Hacienda La Puente Says No Charter In Upcoming Project

The board spoke against having a charter school enter their district as the Wedgeworth project date grows closer

As residents continue to get organized regarding the sale of former schools, the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District heard three residents’ complaints and concerns on Aug. 22.

The first came before closed session, a time where few residents are in attendance.

Speaker Fernando Solis brought up the low attendance when he addressed the board with claims of wrongdoing.

“This board may not mislead and deceive the public into believing the open to the public time is only after the 6:30 p.m. closed session, as published in today’s agenda in direct violation of 54954.3,” Solis said. “Simply put, you all mislead the residents by directing them to show up after you decided an item in closed session excluding the public’s input.”

Section 54954.3 of the California code states that there must be an opportunity provided for members of the public to directly address legislative bodies on any item, before or during the consideration of the item, on every agenda for regular meetings.

Solis and other residents considered the board packets and agendas misleading to the public because they stated that 6:30 p.m. is closed session and labeled 7:30 p.m. as “open to the public” instead of something like regular meeting or open session.

Solis asked for the resignation of HLPUSD Superintendent Cynthia Parulan-Colfer, President Martin Medrano, Vice President Anthony Duarte, board member Gino Kwok and board member Joseph Chang.

Solis explained in an interview that he did not admonish board member Jeffrey De La Torre because the board member was recently appointed in 2018, beating incumbent Penny Fraumeni, for his first term. Solis added that De La Torre has not voted for the Wedgeworth project, which develops a new K-8 school where the old overflow school, Wedgeworth Elementary, has been.

The lack of community input on the project has been a sticking point for residents.

“We never forfeited our right to remain informed. We never gave you the right to decide what is good for us to know and what is not good for us to know,” Solis said to the board before later explaining how he came to this conclusion. “I must express the disgust and disappointment that was felt by the community as we conducted our investigation.”

Since public comment is normally three minutes, Gabriela Navar, another resident who previously addressed the board on Aug. 8, yielded her time to Solis.

Two minutes in, Chang interrupted Solis to tell him he had one minute remaining before being reminded by the board that Solis had Navar’s yielded time.

Solis also commented on what he said was intimidation by the board with its public comment cards and cited California code 54953.3 which states that members of the public shall not be required to provide information to attend meetings. Solis’ comments implied that the public comment cards asked for too much information.

Solis also cited California code 54956.8 and 54957.1, which references discussing real property in closed session and reporting out of closed session before making further allegations about what he found after investigating the sale of school properties.

“Our community had many questions about how we arrived at the sale of over $42 Million dollars worth of schools without public input,” Solis added. “Today, it’s clear how we got here. Your disregard for our rights, deceit, intimidation, secret meetings and the concealing of information is how you did it.”

He then addressed an individual on the board indirectly.

“To those that are lawyers, your actions are criminal,” Solis added.

Kwok is a lawyer who specializes in property, and Parulan-Colfer is also a lawyer.

He then said that they will be held accountable for their actions and asked them to reverse course or resign in order to save the residents the effort of recalling them. He ended his public comment by calling them a disgrace to the community.

Another resident also addressed the board.

They said they only found out about the meeting through a social media post.

That post may have been made by resident and community advocate Christine Salazar, who also addressed the board.

Salazar was originally skipped over during public comment, as her card had been misplaced.

When she spoke before the board, she asked for transparency about the project and said that the funding sources were from closed schools that were sold.

“In order to fund the Wedgeworth expansion, all three sites, La Subida, Glenelder, and Wedgeworth, would need to be sold to fund the expansion,” Salazar said. “I haven’t forgotten that the construction is about to start in about six months.”

She then asked how else it would be funded and if it was possible that the funding would come from starting a charter school, as it was presented as a possible funding option in a past presentation.

Each board member responded that the new school would not be a charter school.

De La Torre said that a town hall will be held on the project and that flyers will be passed out within a 1 mile radius.

“I do want to say for the record that when it comes to charter, I don’t believe it protects our teachers and not all students,” De La Torre said. “I believe in public education. Just so you know I’m against.”

Kwok said he wanted to see softball come back and that he supports the little league after addressing the comment about charter funding.

“in terms of the charter school issue, I would never support that,” Kwok said.

Chang said he agreed with everything Kwok said.

Duarte said that the superintendent has done a lot to prevent a charter school from coming to the district.

“I believe the commitment from this board to continue to work to do everything in our power to make sure that a charter doesn’t come into our district,” Duarte added.

Medrano thanked Salazar for bringing up the issue.

“There’s no way I would ever support a charter school coming to our district,” Medrano said. “I can’t even comprehend that.”

Audio from the entire meeting can be accessed as well.

The previous Aug. 8 meeting of the HLPUSD board had two comments, and only two board members responded to the comments made.

Navar, who yielded her time to Solis at this meeting, said that the district did not communicate the development to the community well. She requested the district provide community outreach and more notice to residents, as there were residents who live near Wedgeworth that had no idea that this project existed.

Salazar spoke at both meetings.

On Aug. 8, she expressed concerns similar to Navar’s and said that the plans as they stood would be detrimental to the Hacienda Heights Highlander fields and that traffic in the surrounding area would become far worse as a result of the development.

Only Kwok and Duarte responded.

Kwok acknowledged these concerns and said that he supports the community’s little league program.

Duarte said that more communication is needed for residents near the property and that he was thankful that the community members expressed their concerns.