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 .

Shannon B October 16, 2011 at 03:50 AM
As an Oxford Prep-SOC teacher, I can simply echo the sentiments of both the parents and staff members that have shared their thoughts. Our administrators, staff members, parents, and students continue to demonstrate the OPA statutes of “Take care of others” and “Take care of your school.” I have witnessed only respectful and positive interactions between the two schools. My classroom happens to be on the opposite side of the campus next to several Barcelona classrooms. The Barcelona students, parents, and staff members that I have interacted with have been nothing but cordial. The “tension” that Farley is referring to has not been apparent from anything that I have seen. While sharing a campus is not an ideal situation, my students have adjusted very well to the arrangement. They are nearly oblivious to the fact that we share a campus. In regards to the programs that we offer at Oxford, I know that our students excel because of these classes. They love Oxford and they are proud of their school. There is nothing more gratifying as a teacher than to hear students say things such as,“This is the best day ever!” & “I don’t want to go home!” I am so blessed & thankful to be part of such an incredible organization that truly serves children and brings out the best in them. It is my hope that the “tensions” that are supposedly present on our campus will quickly subside and we can all continue to do the very best for our students!
Proud Mom October 16, 2011 at 05:36 AM
Sharon, I didn't think we needed to get into specifics, but here it is. For one, this service driveway is OPA's main entrance to the school. It is where we were designated to walk through every day of the week as our children walk in ready to learn. I can guarantee you, that if we had something set up at your main entrance of your school, it would not go over well. Secondly, the "green team" is stationed there until 8:15, 8:30 or even as late as 8:45. We have witnessed it. Never once have they left our entrance before 8:15. May I remind you ... your school start time is 7:45 and OPA's is at 8:05. (I can only assume you have never seen this yourself if you stated that they are there until 7:50.) Thirdly, your PTA president (along with others) yelled at an OPA mother with her daughter in hand, as she walked up the walkway to the office. This was done in front of all to see and hear during OPA's drop-off - very disrespectful and low class. First of all yelling is uncalled for, but in front of her daughter and others? How can you forgive or forget that. Fourth reason and most importantly, is that it IS affecting some children. As many have stated already - the children are unaware of most everything. They are all learning and loving their school, both OPA and Barcelona students. That is what is most important. However, there is a history with some of the women collecting the recyclables. The former Barcelona students, now OPA students, witnessed too much.
Proud Mom October 16, 2011 at 05:57 AM
Part ii: Back in March, when the school was told is was possibly going to have to share a campus with OPA, there were a lot of protests and picketing in front of the school. A parent even yelled "traitors" to those who were considering going to OPA. Parents and children held signs every morning as these families had to drive past them to drop off their children. I know of many children who were upset and cried over this situation. Even though some families were looking for another option in regards to their child's education, these students also loved their teachers. This went on for weeks. Some of these signs were even made during Science class (which in all honesty was a waste of students time when they should've been learning). An e-mail was sent out to former Barcelona graduates to come and picket in front of the school. I'm sorry ... that REALLY affected many students. Because of this, there are former Barcelona students, now OPA students, who do not want to walk past these former picketers. The fact that a student has to run past the "green team" at the start of the school day is absurd. We were told this was a separate campus, not one who has to share their main entrance every Tuesday morning. Children feeling intimidated is not ok. The fifth reason is that this situation is easily fixable. Your bins are on the other side. The recyclables could be picked up there. OPA's kindergartners go in there, but they do not have a history with these women.
Proud Mom October 16, 2011 at 06:09 AM
Part iii: Whether your recyclables are being picked up on one side or the other shouldn't make a difference to the Barcelona families. Sharon, in no way has it ever been suggested to take away a dearly beloved program which is making money for Barcelona. It is just that many former Barcelona students do not want to see these women at their main entrance. We are separate schools and it is not right that children are nervous walking into school. So you wanted specifics and you got them. I know the administrators are working diligently to make sure all children have a safe learning environment ... that is what is most important.
Proud Mom October 16, 2011 at 06:21 AM
Sharon, I know it is difficult to see this going on at the school site. I can only assume that both schools have a short list of issues which have been addressed already. Just as you saw some things that happened to Barcelona students, I know for a fact that the same things have been done to the OPA students (many of which you have not heard about). i can only attribute this to the fact that no one knew where to draw the line at the beginning of the school year. Can we share this bathroom? Can we walk through the library? Can the kindergartners be picked up in this area? Should we walk in this direction or that? These are all questions which both teachers and parents from both schools have had to answer. Most of these issues have been ironed out since school has been in session for awhile. It comes with the territory. However, as has been stated by many, the children are unaware. They love going to school and are having a great time ... that is what matters the most!
