[UPDATED with outcome of yesterday’s AESD Board meeting at end of article]
The Anaheim Elementary School District Board of Education is holding a special closed session today at 3:30 p.m. The sole topic is its two-year old litigation against the group of Palm Lane Elementary School parents fighting to convert it to an independent public charter school under the Parent Trigger Law.
The five members of the Board of Education have two choices. They can act in a just, fair and intelligent manner by dropping this wasteful, spiteful lawsuit and cooperate with the parents to implement lawfully exercised statutory rights.
Or, board members can behave like ideologically blinkered zealots and continue this war of attrition against these poor parents by appealing this doomed litigation to the California Supreme Court.
The Palm Lane parents prevailed over the AESD in Superior Court in 2015, upholding the validity of their charter conversion petition, slamming the Anaheim Elementary School District’s actions as “unfair, unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious” and ordering the district to immediately proceed with the charter conversion process. Last week, a three-judge California Court of Appeals issued its decision unambiguously affirming the lower court ruling.
The Palm Lane parents have been wiping the courtroom floor with the school district. The Anaheim Elementary School District has spent two years and about a million dollars suing a group of poor immigrant parents, and has been demolished at the Superior and Appeals courts. No reasonable, intelligent person could read the appellate decision and conclude, “Oh yeah. The school district has a real shot at winning this at the state Supreme Court.” Burning hundreds of thousands of dollars more on a fruitless appeal would be misfeasance, not to mention a monumental act of contempt toward their constituents.
The AESD Board of Education is dominated by virulently anti-charter progressives. If the board votes to appeal the district’s appellate court defeat it will be cynical political act motivated by desire to continue delaying conversion of Palm Lane into an independent public charter school – possibly forever. Board-backed litigation has already delayed charter conversion by two years, during which time a number of the parent petition signatories’ children have graduated. Appealing the litigation to the state Supreme Court could delay it several more years. The school district would lose again, but in the meantime even more of the parent signatories’ children will have graduated.
AESD Board of Education president Ryan Ruelas, is a representative of the Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association (ASTA) on the State Council of the California Teachers Association. The CTA’s top political priority is stopping the expansion of charter schools, and ASTA is calling for a moratorium on charter school approvals. His political foot soldiers in the AnaheimBROS student club he runs, record YouTube videos parroting phony union talking points against charter schools. Board member Jeff Cole is a virulent foe of charter schools. Jose Paolo Magcalas is a radical leftist and Loara High School Ethnic Studies teacher, and close political ally of Ruelas. Jackie Filbeck was once a field representative to former Assemblyman and powerful school choice advocate Chris Norby, but quickly went over to the dark side after being appointed to a board vacancy. DR Heywood voted in 2015 to appeal the district’s Superior Court defeat.
This ought to be an simple decision. The fair, right and just vote is against appealing the appellate court decision and allowing the Palm Lane parents to finish what they started. None of the AESD Board members can honestly think an appeal to the state Supreme Court stands any chance of winning. It would be a colossal waste of money. Ending furhter litigation against the Palm Lane charter conversion is the right thing to do. No one is asking the Anaheim Elementary School District Board of Education members to like it, only that they do it.
UPDATE 5/4/17: The AESD Board of Education took no action during yesterday’s closed session meeting. According to AESD Director of Communications Keith Sterling, the Board has until the beginning of June to decide on whether or not to appeal.