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Parents choose LAUSD, charter school to run Jefferson Park campus

April 10, 2013|By Howard Blume
  • Parents from 24th Street Elementary School line up to cast ballots on the future structure of their school.
Parents from 24th Street Elementary School line up to cast ballots on the… (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 school to run the persistently low-performing Jefferson Park campus.

Among those eligible to cast ballots, 80% chose a proposal that combines the efforts of the school district with those of Crown Preparatory Academy, which already runs an unaffiliated middle school out of surplus space on the campus. The results were announced Wednesday morning.

The reconfigured program will have the district manage kindergarten through fourth grade and the charter run a program for students in grades five through eight.

“This is a very big day for parents,” said Amabilia Villeda, one of the parent organizers, speaking in Spanish to parents gathered Wednesday at a park near the school. “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 controversial parent-trigger law, to force aggressive change at the school. Their options include turning the school over entirely to an independently managed charter organization. Charter schools are exempt from some laws that govern traditional schools. Most are non-union, including Crown Prep.

In all, 190 parents cast votes and 179 were determined to be eligible based on who signed the original petition. Among these, 152 chose the partnership proposal. 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.

The balloting took place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday in polling stations set up under tents.

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

In this drive, L.A. Unified opted not to challenge the petition, but to submit its own reform plan and compete for the approval of parents. Under the plan, parents will participate in a hiring committee. Any teachers who wish to remain at the school will have to interview with this committee. Parents said they were impressed with the district’s ability to offer pre-school education and services to disabled students. They said they liked the charter because of 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.” She added that her 8-year-old son is “going to like the changes for next year.”

The balloting was set up as a festive occasion, with activities that included face painting for children, piñatas and a raffle. A midday lunch of chicken, rice and tamales was provided for parents at the park. Later in the day, organizers supplied pizza and sodas.

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howard.blume@latimes.com

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