Sharon Mata October 16, 2011 at 06:59 AM
That is what matters the most the kids. I don't feel anything I said is false. We all are entitled to the way we feel and Proud Mom you got your point across. Truly sorry if some of those things happened. We could go round and round but I think both of us know too much from within our schools to ever agree. So let's just let it be and focus on what we do agree on "The Kids". We both have awesome kids and friends and a whole load of things to be thankful for. No hard feelings here!
Proud Mom October 16, 2011 at 08:18 AM
You are 100% correct. We both want the same thing ... a safe, happy learning environment. We are truly blessed for many reasons and for this I am grateful. You truly are an amazing woman ... an example to many. Thank you!!!
K. Mattingly October 16, 2011 at 03:52 PM
This is my second year teaching at OPA in Chino. I love it! I look forward everyday being greeted by students and their parents. OPA had an awesome positive atmosphere. I love the fact my students are learning something new each day. I love to see their faces light up. OPA has a lot to offer! I am extremely happy to be a part of the OPA team!
OC Parent October 16, 2011 at 04:43 PM
What we should all keep in mind BH and OPA parents is that we are in the same boat...waiting for Dr. Farley to provide a definitive response to the issue. What is the long term plan? I have attended several Board meetings and after attending the one in June where BH parents addressed the Board and Dr. Farley it was evident that BH parents had been misled by CUSD about the arrangement on this campus. I too would be skeptical as to what Dr. Farley says about BH's future. Perhaps a joint meeting with BH parents, OPA parents and Dr. Farley is in order. The questions should be directed at Dr. Farley and we should all hold him accountable. Both BH and OPA parents have legitimate concerns and by continuing to not address these head on, Dr. Farley is perpetuating this "us vs. them" sentiment. Both BH and OPA parents have every right to question Dr. Farley's willingness to be a fair and honest representative for our students. Dr. Farley answers to all the students of CUSD including those attending a Charter school. The quotes in this article and previous articles of "I don't like it and I don't have a choice" really don't come across as him supporting Charter schools. Has he forgotten that the children attending the district's Charter schools are CUSD students as well?
Sharon Mata October 16, 2011 at 04:53 PM
OC parent I could not agree more. I think we should have a meeting with both sides of parents! We are all in a state of mind of, what next. Answers and STRAIGHT answers, would be very nice right about now!
Eileen October 16, 2011 at 04:56 PM
I know we can coexist peacefully and effectively for the children. Have we thought of doing a duel school community project that unite both schools for the positive. Maybe care packages for the troops this Christmas. Sometimes a common project like this brings on unity. I know I am reading a lot of comments regarding how much we love our schools. But, what I hope we parents, teachers, and staff from this point on find a commonality, a neutral ground. We can ask all of us, what we can do to make this a better situation for this school year. This school year is not going away.
CE October 17, 2011 at 01:53 AM
"It's time we go to the source that made this law." The source that made this law is the voters of California, who voted for Proposition 39 in 2000. http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cs/as/proposition39.asp It's not Dr. Farley's fault nor any school board member's. It's the fault of the voters.
Wendy Agredano October 17, 2011 at 02:10 PM
This is my first year at OPA and I LOVE IT!!!! The environment here is so incredible! Everyday I look forward to getting to campus and bringing my A GAME!! Each and every one of my students does everyday! They are so amazing! 8th Grade is such a rewarding grade to teach. I feel very blessed :-) Let's GO OPA!!!!!! Ms. A :-)
BH Mom October 18, 2011 at 04:34 AM
Proud Mom - There is one comment you made that I feel compelled to dispute. You wrote "Thirdly, your PTA president (along with others) yelled at an OPA mother with her daughter in hand, as she walked up the walkway to the office." I am new to the Barcelona Hills Green Team this year so I have no "history" with anyone regarding the recycling program. I was there the morning this incident took place. The woman you mention walked up to the Green Team chair, practically dragging her daughter along by the hand, got in her face and said "Why are you still here!?" I was shocked. She was told that our principal knew we were here and she started storming off towards the office with a "we'll see about that" attitude in mid conversation. The "yelling" you mentioned was her being told that our principal had talked to their administration about it. The Green Team stops taking in recycling by 7:50 because our kids are in class by then - although some OPA parents who used to be at Barcelona have stopped to make donations during your arrival time - we can't really help that. We get over to one side so that the kids have plenty of room to walk by and we wait until OPA starts class before we move things to the bins so we won't be walking up the sidewalks during your children's arrival time. We talk among ourselves while we work and other than that one incident have only noticed cordial behavior on both sides.
