Debra Tarver, who operates LaVerne Preparatory Academy in Hesperia, appeared before the Adelanto Elementary School District School Board Tuesday morning in a continuation of a public hearing regarding their proposed new charter school.
At the first half of the public hearing, on Dec. 4, Tarver faced tough questions from the board. But on Tuesday, the questions were more focused on specific concerns and many board members prefaced their comments with praise for LaVerne Preparatory Academy.
"I was also very impressed," said board member Christine Turner said, agreeing with other board members who had visited the Hesperia campus in the two weeks between meetings. "I saw students, engaged and excited about learning."
In October, Adelanto parents announced they'd selected Tarver to take over Desert Trails Elementary School, where three-quarters of students are unable to read and write up to standards, according to state testing scores. They used California's "parent-trigger" law, which allows groups who collect signatures from more than 50 percent of parents to imposing sweeping changes on the school, to force the district to relinquish control of the campus after the current school year comes to an end.
Tarver's Hesperia school received a 911 out of 1,000 Academic Performance Index score this fall, one of the highest in San Bernardino County, where the schools got an average 767 API. Desert Trails got a 699 this year, down 13 points from the year before.
In addition to the site visits by board members, part of the change in tone may have been due to the absence of one of the most vocal opponents of the parent-trigger process: Board member Jermaine Wright, who was elected to the Adelanto City Council on Nov. 6, along with being reelected to the AESD school board, chose to go with the City Council seat instead of staying on the School Board. (An agreement between the city and school district prohibits any official sitting on both bodies at the same time.)
At Tuesday's public hearing, board members urged Tarver to have Desert Trails Preparatory board members with a stake in Adelanto. LaVerne Preparatory has no board members from Hesperia, but is made up of High Desert residents. Tarver also confirmed that the school would offer breakfast and lunches to Desert Trails students, using federal school lunch program funds. The current Desert Trails population includes many underprivileged students. And in light of Friday's shooting in Connecticut, she was urged to hold more fire drills for students than her charter proposed.
The school board will vote on the proposed Desert Trails Preparatory Academy charter school on Jan. 8.
Once the board has decided on who will run Desert Trails next year, the divided community will have to begin to heal.
Reach Beau at via email, call him at 909-483-9376, or find him on Twitter @InlandED.