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Commentary: Why Teachers Might Leave a Triggered School

Alexander Russo | June 11, 2013

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infographic_ep_parent_trigger_smallThis is a guest commentary written by LAUSD math teacher (and Hope Change Choices blog host) Rustum Jacob about some teachers’ decision to transfer out of Weigand Avenue Elementary School:

As a teacher , if I’d been in the same shoes as the Weigand teachers, I would have left because of loyalty and respect for the kids and the community.When parents say they have no faith in the school you work at, then you should take the hint. When you have a principal that sticks around for 5 years in a low-income school, the principal becomes a symbol for the school.

When parents say they don’t want the principal, an engaged teacher should take that as a vote of no confidence. By all accounts, this principal is on the same page as Deasy, so the staff could expect the same type of leadership, the same parent outreach, and probably the same results.

There is no reason to stay at a school where you’ve been deemed (in part) a failure and the families are fighting each other to determine who best represents the school.

The logistics of launching a Parent Trigger demand chaos, resentment and frustration at any school site that goes through the process, making it nearly impossible for the original staff to stay on.

I don’t see how you get far into the trigger process without operating in the shadows. I know some schools in LAUSD house admin and/or teachers that don’t care about parents, but the vast majority are very excited to have parent engagement, especially in low-income schools.

Because of my faith in the responsiveness of teachers (my bias) I don’t see a trigger in the public view gaining much more than 30% of parent buy-in before a school would change its policies.

Given the stipulation that you would start a trigger in the shadows, imagine how the school site would feel when the trigger does come into the public view. You’ve been showing up for a several years in a hard to teach at school site, usually desperate for parent involvement, and now the parent’s want to pull a parent trigger.

I have yet to see this pan out, but I have no clue how parents are involved after they pull the trigger. No matter what option parents demand on a school, how are they involved in the direction of the change?

If it’s a restaff or principal change, the locus of control falls back on the same (unresponsive?) district. If the parents choose a charter, do parents get a seat on the Board? No matter what pathway parents take in pulling the trigger, I don’t see a system for including parents going forward.

I always saw the trigger as effective when loaded and pointed, but I don’t see it helping communities once its been fired.

I’m thinking specifically about the 2nd grade parent who was frustrated with the speed of getting an IEP. In general the district pressures every school site to doing an exhausting documentation trail before it certifies an IEP.

As a parent you experience the slow school and slow administration and don’t see the pressure the school feels on the other end. Who is going to advocate for a streamlined process for families (we know it’s not Parent Revolution)?.

Instead the next 1st grade parent who has a child with special needs, will have to wait throughout the same yearlong process that LAUSD will pressure any new administrator to follow before giving an IEP.

You can reach the author at or on Twitter at @HCCLosAngeles

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