Faith W. October 18, 2011 at 06:46 AM
I admit to being perplexed at Patrick Mallon's comments. Not too long ago, he posted the following on OPA's Facebook page: "I have a question for Oxford Preparatory administrators and those responsible for turning Barcelona Elementary, a great school in operation since 1977, into OPA in just several months: Why were not Barcelona parents, many of whom live one block from the school, not given priority placement when the enrollment process started? There was no formal information provided to us from the district. We with kids in our disappearing school, watched this dance fever last Sunday like a kick in the gut. Oxford should offer preferential placement to Barcelona parents. Not to do so would in an injustice to families who moved here and built their homes with the express purpose of their children going to school at this venue. OPA, and the district, to date, have steamrolled Barcelona parents and families out of their place of education, and that is wrong, if not illegal.".
Debbie Lackie October 18, 2011 at 02:48 PM
It upsets me to see our P.T.A. president and some members of our green-team being called "low class." That is a harsh statement, and a blanket one at that, since you probably do not know each of these people personally. Ladies, you are all hard working, kind, and loyal people, and everyone at Barcelona appreciates all the wonderful things you do for our school. Keep up the good work! Also, using a fake name to put down specific individuals are not actions of a "high-class" person.... something to think about.
Proud Mom October 18, 2011 at 03:40 PM
You were not there to witness these group of women yell at a mother with her daughter in hand for all to see. That is what I called "low class" because never in my life have I ever done or will do something as disgraceful as that. Yes, I did know a couple of these women, which makes it even more shocking to have experienced it. I pray and hope that you never have to experience being yelled at in front of your children.
OC Mom October 18, 2011 at 04:35 PM
In reference to the mentioned comment by Patrick Mallon, the lottery was held before the location of the school was finalized. I believe the Journey school location in Aliso Viejo and AVMS were being considered at the time of the lottery. The lottery was open to every student in our district who applied to OPA. Our school wanted to remain a K-8 school and didn't want to be housed at 2 different campuses. Not to mention that there was a huge uproar by AVMS parents who didn't want our Jr. High kids to share their campus.
Capo mom October 19, 2011 at 12:27 AM
This issue reflects 2 things. A lack of any real leadership in CUSD. And CUEA/CTA filling the vacuum.
Capo Parent October 19, 2011 at 03:47 AM
Sorry you don't get the truth or how parents feel about the school their children attend.
Capo Parent October 19, 2011 at 03:53 AM
How can you tell Farley is lying? His lips are moving. BH has been strung along since Farley sprung OPA on it. Given BH current enrollment and the decline in the BH area, how can CUSD realistically keep BH open, especially when it may have to make approx. $14 million in mid year cuts? If you want an idea of how screwed up Farley and the board majority are, read the latest DA report. If anyone thinks he or she is going to get a straight answer from Farley or CUSD, they are kidding themselves.
Robert Reidel October 19, 2011 at 04:10 AM
One point to keep in mind is that Oxford Preparatory Academy (OPA) is a K-8. Many of us may well cross paths again at the high school level with our kids, if they're not already in other activities together. Kids at the different schools are still friends, and if not, may yet be. While easier said that done, best not to burn bridges. I'd like to think that calmer heads prevail with regards to how we treat one another. There's that Karma thing. While it's instinctive to support and fight for the best interest of our kids, that should not be the end of being civil and respectful to each other. Currently, CUSD has the ball. It's their call for the future of Barcelona Hills Elementary (BHE). CUSD selected to offer a portion of BHE to OPA. CUSD also decided how to do that and how much to offer. CUSD, with consideration to what commitments they've already made OPA, has the decision for what to do for the 2012-2013 school year as well. While parents can and should be cheerleaders for their respective interests, I think they should keep it at that, since they're not on the Field and in a position to make any of the decisions on the outcome.
Shelby Barone October 21, 2011 at 05:56 AM
Oxford has changed my children's lives and we are so grateful. You can read our story here: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/love-322665-parents-daughter.html
lindsey Kelly October 21, 2011 at 05:16 PM
We should all be proud that we have choices. We made ours with Oxford. For those who felt left out because they did not know about Oxford, please know that they are taking applications for the intent to enroll for next year. You have been informed so make your choice now! We must be the adults that we are and be an example to your children and show that we could find a middle ground. Communication is the key. I am sure we will rise above all this pettiness.
Capo Parent October 26, 2011 at 04:52 AM
Think before you write. You keep forgetting that CUSD unilaterally chose BH for OPA. If Sue Roach was playing "hard ball" there would be 600+ OPA students at BH. If that were the case, you would likely be at another school complaining about something else. As for the number of BH students attending BH I have heard the unofficial, actual number is around 143. If that is the case, then I understand CUSD can close BH without going through all the formalities required by law for closing a school.
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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