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Sharing a Campus with a Charter School 'Not an Easy Marriage'

Parents from Barcelona Hills Elementary attend the superintendent's forum to complain about co-existing with new, popular charter school Oxford Preparatory Academy.

An elementary school and a new charter school with which it  are not coexisting peacefully, parents told  Superintendent Joseph Farley at a forum Wednesday night.

A handful of parents from  in Mission Viejo traveled to  in Las Flores to attend the first of three superintendent forums scheduled this year. The parents came to tell Farley that sharing a campus with Oxford Preparatory Academy has placed an undue burden on the students and the neighborhood.

"The atmosphere and climate of the school is not good," said parent Patrick Mallon, who has twin third-graders at Barcelona.

Mallon later told Patch that neighbors routinely call Orange County Sheriff’s deputies to the area to deal with Oxford parents who roll through stop signs and park in their homes' driveways.

Contacted for reaction, Sue Roche, executive director for Oxford, acknowledged there have been some logistical challenges in starting a brand new school on a shared campus, but most of them have already been worked out, and she is confident the rest will be resolved shortly.

Barcelona mom Debbie Lackie told Farley Wednesday that her daughter has to take music lessons in the teachers lounge because Oxford has use of the multipurpose room during that time.

"My children should not be going to the staff lounge to take music," she said. "That’s upsetting."

Farley said he is disheartened by the situation, but because charter schools operate mostly independently, he has no control over the situation. 

"I don’t like it either, but I have to follow the law," he said.

Under Proposition 39, CUSD must provide facilities free of charge to charter schools who serve Capo students, Farley said. Sharing the Barcelona Hills campus was the only solution the district could devise.

“It has not been a—how should we say it—an easy marriage or arrangement,” he told parents. District officials have fielded a number of complaints about Oxford. At one point, Capo officials believed Oxford was in violation of its charter agreement. He would not detail the complaints and district spokesman Marcus Walton declined to discuss them after the forum.

Roche said that in no way is Oxford out of compliance with its charter. She vowed to work cooperatively with CUSD.

"I feel we've worked very proactively, as the district has," she said. For example, Oxford has changed its recess time and Barcelona moved its lunch period back by five minutes.

"You can cut it with a knife, the tension between the two groups," Farley said. "It makes me a little bit angry that we have to deal with this kind of conflict between the two sites," he said.

Mallon questioned whether CUSD even wants Barcelona to continue to operate, given what appears to be plans for growth at Oxford. And Barcelona mom Debbie Lackey said even if students who  wanted to return, there’s no room for them.

Farley said he does not plan to shut Barcelona Hills down in the 2012-13 year. "At this point, I want to keep Barcelona right where it is," he said.

But Julie Hatchel, assistant superintendent of education services, said parents are correct that there is no room for Barcelona to grow. The school now only uses eight classrooms on its own campus. If students wanted to return to Barcelona, the district may have to redraw attendance boundary lines and send them to a new home school.

It’s unlikely Oxford would move, Farley said. "We don’t have an available site to have a charter take over an entire site," he said.

Roche said that Oxford will make a request that the district supply facilities for 628 students—100 of whom would take independent study—for the 2012-13 year, as its charter allows. This year, Oxford officials agreed to enroll about 100 fewer students than they could have.

She added that she hoped the parents who spoke at the superintendent's forum are in the minority, and that her school's goal is for a positive educational experience for all the students at the Barcelona Hills campus.

Barcelona dad Jim Reynen said he and several others tried to get a bigger showing at the superintendent’s forum. "I think they feel it’s no use. I don’t feel that way."

Farley pow-wowed with Barcelona parents after the forum and vowed to set up a private meeting with them in a couple of weeks.

The next superintendent's forum is scheduled for Jan. 24 at .

