A History of the Closing of Maple School


A new superintendent came to town in September 1970. D. Russell Parks finally retired and his reign of segregation was over. First thing Superintendent Robert Crawford set about was to address the “ethnic imbalance” of the Fullerton Elementary School District. His plan included the formation of a citizens advisory committee which was intended to recommend closing Maple School, 98.5% minority students. Without a neighborhood school, all those students would be bussed to various other schools. That ultimate plan was adopted by the school board, but rocks arose in the road to its achievement.
I read of the intended committee in the Fullerton News Tribune, that representatives of local organizations would be appointed.*
I telephoned Lorril Senefeld, chair of the Fullerton Fair Housing Council, foundation of the later Orange County Fair Housing Council. “Lorril,” I said, “The Fair Housing Council needs to be represented on that committee, and Susan Morris would be an excellent person to be our representative.”

Lorril called me back, said Susan had declined and had said I would be an excellent representative. “Well, ok,” I said. And so started my second significant political education. And put paid to Robert Crawford’s plan, as it happened. No one knew anyone else, among the citizens**–school district employees were included in the committee–but everyone knew John Jimenez, principal of Maple School. The representative of a Rotary Club, Roland Hiltscher, nominated him to be chair of the committee, and he was duly elected. As I recall, Roland never came to another meeting.

“Idiot!” someone said to me later. “When people don’t know each other in committee work, you elect an interim chair to serve until you do get to know who’s who.”

We began in February 1971. First thing we had done, at the behest of Peggy Martin, AAUW and Elizabeth Beebe, League of Women Voters, was to draft a statement of principles to be adopted by the Board of Trustees so that we could be clear in the obligations and expectations for our task. Jimenez didn’t like that, but he could not block it. Thus,
Item 5 (?), the Board declared that if any neighborhood was entitled to a neighborhood school, every neighborhood would be entitled to a neighborhood school. A declaration entirely contradictory to the intended outcome of the advisory committee. But consistent with the final advice of the committee. Actually, four sets of advice were presented to the school board. (Add names)Somehow it was decided that we should separate into subcommittees designated A, B, C and D. I became chair of Subcommittee C, including a teacher whose father was a principal, another teacher, a “classified employee,” namely a delivery truck driver Danny Gomez, and Peggy Martin, president of the American Association of University Women.

After election day, Laura Stine who had been a candidate for school board, joined us as representative of the Southwest
Neighborhood Association. Laura had asked Mimi Haas, leader of the Southwest Neighborhood Association, to appoint her. This was a time in Fullerton of significant homeowners’ associations, the most active being the Northwest convened by Miriam Sheddon, who had also been the organizer of the Fullerton Swim Club. Southwest Fullerton was a neighborhood of apartments as well as homes, so to be inclusive, it was organized as a neighborhood association, rather than a homeowners association.

Laura proposed that Subcommittee C develop a plan for integration by means of choice of education styles, featuring the open school model. Parents would be able to choose whether their children would be in a disciplined classroom, a free school style of classroom, or the usual middle-of-the-road classroom. Teachers would choose in which model they wanted to teach.

I did not understand what Laura was talking about nor what it had to do with integrating the schools. Carol Crowl and Ken Lesikar understood, the AAUW lady understood. I suggested we call a meeting in the Maple neighborhood to see if the objects of our concern wanted this sort of education plan.
We booked a small conference room, actually, a lunch room, and the only neighborhood person who turned up was Danny Gomez of our subcommittee. Laura explained her thinking in detail to Danny. He liked it. Well, I thought, there go my people and I am their leader.

We went to work. A big question was, could the schools be integrated under such a plan? We needed analysis. I recruited a computer programmer, my son, Matt Crawford, who had begun learning data processing and computer languages in seventh and eight grade by means of adult education classes. The lure for him was that we could offer access to the computers at California State University Fullerton and Fullerton Junior (later Community) College.

His four-foot print-out showed the possible outcomes depending on what numbers of black, Hispanic and anglo parents chose what plan. Students would be bussed to the school of choice on an integrated basis. It could be done.

Next spring, John Jimenez was leaving town for the summer, so he suggested we suspend work until fall. By this time, many of the
committee were on their hind legs. We would continue to meet throughout the summer in his absence. I was elected interim chair for the summer. Each subcommittee independently was well
into developing a plan for integrating the Fullerton elementary schools. Taking the board’s adoption of the Statement of Principles, each plan was based on Maple School continuing to function.

