Parent Trigger’s Desert Trails Days Away from New Beginning

After a long battle with the school board, the district and even the courts, victory is within sight for advocates who worked to use California's parent trigger law to take over the failing Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, California. The San Bernardino Sun reports that the day of the handover is getting closer as the calendar passes over June 14th, the last day that Desert Trails will operate as a traditional public school.

Desert Trails teachers and administrators will move to other positions in the district as the school turns into the Desert Trails Preparatory Academy under Debra Tarver, who has already has staff ready to implement the new model.

In October 2012, petition signatories voted to have the school reopen under the management of Debra Tarver, who also runs LaVerne Preparatory Academy in nearby Hesperia. The academy has one of the top 20 test scores in the county and the highest in Hesperia Unified: a 911 Academic Performance Index in 2012. Desert Trails Elementary received a 699 API, 30 points below the district average.

Tarver plans to reopen Desert Trails as Desert Trails Preparatory Academy on July 29.

"The teachers have been hired: I gave out the contracts last week," she said.

There have been some bumps along the way: Tarver has had to clear up misconceptions that the academy won't be offering special education services at the school or that they're limiting enrollment to high achievers.

Tarver is working independently of Parent Revolution, the group chiefly responsible for the effort to take over Desert Trails as well as other schools around California using the trigger law. According to the group's policy director Christina Vargas, Parent Revolution is now completely out of the process with all day-to-day decisions passing to Tarver.

Vargas pointed out that there's no role to play for a group like Parent Revolution in actually running a school. Their job is to guide parents through the parent trigger process and then, once successful, to move on to help reform another failing school.

However, Vargas did note that by stepping out of the way, Parent Revolution has left Tarver to take criticism from parents, community members and politicians who opposed the takeover.

But Vargas said Tarver has ended up serving as a surrogate for Parent Revolution for many of those angry about the parent-trigger movement.

"She's unfortunately taking some of the heat, which I think is misdirected," she said. "She didn't have anything to do with anything that's gone on before, she just wants to run a good school."

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