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Parents choose L.A. Unified-charter partnership to run school

Eighty percent of those eligible voted for the district collaboration with Crown Preparatory Academy to operate the low-performing 24th Street Elementary School.

April 10, 2013|By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
  • Under a white tent, parent Edith Medrano, with 3-year-old daughter Graidy, votes on who will operate 24th Street Elementary School. Parents chose a collaboration between L.A. Unified and a charter operator.
Under a white tent, parent Edith Medrano, with 3-year-old daughter Graidy,… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

Parents at 24th Street Elementary School have overwhelmingly chosen a partnership between the Los Angeles Unified School District and a charter operator to run the persistently low-performing Jefferson Park campus.

Among those eligible to cast ballots, 80% chose a district collaboration with Crown Preparatory Academy, which already runs a middle school out of surplus classrooms on the campus.

Next fall, the district will manage kindergarten through fourth grade and the charter will handle students in grades five through eight.

"This is a very big day for parents," said Amabilia Villeda, a parent organizer, speaking in Spanish to parents gathered Wednesday at a local park. "I want to thank everyone for your support in making this day a reality."

The 359 parents eligible to vote were those who signed a petition, under the state's parent-trigger law, to force aggressive change at the school. Their parents' options included turning the school over entirely to a charter organization. Charters are independently managed and exempt from some laws that govern traditional schools. Most are nonunion, including Crown Prep.

In all, 190 parents cast votes; 179 were determined to be valid based on the signatures on the petition. Among these, 152 chose the partnership. Fifteen voted for Crown Prep to run the campus on its own; nine voted for L.A. Unified to remain in control; three voted for Academia Moderna, another charter operator that submitted a bid.

Organizers said the voting pool represented about 60% of parents. The school has 635 students, according to state figures.

The balloting was set up as a festive occasion, with activities that included face painting for children, piñatas and a raffle. Organizers served a midday lunch of chicken, rice and tamales. Later they supplied pizza and sodas.

The petition drive was spearheaded by Parent Revolution, a locally based group that has lobbied for parent-trigger laws across the country. Previous efforts have resulted in litigation with school districts and conflict among parents. School districts and employee unions have criticized the parent-trigger process as wrongheaded and divisive.

L.A. Unified decided not to challenge the petition, which was submitted in January. Instead, it competed for the approval of parents. Parents said they were impressed with the district's ability to offer pre-school education and services to disabled students. And any current teachers who wish to remain will have to go through a hiring committee that includes parents. The charter won points with its demonstrated ability to raise academic achievement.

"I've seen the struggle of some parents here that they've gone through so many problems with their children," said parent Esmerelda Chacon. "I'm very, very happy with the results we got."

howard.blume@latimes.com

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