Patrick Mallon November 17, 2011 at 06:42 AM
We originally planned to enroll our kids in OPA, then the unprofessional, flippant, and disrespectful comments and behavior toward BHE leaders and children started. "They won't be around" was repeated to me. The incident where the OPA parent argued with a BHE teacher over the BHE teacher's assigned parking spot, and drove his car aggressively while "teaching her a lesson" is another. I see no apologies from OPA in their ceaseless approach to taking over BHE classroom by classroom, which again they are trying to do tonite in their meeting with the board. My two boys have been subjected to comments by older boys from OPA who call them "losers who won't be around next year." Where do OPA kids hear this stuff from? There was another incident just today wherein two BHE kids were accosted by OPA kids who called them "losers" and "dummies". The parent brought this incident to Mr. Nygren tactfully. You know what Mr. Nygren did? Instead of demanding that no kid, regardless of school affiliation, be subjected to bullying, Mr. Nygren laughed in the face of the father and demanded that the father vacate his office. Is this the condoned behavior of Champions? And by the way, with signs all over the school that state "Champions" my question is, doesn't someone have to win something to be called a champion? I have watched this all objectively, with intent only for the best educational experience for my children, and OPA has much to learn about kind and respectful treatment of other people.
OC Mom November 17, 2011 at 06:12 PM
Patrick, I'm sorry that a BHE teacher encountered a rude, self entitled parent who took their parking spot. That attitude of entitlement is becoming pervasive in our society and there are a lot of people like this who are stressed out because of all of their job responsibilities etc. and end up acting this way. don't believe that Mr. Nygren would have laughed in a parents face even if the parent was from BHE. Bullying and teasing should be taken seriously. I think there's probably more to the story than was mentioned. I was on campus yesterday and I feel uncomfortable when I see BHE parents watching me as I walk to our areas on campus. I'm sorry that this is the situation we're all in. I think there are a lot of OPA parents like me who agree that we didn't ask for the Barcelona Hills location and we are open to moving for next year. Our school needs more room to accomodate some of our programs and we are doing a lot of things that regular elementary schools wouldn't have to do in order to make the best of this shared facility. The fact that our Science Lab (in a portable) is also our keyboarding area is a major inconvenience to our music instructor who must set up and then tear down keyboards in order to accomodate the shared use. After they are dismantled they must be put in storage. I doubt that a union teacher would agree to do this twice a week.Both schools have made sacrifices. I hope there will be some resolution soon.
Patrick Mallon November 18, 2011 at 01:26 AM
Mr. Nygren addressed this bullying incident by ignoring it. That is a patently wrong decision toward's anyone's child. He did not ask for the names of the children who were bullied, what was said, and who the students were who did this. District rules require that schools document bullying incidents and treat them seriously. This type of unprofessional conduct that disposes of a valid bullying complaint as unimportant should be unacceptable on any campus. If you are inferring that what I posted is false, oh well. The entire campus situation is painful and by simple logistics, adversarial for both schools. Barcelona is trying to exist. OPA is trying to expand. It is understandable that OPA officials would be so indifferent to repeated infractions against children who, as my sons too have heard are "losers who won't be around next year." I do wish that more OPA parents would be honest enough to open their eyes to what is happening, and be straight about the tone OPA has decided to exercise on a campus that has been segregated by uniforms, expressions of "champions" and superiority, and a take-no-prisoners leadership. Are these values of separation and claiming a school room by room constructive examples to instill in children? This is what Barcelona parents and children are seeing. If OPA teachers, parents and kids refuse to see the impact this has on other kids, I can't help that either. I wanted to enroll my kids in OPA, until too many incidents like this changed my mind.
OC Mom November 25, 2011 at 09:18 PM
Hi Patrick, I'm not saying that what you're saying is false. I'm saying there may be more to the story. There are always two sides to every story and sometimes the way people say things or their body language may make things seem more aggressive or confrontational than they are. I hope this problem gets resolved. After seeing your comment and reading the subsequent Patch article that mentioned that OC Sheriff deputy was dispatched in this incident it leads me to believe that things got heated. I asked my two children about this situation and they told me that BH kids are calling them dummies and throwing rocks at them while saying, "Barcelona Rocks!" I'm not happy about this shared campus situation and I would like all kids to be safe from bullying and any kind of physical harm at school. I instructed both of my children to stay away from BH kids and not to say anything bad to them. My children assured me that they haven't said anything bad to anyone. It is possible that some older kid from OPA made those comments or even some older BH kid and now the exchanges have started. We must be adults and get it to end for the safety of all of the students at both schools.
tanya November 29, 2011 at 03:58 PM
I cannot help but get the impression that Mr. Mallon is the one of the small percentage of BH parents that have had problems from day one. He appears to seek it out and use any and all petty instances as an excuse to get on his soapbox and seek out the limelight. I have personally spoken to and had wonderful conversations with SEVERAL BH parents and am developing friendships. They don't seem to have any problems with the fact that 2 schools are co-existing, and neither my kids or their kids have reported any instances of bullying or condescension. Mr. Mallon, you appear to be the solitary squeaky wheel - nothing, it appears, will be to your satisfaction.

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