Pali High Examines Enrollment Preference Order

By JENNIE INGRAM | Reporter

Palisades Charter High School’s Board of Trustees sparked an uproar after a consideration to change a current policy that ensures acceptance for all Paul Revere Charter Middle School students at special meetings on August 6 and 15.  

The discussion came as the Trustees rushed to complete a draft of their charter renewal that was due on August 19. 

While the August 6 meeting focused on a discussion to increase enrollment and diversity, the August 15 meeting quickly turned into a debate about enrollment preference order.

After a survey for Pali High staff offering three choices for preference order resulted in a split decision, it became the focus of a debate at the Board meeting.

“If Paul Revere is our feeder, and that’s a trend that’s happening there and throughout the complex, do we say we can’t accept all Paul Revere students?” said Pali High Principal Pam Magee at the August 6 meeting, referring to general concerns about trends in declining diversity at Pali High and throughout LAUSD.

On August 15, Board Member Dara Williams argued that taking away the guarantee for students at Paul Revere who are in line to attend Pali High may face “unintended consequences” if they are dropped in priority.

Monica Iannessa, director of academic achievement, took exception to the term “feeder” and pointed out that Pali High was the only school in the area to work with that structure.

“When we talk about a feeder school, we are not just talking about admissions, we are talking about a collaboration between the two schools,” Iannessa said.

“I get dead silent crickets when I approach the ‘feeder school’ to give me kids that could benefit from a leadership program. I’m a little tired of Pali High being used as Paul Revere’s carrot to get kids in, and you know that that’s the elephant in the room and I am going to speak it.”

The current preference order for Pali High has been residents, students culminating from Paul Revere, immediate family members of Pali High staff within LAUSD and applicants who are within LAUSD boundaries since 2009.

Likewise, the prospect that not all Paul Revere students would be accepted into Pali High upset some parents, who accused the board of not being transparent and unfair.

Palisadian Daphne Gronich aired her issues with how the preference order is being dealt with, saying she was concerned there were “a lot of people not … aware of what is being proposed.”

Parent Hima Anwar further urged the board to “achieve diversity in a different way without harming our Revere community, which is a very diverse and engaged community.”

At the end of the special meeting, votes resulted in a unanimous decision to change the preference order in the next draft of the charter to residents first, then siblings of current and continuing students, immediate family members of Pali High staff, students culminating from Paul Revere, students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch, applicants within LAUSD attendance boundaries and all other applicants. The board also approved to request an addition of 100 students.

The Pali High Board of Trustees will meet again on August 27.