We met as the whole Citizens Advisory Committee to exchange information as to our various plans and comment as appropriate. The subversive Subcommittee C proposed that individuals could transfer to another subcommittee whose plan was more to their liking. Moved, seconded and adopted. The only people who did not transfer to Subcommittee C were school district employees. Choice in education became a fully developed plan.

Time to deliver to the Fullerton Elementary School District Board of Trustees. Subcommittee C appointed Laura Stine to present Plan C. John Jimenez tried to block any presentations by committee members. After his efforts were overriden by the advisory committee, he was heard to say to our committee secretary, “They didn’t want anyone to talk…”

Laura’s presentation was brilliant. She used as metaphor for the proposition that despite total differences in approach, similar outcomes can be achieved, the two leading college football teams, one made up of clean-cut, well-groomed young men, and the other, bearded and long-haired hippie types. (research fesd archives for board minutes; contact Laura to ask if she has a copy.)

Plans A, B, C and D were forthwith discarded. The Board’s –read, Superintendent’s–excuse for rejecting each one was that they were too expensive to implement. Laura and I had observed that the board of trustees voted for whatever the superintendent told them to. And the only thing any one of them ever spoke up about were items which related to their workaday lives.

The school staff upon order drew up other plans, Plans E, F, G and H, each of which called for closing Maple School. One reason for the closing was hidden from the general public: The affluent folks of the new President Homes development in northeast Fullerton wanted a public school. They claimed it was too dangerous for their children to cross Brea Boulevard to go to Rolling Hills School.

And state funding for new schools depended on need–available square footage of classrooms per student. If Maple remained open, its footage would preclude state financing for a new school. With Maple closed, Beechwood was opened, but as half a normal neighborhood school. (Search Bob Root’s role)(also what became of the school)

Lorril Senefeld invited Superintendent Crawford to talk to the Fullerton Fair Housing Council (the original fair housing council of Orange County) about the integration of the elementary schools. He told us that the school board would vote to close Maple school and bus the children to other schools.

The neighborhood needs to know this, I thought. Next morning I called Rose Jurado, a member of the advisory committee from the
Maple neighborhood. She agreed, we could not let this happen without the neighborhood knowing about it. We declared ourselves the Ad Hoc Committee to Save Maple School. I would write an announcement of a meeting to be held at Maple school, Ana Christiansen would translate it. Levene Borgen, representative from Golden Hill school said she knew the PTA president Bobbie Hein who had a mimeograph in her home. Levene took care of the copying of the notices, and Gloria took care of distribution to all the parents of Maple school students.

The room at Maple School was filled. We met in one of the portable buildings. Six nice white ladies from the advisory committee attended. We explained what was happening, what had happened with the advisory committee. There was no response. I remember one petite women wrapped in a shawl, tucking herself humbly into obscurity, but later quite vocal at a meeting with Robert Crawford regarding bussing.

The six of us left. Standing near the door, arms crossed, was one of the MeCHA members, arms folded, bandanna around his forehead, fatigue jacket, boots. I said quietly to him as I passed out the door, “What’s going to happen?” He said, “Don’t worry. We’ll take care of it.” We the liberals of the advisory committee had no further role as far as the neighborhood was concerned. They recruited Ralph Kennedy as a mentor. They did not ask any of the advisory committee for any information nor comment. Was it because we who had come to their neighborhood were all women? I do not know who else was included in their work. I had the impression it was all and only men. They developed Plan Z.

A new wrinkle arose. The state of California had a new law that required the Department of Education, through Intergroup Relations, be involved in school integration plans. One way bussing, it was believed, would not be acceptable. But the law would not go into effect for another month. The plan, then, for those who wanted to save Maple school, was to convince the school board to delay their vote.

Robert Crawford had waged a propaganda campaign. He talked with every civic leader, every minister and pastor, telling them the school district was trying to do the right thing, but there were “outside agitators” at work. He wined and dined, or at least lunched, them, one being Molly McClanahan, president of the League of Women Voters. Peggy Martin, head of the American Association of University Women, refused his blandishments. She had been a member of Subcommittee C of the advisory committee.
The night came for the school board to vote. At six o’clock that evening I had received a telephone call from Doris Stasse, a member of the League of Women Voters and an acquaintance from the Shalom Ecumenical Conference, Ralph Kennedy’s liberal group.

