By Jenny Rivera, SDEA Board Member and Dailard Elementary AR
I attended the Parent Trigger Training provided by SDEA on Saturday, Sep. 28th. While getting up to attend a conference at 8:30 on a Saturday is not my idea of the best weekend plan, this is such an important topic that I made sure I was there. Interestingly, outside of the SDEA offices, Up for Ed’s David Page and self-appointed District watchdog Sally Smith were also there. While Up for Ed promotes themselves as a group created to empower parents, they have ties to the California Charter Schools Association, as well as the group that sponsored a ballot initiative to add four appointed members to our five-member elected School Board. Not much parent empowerment there. Although Page and Smith wanted to attend the training (ulterior motive here?) they were denied admission and soon left.
About 60 of our District schools are at higher risk of being converted to charter schools under the Parent Trigger law, by virtue of test scores. These schools are ground zero for Up for Ed’s influence. As you might guess, the schools on the list (which also appear on Up for Ed’s website) battle many of our social issues while still providing quality education to our kids every day. Most of the participants in the training were representative of the schools on the trigger list. And while this first training was a good start, more trainings like this are needed so that ALL schools on the trigger list can attend.
The training was informative and provided many opportunities to interact with colleagues. Something I became aware of was the importance of improved community communication about our schools, at the parent level. When there is a disconnect between the school and the parent community, parent trigger groups swoop in and fill that gap with their rhetoric. Talk to your parents, hold informative meetings, and take advantage of times when you have parents on campus to educate them about the reality of the parent trigger law. A very powerful, but under-utilized tool that every campus has is the site SSC and SGT. These are venues for parent voices at every site and we need to let our communities know they exist and that parents have a key role to play on these committees.
Parent Trigger groups like Up for Ed and Parent Revolution are active in our district. We need to push back and push them out! Obviously a one-shot training will not suffice and SDEA will need to continue educating and organizing members around this on-going threat to our schools that serve our high-need kids. SDEA did a good job of laying the initial foundation to increase awareness, but now we need to continue this work by following up with training attendees and providing support to them out at their school sites so that they can implement the strategies they learned.
If you attended the training and need additional help or have questions, call the SDEA staff and ask for help. That is what they are they for! And if you couldn’t make it to this first training, attend the next one and speak up for your school and our profession!