeth Parker, when districts would not allow students to attend the Orange County High School of the Arts. The board approved the transfers because the school offered a unique program in the county.

Parker said 18 of the 22 students did not attend public schools and that the families "really showed us they have no faith in the public school system anyway."

As a result, one family that has lived in the same Yorba Linda house for 23 years is planning to move to the Fullerton district

"We want our son to have the same quality of education as our daughters had," said Joyce Lovinger, whose two older children were Troy graduates.

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