Doris told me that the League had met that afternoon, discussed the coming school board meeting, listened to the report of Elizabeth Beebe, the League’s delegate to the advisory committee. She advocated the committee’s position: Maple was entitled to a neighborhood school. Molly was determined to back Superintendent Crawford in closing the school. Doris said Molly had been out of the country for a year and did not understand what was going on.
Elizabeth Beebe, she said, pleaded with Molly, to no avail. She later quit the League in distress over this issue. Doris asked me to call Molly to try to get her to change her mind. “I don’t know the woman,” I said. “Here’s her telephone number,” Doris said. “Call her.” I did. Molly would not listen to me, saying, “I’m having dinner with my family.”

This meeting was set at Wilshire Auditorium instead of the regular location at the district offices because the school administration assumed a large crowd of concerned citizens could be expected to object to the closing of their neighborhood school. I was shocked when I arrived to see police decked out in riot gear on the steps of the auditorium.

The place was packed. Speaker after speaker advocated postponement of the vote. A representative from the California Department of Education told of the services they could provide to the community. Only the president of the League of Women Voters rose to tell the trustees, “Vote now, vote tonight.” That was Molly McClanahan. And the trustees did. And Maple School was closed, all the neighborhood kids bussed to other schools.

*Robert Crawford’s letter to community organizations (but not Fair Housing Council) December 1, 1970:
“As you know, state law requires that all California School Districts develop a plan designed to eliminate situations of racial imbalance where such situations are found to exist in district schools. At its regular board meeting of October 27, 1970, the Board of Trustees of the Fullerton Elementary School District announced its intention to formulate a Human Relations Advisory Committee and directed the administration to propose names for membership on this committee.
“The purpose of this committee will be to study racial imbalance in Fullerton schools, most particularly as it applies to the Maple School attendance area, and to propose alternative solutions for Board consideration. “It is the wish of the Board of Trustees to include as members of this committee a broad spectrum of the Fullerton community. Representatives of both north and south Fullerton; from all racial and ethic groups; from all economic groups; and from differing political groups will be included.
“Your organization certainly has a stake in a community decision of this type. You are invited therefore, to nominate someone from you organization as a representative on the Human Relations Advisory Committee. The composition of the final committee will beat the discretion of the Board of Trustees.
“If someone in your organization is qualified and willing to work on thi committee, please submit his or her name to the
Superintendent’s Office no later than Friday, December 18, 1970. “Most sincerely, R. A. Crawford, District Superintendent.

**Members of the Human Relations Advisory Committee, and who they
were sent by, present at the first meeting February 18, 1971, in the District Board Room at 7:30 p. m. (addresses stated in the record, but omitted here):
Jim Graves, Fullerton School District; Roland Hiltscher, Rotary Club; Jay Crawford (me), Fullerton Fair Housing Commission; Joe Schneider, Fullerton Junior Chamber of Commerce; Ienneth Lesikar, Fern Drive School-FETA; Mary Owens, Les Services Socials; Carol Crowl, Fullerton Elementary Teachers Association; Deanna Wagner, Junior Ebell Club; Robert B. Hunt, Fullerton Elementary Principals’ Association; Peggy Martin, American Association of University Women; Meryl Schrimmer, Children’s League-Human Relations; Rose Jurado, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Ramie Robles, Maple School Area; Daniel Gomez, CSEA Chapter #130; Harry Musser, FESAA; Gilbert H. Perkins, Orange County Human Relations Council; Gerald Owen, Fullerton Junior College; Jose R. Estrella, Maple School Parent-Teacher Association; Phyllis Estrella,
Maple School Parent-Teacher Association; John T. Jimenez, Maple School Principal; Elizabeth Beebe, League of Women Voters; Margaret Riutcel, Young Women’s Christian Association; Irvin S. Wright, FESSA; Steven Galvan, Young Men’s Christian Association; and Bob Lucas, Fullerton Unified High School District. Levene Borgen from Golden Hill School joined later, as did Laura Stine, Southwest Neighborhood Association. Fullerton School District
Representatives: Stewart L. Johnson, President, Board of Trustees; Nancy Fix, member, Board of Trustees; Robert A. Crawford, District Superintendent.