Palm Lane Charter Battle: Anaheim School District Administrators Crash Private Meeting of Pro-Charter Parents

You’re one of the parents supporting efforts to convert Palm Lane Elementary, where your kids go to school, into an independent public charter school using the Parent Trigger Law. The Anaheim Elementary School District leadership has done everything in its power – including sandbagging the charter petition process and spending almost a million dollars suing the pro-charter parents group – to stop your efforts. You’ve come to Palm Lane Park on Friday, May 19 for an early afternoon briefing from pro-charter leaders (including former state Sen. Gloria Romero) on the implications of the AESD school board’s vote to appeal their appellate court defeat to the state Supreme Court.

Next thing you know, there is chief foe of your efforts, Superintendent Linda Wagner, along with her top administrators and a school board member. They weren’t invited, and their arrival in the middle of the work day was unannounced. Accompanying Wagner were:

  • Mary Grace – Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services
  • Michelle Harmeier – Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources
  • Louie Magdaleno – Senior Director, Leadership Development
  • Keith Sterling – Director, Communications & Public Information

With them was AESD Board of Education member Jackie Filbeck, who has resolutely supported spending almost a million dollars during the last two years to stop these families from having a charter school. Filbeck was appointed to fill a vacancy, winning election last year from District 1 as an appointed incumbent.

Parked across the street to keep an eye on the parents was Kathleen Heard, president of the classified employees union for AESD:

Heard and her union have been vocal opponents of the Palm Lane parents charter conversion efforts.

Is “intimidation tactic” an accurate assessment? Would it be unreasonable for those parents to get the impression Wagner and her crew were trying to send them a message? Or do the district superintendent and her cabinet make a habit of leaving work in the middle of the day to crash a private parent gathering to which they weren’t invited – particularly parents whom the district has spent the past two years trying to litigate into exhaustion?

OC Daily posed that question to the district later the same day in an e-mail. As yet, the District has not responded.

Kathleen Heard, president of the AESD’ classified employees union.

“We’re coming to the meeting,” Wagner told Romero when she and her crew arrived. Romero had been tipped off about Wagner’s stunt and informed parents who had planned to come; a number of them decided to stay away or come the evening meeting.

Romero didn’t mince words about the district’s behavior:

“These Board members and administrators are the new George Wallaces blocking the entrance to the (reformed) schoolhouse.  They have delayed justice, thereby denying quality educational opportunities for the Palm Lane children for yet another year.  Their arrogance is astounding, and Anaheim voters and taxpayers should remember their “capricious” and “arbitrary” actions–to quote the Court who defended and sided with the parents–when they stand for re-election next year.  Ultimately, parents have rights under California laws.  We will prevail”

Romero, who authored the Parent Trigger Law which empowered Palm Lane parents to pursue charter status for their children’s school, said this is part and parcel of an ongoing effort by the administration to undermine and demoralize the pro-charter parents group.

What has become abundantly clear is Anaheim Elementary School District leaders have gone beyond shameless in their brute efforts to frustrate and defeat the effort by these parents to exercise their statutory rights.

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