LOS ANGELES -- A group of parents appear ready to force the Los Angeles Unified School District to enact sweeping changes at their elementary school.
Monday in Watts, the Weigand Parents Union announced LAUSD officials had confirmed they had gathered enough signatures to invoke California's 2010 parent-trigger law. The law enables parents to force schools to make dramatic changes if they can gather signatures equal to 50 percent plus one of the families enrolled. The group reportedly gathered signatures from 61 percent of eligible families.
The law has been successfully invoked twice this year, first in Adelanto in the High Desert and later at 24th Street Elementary in the West Adams district of Los Angeles. Unlike those efforts, the Weigand Elementary parents are not looking for a charter school to take over or manage the school. Instead, they seek to oust the school's administrators.
"We support our teachers," mother Llury Garcia said before the parent group's news conference Monday morning.
"I think that the teachers are very intimidated right now" by Principal Irma Cobian, whom Garcia said is rarely on campus and has been unresponsive to parent complaints in the past.
If the group succeeds in removing her, "I think (the Weigand Avenue Elementary teachers) will make it work for the kids," Garcia said.
Cobian and Los Angeles Unified officials could not be immediately reached for comment Monday afternoon.
Representatives of Parent Revolution, the group that helped pass California's parent trigger law and has provided logistical support to parent groups attempting to enact the law, repeatedly pointed out that no charter school will be taking over Weigand Avenue Elementary.
Critics who link parent-trigger laws with efforts to extend the influence of private charter schools are engaging in "conspiracy theories," Parent Revolution head Ben Austen said Monday. "If you're against what the Weigand Avenue Elementary parents are doing, you're against parent power. "
Weigand received a 688 Academic Performance Index score in 2012, down 1 point from the year before. The score, derived from multiple statewide tests, ranges from 200 to 1,000, and 800 is the state's target for each school.
The school is overwhelmingly Hispanic and poor: Of the 254 students whose test scores were included in the 2012 API score, 220 of them were Hispanic, 179 of them were "English learners" whose family speaks another language at home and all of them were categorized as socioeconomically disadvantaged by the state.
Similar schools, according to the California Department of Education, have an average of 745 API.
Weigand Avenue Elementary School has "academically flatlined," Austen said.
The Los Angeles Unified school board is expected to vote on the Weigand Parents Union petition at their board meeting today. ___