At its recent meeting, The La Palma City Council voted for staff to present a formal resolution for filing a petition for territory transfer with the Orange County Committee on School District Organization at its August 18 Council meeting.
A letter will be sent out to all residents regarding the petition and to invite them to attend, and staff will send an invitation to the Fullerton School District Officials to attend the August 18 meeting. A meeting with the City Manager, Mayor Pro Tem and the Superintendent President and Board Clerk from the Fullerton District is planned for August 26. Though it is uncertain what may result from this meeting. In earlier requests, Fullerton has not agreed to meet.
The petition is the first step the city of La Palma needs to take if it plans to initiate a territory transfer from Fullerton to Anaheim for the area within the city limits north of Houston. This would have no impact on K-8 students, but would make Kennedy the home high school for all residents living within La Palma.
This is one avenue the city can use to resolve the issue through an actual change to the boundaries of the two high school districts. While provided for by law, Orange County Education records do not show that a territory transfer process has actually been initiated by a city or one being filed in the state. This will be an involved process and could require a vote by the residents impacted by this transfer.
Battle for School Choice
School choice has been a long running issue since 2007. The rules regarding transfer of students had been a fairly lenient between Fullerton Joint Union High School District (Fullerton) and Anaheim Union High School District (Anaheim) for students living in La Palma. This allowed those living north of Houston to transfer to John F. Kennedy High School (Kennedy) within the city. Fullerton ended this agreement in 2007 after a change in superintendent and during a period of financial hardship for school districts.
The City of La Palma renewed its efforts after the prior superintendent retired last December and Scott Scambray came on board as Fullerton’s new superintendent on July 1. Since February 17, 2015, the city has moved forward with conducting surveys to determine if residents living above Houston Street wish the city to use resources to pursue this issue. As a result of the survey and the resulting support of allowing school choice, this matter was put on the front burner.
In support, Young Kim introduced AB523 (narrowly focused at offering parents within the city limits of La Palma) a guaranteed choice to send their children to high school within La Palma regardless of district boundaries. The bill was heard by the Assembly Education Committee and it failed passage.
Discussions to Continue
While adopting the resolution to file a petition, the city will continue to hold discussions with the Fullerton District to identify potential remedies; and to keep all parties (the community and districts) updated on the problem. Discussions will continue with Assemblywoman Kim’s office regarding potential need for new legislation and strategies for success, and with Orange County Education staff to develop additional information regarding the petition for a territory transfer.